How do moms encourage self expression in their children? I am honored by connections to so many fabulous moms who also happen to know a thing or two about running their own businesses. Their collective wealth of motherly wisdom inspired me to ask two questions:
1) How does your child express him/herself best?
2) What do you do to encourage more of it?
From role playing Superman or Prince Charming to filling their homes with every art supply under the sun, these moms create nurturing home environments that grant their children the freedom to shine. Sometimes all that takes is simply staying out of the way!
How do YOU encourage self expression?
Grab some great ideas from these insightful moms. I also encourage you to check out their business links. By shining their own lights in business these moms are inspiring role models for us all!
My 16 month old twins, Sean and Isabel, often express themselves with vigor: squeals of delight and screeches of frustration. Isabel has recently mastered the furrowed brow. At times Sean will react to her clearly annoyed face with a dissatisfied grunt. When they express joy or frustration I typically respond by naming their expressed feeling, “You look happy, or that made you mad didn’t it”. They now nod as I name their feelings. They also express their needs using simple sign language. With a firm grasp of the signs for more and all done we are now working on please and thank you. I look forward to their ever developing expressive abilities every day.
Christine, Belly Bear Baby Gear
Gus loves 3 things: (1) Steaming bowl of pasta (2) Playing tennis and wearing his tennis shorts, even in the winter. He only puts on pants when school will not allow him to go to recess in shorts. (3) Making money. He knows that he can get $.05 for every can he recycles, so he rides his bike with a trash bag collecting cans in his free time. He brings them home, stores them in the garage, washes his hands, changes his tennis clothes, and sits down for a great steaming bowl of pasta before redeeming his cans.
Elizabeth, Bffl Co / Best Friends For Life
1. Patrick (17) was a Lego whizz. Heaven for him was a bedroom floor covered in Lego and no instructions. We gave up asking him to build what was on the box. Faith (13) is the Cupcake Queen. She has always loved to make things, paper birds, flowers and now cupcakes. I had to learn to get out of the way and let her get on with it especially as I am a lousy cook. Holly (19) watched endless videos – she’s now at Film School!
2. Be curious
Give them space
Follow their lead
My daughter, 2.5 (we call her “Bug”), expresses herself best through art. When she is upset or angry, she doesn’t quite know what to do with herself. If I give her a piece of paper and art supplies it calms her and returns her to her happy self!
Knowing that art is the most effective way of calming her down we have an art table in the kitchen stocked with art supplies so she doesn’t need to ask for anyone to get her anything. She can just freely go to her art station and use what is there to calm her when she gets overwhelmed.
Lauren, crocheting4baby (update: link no longer available)
My son Tomás, 3, is full of energy and needs to be constantly engaged in physical activity. He loves to role play and build things, but is also mesmerized when given crayons or paint. His imagination is at full force so he reenacts stories he’s heard, draws them out or will build his favorite part of a story using his toys.
As an artist myself, I fully encourage creative activities so we spend a lot of time reading, creating and yes, role playing. Each day we are exploring a different universe or acting like a certain character in a book. He usually chooses which role he wants his father or I to be and we’ll get in character right along with him.
I love that I can get him to do the things he needs to do when we get to his level of understanding and interest. This meaning that if Spiderman has to be the one asking him to pick up his toys, I am the first one wearing the mask.
Vanessa, enV by Vanessa Coppes
My favorite Rumi quote: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there” This is something we all try to adhere to in our household. My daughter, Kayman age 4 express herself best when she has the breathing room to explore her feelings without applying “rights” and “wrongs” to a situation. I take time out to explain actions and consequences, emphasizing unconditional loving regardless of circumstance. As I share 50/50 custody, this part of creating a safe, loving environment enables her to continually find her voice and share it with the world.
Claire, Life Transition Coach
My son Richard is sixteen and he expresses himself through writing and drawing. The way I encourage him to do more of it is praising his work and sharing examples of how this type of creativity can lead to great things.
Aprill, Pin Up Cosmetics
AJ, 15, has always loved computer games. I never limited them as long as they did not interfere with his school work. AJ loves to tell stories about the games and is very excited about figuring them out. Since he is talking to me about what he cares about, I think it is important and valuable. These complex, strategic games get him to think creatively.
Shayna, 11, expresses herself more like a right brain thinker. She loves piano and acting class (which I teach). She expresses herself very dramatically about everything she experiences. Sometimes it is hard for her to focus on studying, so I try to get her to link facts with creative images. This helps her to memorize things.
