Why is it that we as human beings always want to be what we aren't? As children, we can't wait to be grown-ups. As grown-ups, we would love to go back to our youth. Instead, we should be finding joy in the here and now.
Childhood should be filled with the thrill of exploration, the joy of discovery, the freedom from fear and inhibition. It should be a time to make mistakes, learn from them and laugh at them.
So how do we get our children to relax and enjoy being children?
Remember that they are new to this
They don't have a whole glossary of mistakes that they've learned from. They are just beginning to make them. Lighten up when they do. Make it a learning experience by talking about it and explaining why what they did is wrong and the consequences that could arise from it. Then hug, have a good laugh about it, and move on.
Choose your battles carefully
Take a moment to think about what is really important and worth criticizing or punishing and what is not. Wearing their favorite outfit three days in a row might embarrass you, but it is comforting to them. Is it worth a fight or a criticism?
Take time to see the motivation behind the act
When they destroy the kitchen to make you breakfast in bed, their intent was not to distress you, but to make you happy. That being said, they need to learn to clean up after themselves. Just point it out cheerfully and don't slight their efforts to delight you.
Make your speech and home label-free
Try to refrain from words like "you always" and "you never" and labels like: lazy, stupid, thoughtless, filthy, unmotivated, and others that lock them into a role. This also means not to bring up the past when they repeat a mistake.
Don't over-program them
Kids need down-time, time to explore and to be. If they go from one really worthwhile, scheduled activity to the next - which are intended to give them experience and make them well-rounded, but which actually rob them of any free time to explore on their own - they could become resentful and grow into unimaginative adults.
Try not to mold them into a mini-you
Don't try to make them the ballerina or pilot you always wanted to be. Follow their lead on things that interest them and then encourage them. Follow your own dreams and let them have theirs.
Let them explore, inhibition-free
Give them time in the woods and in the dirt and in the kitchen and let them experiment and get all kinds of messy. Don't sweat the icky. It's good for them.
Provide them with tools to explore their interests
Let them bang on the piano or kitchen pots and pans if you don't have one. Let them use the needle and thread and the hand tools. Make play-dough and finger paints (Google recipes, they're all over the Internet). You never know, you might be raising the next great thing.
Be a positive force
Most of all, let them know that you are the cheerleader on their team. Phrases like, "We'll work on this together," or "I believe in you," or "You can do this!" will go a long way toward helping them find joy in their childhood.
One last note
We have been instructed to become as a little child. Watch your children and follow their patterns. Then explore and discover right along with them. Let them be your inspiration in following your own dreams. And let them know that they inspire you.