Opening the Door to Self-Expression

I’m thinking about launching a campaign similar to Nike’s using their slug line, but with a couple of added words. Instead of Just Do It, I’d advocate Just Let Kids Do It.
Letting kids do it whenever possible, when they want to, opens the door to self-expression and encourages creativity, originality, and innovation. Letting kids do it might sound simple and obvious, but it can actually be quite challenging because as parents, caregivers, and teachers, we have a natural inclination to:
  • Share our good ideas
  • Teach and demonstrate
  • Help children succeed in tasks and projects

There’s certainly no fault in these objectives, but unfortunately, the result is that our ideas tend to take over and redirect — or even discourage — our children’s original instincts. Our teaching can inhibit self-motivated learning and create unnecessary dependencies. Furthermore, as adults, we tend to define success quite differently than our children do, and our more “goal-oriented” perspectives can have a powerful and sometimes crippling influence.

Our interventions undermine opportunities for self-expression that are healing, stress-releasing, affirming, and profoundly confidence-building, not to mention far more interesting, meaningful, and enjoyable for all concerned.

As Carol (an artist and mom) notes in the story I share below, “I know what I can do.” We all know what we can do but have yet to discover all that resides in the minds and hearts of our children. By letting them do it we’re provided a glimpse.

Hi Janet,

I am an artist, so I make a concerted effort not to draw for her since I know what I can do. I asked A to draw whatever she wanted on each pumpkin. She had been drawing foxes lately, so I thought perhaps she would draw one of those. What she did instead was draw a portrait of herself with “crazy hair” on one, and the other was of her little sister E who she said was “crying because she’s teething.”

Although I did most of the carving, A put her hand on mine and tried to do a few cuts herself. I then brought out the Dremel tool, and she had fun helping add a few scratchy details. She also let me know if I was forgetting something or missed a line. Thanks for reminding me once again to let her lead. The joy on her face really said it all!

Thank you, truly,


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