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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Holmén

Parenting Advice from the Ultimate Mother: Mother Nature

By Deborah Holmén, M.Ed., NBCT, published in The Good Men Project and A Parent is Born.

Swedish boy playing in a forest on the ground in moss.
Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

As parents, we often struggle to balance protecting our children and giving them the freedom to learn and grow independently. In our quest to raise successful and happy kids, we’ve turned to various parenting styles and methods, some of which have proven more effective than others.

However, when teaching our children the most valuable life lessons, we should take a cue from the animal kingdom and look to the ultimate teacher: Mother Nature herself. By taking a leaf out of her book, parents can give their children valuable life lessons, fostering their social and emotional well-being.

In today’s society, parenting styles vary widely from authoritative to permissive. However, the research sheds light on a parenting style that seems to hold the key to raising resilient, compassionate, and capable children — authoritative parenting. Based on love, understanding, and reasonable boundaries, this style has been found to promote positive social and emotional development in children.

One might wonder what nature has to do with authoritative parenting. The answer lies in the countless benefits children derive from spending time in nature. Research proves that nature is an unrivaled classroom, offering a wealth of experiences that nurture a child’s emotional intelligence, resilience, and social skills.

In my book, “It Takes A Lot of Sh*t to Grow Beautiful Flowers: A Gardener’s Guide to Life,” I share an inspiring story about a viral video that showcases an incredible parenting style.

The video shows a wise mother mare walking her foal toward an electrical fence. You can see her withers flicker on her shoulders, displaying her discomfort of having her foal learn what this strange wire can do.

The colt can feel its mother’s uneasiness, nervously flicking its little tail. Instinctually trusting her mother, the foal walks beside her toward the fence. The mother urges her baby to go closer, then steps back. She waits patiently for her young one to touch the fence with its soft muzzle.

Suddenly, the foal’s nose is shocked by the sharp snap, and it kicks up its legs, running from the offense. The mother trots over to her little one, giving it a reassuring nuzzle, and they both walk away from the fence unharmed, but with a critical lesson the foal would never forget.

We, too, as parents, must guide our children into situations that may present them harm if not taught about the harmful object or situation in the first place. Think of the fireplace, the sharp corner of the coffee table, and the stovetop, to name a few. We don’t want our children harmed, but never presenting challenging situations under loving guidance is also a great disservice.

Sometimes, we must make our children uncomfortable to show them the skills they need to survive independently. The old mare knew she would rather teach her foal than her foal learn the hard way.

According to a thought-provoking article by the Child Mind Institute, children who spend time in nature are better equipped to handle stress, manage their emotions, and exhibit empathy towards others. Nature teaches them about patience, adaptability, and perseverance. It allows them to take risks, problem-solve, and develop a sense of responsibility. Nature becomes the canvas upon which they paint their experiences, fostering their creativity, imagination, and curiosity.

But how does learning from the natural world bridge the social and emotional gap created by the pervasive mental health issues faced by children, particularly during the pandemic? The answer lies in the power of experiential learning. When children are allowed to explore, touch, feel, and immerse themselves in nature, they develop a deep connection with the world around them. This connection is a soothing balm to their troubled hearts and anxious minds, enabling them to find solace and a sense of belonging.

Being in nature provides a much-needed respite from the pressures of online learning and the isolation caused by lockdowns. It allows children to engage in unstructured play, letting their imaginations run wild and invent their own games. Away from technology constraints, they can develop friendships, learn conflict resolution, and understand the importance of teamwork.

Nature’s lessons are not just confined to the outdoors. They extend into the home, influencing parenting practices in remarkable ways. Drawing inspiration from the natural world, parents can emulate its authority, firm yet nurturing. They can provide a safe and secure environment where children are encouraged to explore, express themselves, and learn from their mistakes. By allowing children the freedom to make choices within reasonable boundaries, parents can empower them to develop their decision-making skills, fostering their independence and self-confidence.

In a world that often seems uncertain and overwhelming, the teachings of Mother Nature offer a beacon of hope. She reminds us that life is a cycle of growth and change and that resilience is woven into the fabric of existence. By embracing the wisdom she imparts, parents can equip their children with the tools they need to not only survive but thrive in the face of adversity.

So, let us step back from the digital glare and venture into the great outdoors with our children. Let us allow them to immerse themselves in the wonders of nature, learning and growing as they navigate its twists and turns. In doing so, we will draw from the ultimate source of parental advice — Mother Nature.


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