Take your child by the hand and then let him fly

Who I am
Catherine Le Nevez
Author and references

“In such a case, I found myself asking the adult: 'but what do you really like to do? Listening to Pink Floyd? Very well - I said - why don't you try to share this pleasant experience with her son? Every parent must discover that a child is a wonderful gift, take him by the hand and then let him fly without anxiety. And, above all, try to enjoy the child as much as possible because if the adult likes to be with him, the little one will be fine. In this way, he will be calmer, more confident and ready to explore the world, returning, each time, to tell his parent about it. In short, a child who knows he can count on an adult (when he is needed) will be happier ”.

Taking up mymodernparents.com challenge on how to raise happy children this week is , doctor and psychotherapist of the developmental age, great expert in the world of childhood and adolescence also thanks to the research activity and related scientific and popular production.

How to raise happy children: the other episodes Half-serious Decalogue on Raising Happy Children A child who loves to read will be a happier adult Ideas for child happiness A child is happy if he learns respect for others How to raise a happy child? With time

However, Pellai does not have the classic (and widespread) 'look of the expert' that dispenses advice or prescriptions from above. Perhaps, because alongside his professional experience, he is a super dad (he has four children), his perspective of him seems to be a mixture of competence and 'tolerance' towards the daily difficulties of parents.

His reflection, which turns into a long interview (despite the suboptimal cell phone reception!), Addresses some of those he considers to be among the main themes of the parent-child relationship. A complex topic, declined in all its facets, in his latest book - written with Michela Fogliani - The new challenges of education in 10 commandments (Franco Angeli) which deepens the problems in each chapter (also followed by a film description) and the questions that every family has to experience.

Parental anxiety risks blocking the child's desire to explore

The matter is very complex, and it is not possible to summarize all his experience or his book in a chat, but what are the key points to raise a happy babyAnd? - we ask to.

“If we think by key themes, I would say that the first important step for any family is to find the the right balance between protection by the adult and the normal need for exploration by the child. It is necessary to identify a good synthesis without falling into extreme and anxious attitudes and, therefore, counterproductive. For the child, feeling protected represents a good start, it gives him the necessary security to explore the world and, consequently, also life - the psychotherapist begins to explain.

In the course of my work, personally, I see parents who are so overprotective that they do not allow the child to become an explorer. It seems that with every step, a danger lurks. And they keep their children locked in a dimension of protection. A concrete example that comes to mind is when the anxious adult drives their child to school by car ... Wait for the child to get out of the car, go up the first three steps of the building and, he leaves, until the moment when the little one reaches the glass of his class. This attitude is really an excess: it passes to the child the communication that in their city everything is dangerous ”, the researcher declares with conviction.

Basically: too much anxiety risks blocking the child's desire to experiment. Such a mechanism manifests itself already when it is very small, struggling with the first tender and clumsy attempts to stand up, and can make it insecure in its growth path.

From this type of approach, he warns all parents and points out what he considers a profound contradiction.

“The outside world is full of dangers, according to overprotective families, then, perhaps, as soon as they get home, the mother goes to the kitchen and the child is left totally 'free' from the digital world. Click, click, click and the child can easily connect to a PC, TV with two thousand channels, latest generation mobile phones ... this virtual universe is now more accessible than the real one and it seems that parents don't care.

Until ten years ago, it happened to me, sporadically, that some parents, in the studio, asked me if it was appropriate to give the console table to their teenage son at Christmas. This year they asked me a similar question for children who are still in kindergarten.

And this, in my opinion, is an almost schizophrenic paradox ... All of us adults will have to ask ourselves (seriously) what are really the fronts on which a child needs protection and in which cases, instead, it is essential to let him free to conquer the world - strongly emphasizes the psychotherapist. Be careful, if he does not do this, he cannot develop autonomy and risks becoming a sort of puppet ".

Space (physical and mental) for children, they do not have to adapt to parental agendas

The path towards autonomy begins in preschool, in parallel with the child's ability to 'move' better and better in the reality that surrounds him, but also continues in the range between six and ten years and would need adequate conditions. An important aspect, second, which focuses on clarifying this point well.

“It is enough just to think of our houses: often, they are full (and overflowing!) With very small and delicate objects and children are not allowed to crawl, move freely, loiter.

Unfortunately, even in the courtyards, the condominium regulations do not allow the games of the little ones, and in general, it is not even possible to pass ...

In short, I want to say that in the real world, there are very few spaces where children can play, which is why, at times, they are unable to conquer it. There is a strong dichotomy (contradiction) between mind and body, between cognitive and motor development ... This is a problem.

Adults are often synchronized on their size, on their world: the little ones are asked to adapt to our agendas. When a baby is born, often nothing is changed, but an attempt is made to fit him into that same schedule of commitments. It runs from morning to evening and, frequently, the child passes from one cage to another, leaves the nursery school and is ferried to the supermarket ”, says the doctor and psychotherapist.