Dylan, Parties by Dylan & Company
My twins both express themselves the best with dance and ballet while dressing up as ballerinas or as princesses. They recreate the stories from books about Angelina Ballerina, or fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty or Beauty and the Beast as they have seen those movies recently and we read the stories often. The Nutcracker Ballet is another favorite movie that they dance to while watching and make me be their prince.
I encourage and support them with dress up clothes and shoes, ballet lessons, classical music from the Nutcracker Ballet, and lots of story time.
My son Mason, 9, expresses himself best through art. He can be found drawing, taking pictures, or building with his Lego’s. He wanted to know what a blue pumpkin would look like so he took a picture of one to edit it on the computer. He carries around a sketch notebook to draw. His imagination is amazing and is what makes him Unique.
To encourage his interest we found him an art teacher. He likes trips to the hobby store to get more supplies when he runs out, and when we go on outings he is our photographer. He does not see things the same as most people and I love to see his creations.
Kristina, KBP Designs
Little M, my six year old son, loves plot. (As in complicated twists, clear character motivation and some level of destruction with a hero ultimately overcoming the obstacle in his journey.)
Until he could spell we would verbally work out fictional story lines that I could see helped him work out his daily non-fiction challenges. Now he writes for hours creating plot twists and turns in the Never Ending Story of Little M.
For us support and encouragement have come in two forms.
1) I give him the space to create and
2) I show respect for the creation.
This is working now. Check back with me when he hits the teen years!
Patty, Mom Gets A Life
My 7 1/2 yr. old daughter best expresses herself through giving us examples of what she wants to explain. She is very animated in her descriptions using her hands and creative scenarios. We encourage her and her 9 yr. old brother to use their words, art, or song, to express their emotions be they happy, sad, angry, frustrated, loving… When they get worked up, I suggest taking 3 long deep breaths in, then exhaling for as long as possible. When they want to strike out, I’ll let them hit a pillow helping relieve pent up emotion. (Tip from parenting coach.)
Jill, Jill Raff Real Estate
Sasha loves to express her creativity, imagination and energy into art. It’s amazing how she transforms what she has in front of her — be it paper, containers, rock or leaves into works of art. The final project always tells a story of her inner most feelings and reflections on life. Her creations are typically enhanced with music, surroundings of nature and even the joy of her friends.
We love to draw inspiration from nature’s creations including patterns amidst trees, in the clouds, the pebbles on the beach and even the formation of leaves on the ground. Sasha has come to understand the beauty of our natural surroundings here in Marin through her involvement in school and our adventures to parks, gardens and the mountains.
Shamini, Dhana Inc.
We encourage our three-year-old son to express himself by just listening when he talks! Stopping his flow with questions or suggestions keeps both him and us from finding out where he was going.
He loves to play the piano and improvised “instruments.” I try not to say “good” or “nice” or “wonderful” afterwards because I want him to play to please himself. I share in the experience: “Boy, that one had a lot of fast notes,” or “Gee, that one started very quiet and then suddenly got loud,” and always, “I enjoyed it, thank you.”
Jae, The Balanced Runner
My 9 year old daughter Sarah expresses herself best through the gift of gab. My husband and I have encouraged her ability to express herself through words by always speaking with and around her as though she could handle a large vocabulary. There was never any baby talk or modifying words when she was little. She grew up curious about vocabulary and is now a very gifted speaker (and writer) for her age.
Melody, Mozarts and Einsteins
Encouraging my daughters to be creative began with reading to them daily since they were three months old. As they grew, we had craft supplies always available. Painting, drawing, clay, glue and glitter filled our afternoons. Drawing a favorite scene from a book became natural. Baking also became a fun activity to fill our days. We frequented book and craft stores more often than toy stores, and took advantage of “story times” at our local library and bookstores. When dining out, crayons, coloring/workbooks came in handy when waiting for our dinner to arrive at the table. Now 13 and 16,they are interested in studying art and writing as possible careers respectively .
Lisa, Polka Dot Pound Cake
My 18 year-old son, Ivan, best expresses himself by the random hobbies he immerses himself in: from suddenly spending months teaching himself how to speak Russian, or choosing drawing a picture over watching a movie, to making a booklet about money, his form of self-expression is quiet and reserved. My daughter Cleo, 14, expresses outwardly. She loves to dance, sing, act and she’s a master impersonator!
I believe in teaching by example. My children know and see how I express myself and find joy through dance, and I encourage them to discover what makes them happy by trying new things.
Suzanne, Rhythm For Life