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What Happens When You Don’t Push a Child?

We are always rushing our kids. Have you noticed? To school. To the bus. To the car. Down the street. Out of the house. To reach a milestone. If I stop to think of the big world from their small vantage point, it might resemble our vision, with a fast forward button attached.

Yesterday we weren’t rushing. Two of my children had the day off from pre-school and a friend had organized a group of us to go to Gentle Barn, a farm for abused animals. An hour drive and a world away. Phones were only used to take pictures and we could linger with the animals. Nobody was pushing us forward.

When we arrived at the horses, the guide set out a giant bag of carrots to feed them. The kids rushed to the bag to claim their handful but even after the mad dash, 95% of the carrots remained so each child could keep returning to the bag as often as they liked. After the initial group, there was never more than one hand in the bag at a time.

Ruby (age 5), was running around with a friend and feeding the horses giddily. Bowen, (age 2 1/2) was more hesitant. But there was time. Plenty of it.

At first, Bowen wanted to be up in my arms near the horse. And he gave me his carrots so that I could feed the horse while he watched.

"Mommy, you do it!"

“Mommy, you do it!”

Then, he found a horse that was his height. And with no prompting from me, he fed the horse.

"Mommy, I like this one!"

“Mommy, I like this one!”

Next, he watched a big horse. He got close to it and ran a few feet away and then went back for more and then ran away again. This continued.

"Mommy, did you see that?!"

“Mommy, did you see that?!”

Now that he had played with the big horse, he started to feed him. No pressure. No rush. His comfort came with time.

"Mommy, I did it!"

“Mommy, I did it!”

I’ve long known the five second rule – give your child an extra five seconds to respond to a question because with that extra time, wonderful things happen. But it also applies to activities. Thanks to a trip to a barn and a day filled with time on our side, Bowen learned to get comfortable with horses. Now let’s imagine what our kids could discover or achieve if we gave them the gift of time more often. No prodding, no pressure, just time.

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