More awareness in the choices in order not to adhere to the idea of ​​the baby consumer

The (frenetic) management of time is certainly not child-friendly: the real needs of the little ones are very often overshadowed by those of the family. A fact on which it is necessary to reflect, according to the fact that he well understands the difficulties of parents.

"Unfortunately, we adults have lost the sense of clarity: 40 years ago the children grew up in a sort of community, even in the city, they were a bit like everyone's children, like in a village, everyone took a look at the children playing in the yard .

Today we parents are in pursuit of our children, especially in a big city where it seems that running is an obligation, sometimes without help, and so there is no space (physical and mental) for children.

Most parents do a lot of wrong things, unknowingly, because they don't have the time and energy to do the right ones.

In all this, the market takes advantage of it to offer precooked foods, useless toys, baby-sitter TV with 24-hour programming for the little ones that brings them to a state of trance.

The adult implements a series of automatic mechanisms by which he loses awareness and adheres (almost without realizing it) to the idea of ​​the consumer child: large multinationals have pervaded every sphere of existence and, in some way, have solved the problems of everyday life. Here, then, is the child overnourished and entertained from morning to evening with inadequate means ”, he explains that in this regard he also cites and recommends a recent book, Joel Bakan, Assalto all'infanzia (Feltrinelli).

“In this world of entertainment - continues Pellai - the child finds himself on an exciting path, which stuns a little, and gets used to a closed, in some ways autistic, frame.

Because in this dimension there is no construction of meaning, and of relationships between peers and with the family, and significant time with others is reduced.

Among other things, an American research has shown that risk behaviors on the part of adolescents decrease significantly in those families where there is a habit of being at the table. The convivial dimension, between dialogue and listening, acts as a brake for situations at risk. In other words, those who feel protected face fewer problems ”, points out the expert.

But this sense of protection, which must not be suffocating, must the family already transmit it to the small child and then offer it, albeit in a different way, at each stage of growth? - we ask to see if everything is clear to the psychotherapist.

"Of course, in the first years of life the foundations are laid, it is a crucial period, so it is essential that the child feels reassured and identifies a place to return to, and then resumes flying.", He confirms.

Too much attention to results. Children need to express themselves freely

Another key aspect, from the point of view of, on which it is necessary to reflect is the tendency, now more and more widespread, to push the child, almost exclusively, towards a result.

“Children need to express themselves freely, and unfortunately this happens less and less, on the contrary they are often trapped ... Because all of them are required to perform a performance based on a standard decided by the adult.

An example? The child, when using his artistic and motor skills that only he knows, should not be pushed to a certain result. This attitude is typical, however, of some sports, where training becomes prevaricating over the game.

If we think, on the other hand, that it is enough to put on some music and the children begin to move the body in a rather spontaneous way, we realize that there is not all this need for courses and gyms ”, says the researcher.

In essence, he explains with a vein of poetry: “The world of training is far from the real need of the child in the first phase of his life. Every little one has the right to think of the rainbow of colors inside him and decide, freely, without intervention by adults, how to color the house and the tree, perhaps red and blue ...

The damage is caused when the focus on performance is very strong: each child will wonder if what they are doing is right or wrong, based on the adult's judgment alone. A similar mechanism, unfortunately, is also promoted by the school with a certain type of checks, based only on the result (Nda such as cross tests), which put competition in the foreground.

In this way, we do not contribute to producing better citizens of tomorrow because cooperation certainly does not develop. Let's not forget, among other things, that cooperation between peers is the fundamental anti-bullying recipe - the expert strongly emphasizes.

The problem is that they are taught to be powerful, and no longer competent: a message that is often already passed on to the little ones ".

The curriculum of

, doctor, psychotherapist of the developmental age and researcher at the Department of Public Health of the University of our city, is also an indefatigable writer: his

curriculum, including scientific publications, articles, essays and more popular texts is kilometric. He has already exceeded 50 (only for books, without counting research activities, conferences, and guidelines for the Lombardy Region) and also directs two series, I libri per i papa, Edizioni San Paolo and Parlami del cuore. Children's Tales of Emotional Education, Erickson Study Center. In 2022 he also won the Giovanni Arpino National Award for the best fiction book for children - for primary school with the volume Green Shoes of Envy (Erickson Edizioni). In his immense production, among the most recent works, we point out: This house is not a hotel! (Universal Economic Feltrinelli); The first kiss, Sentimental education in the days of Facebook (Kowalski); The tamer of the wind. Knowing and overcoming fears, with audio CD (Centro Sudi Erickson) and the brand new, together with Michela Fogliani, The new challenges of education in 10 commandments (Franco Angeli).

In 2004 the Ministry of Health awarded him the Silver Medal of Merit in Public Health.

How to raise happy children, read also:

Semi-serious Decalogue on how to raise happy children

A child who loves to read will be a happier adult

Ideas for the happiness of the child

A child is happy if he learns the respect of others

How to raise a happy child? With time

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