Too Much: Why Adults Resist the Exuberant Nature of Children
For adults disconnected from their power, a child’s unbounded, spirited nature can easily be “too much”—too much enthusiasm, too much spontaneity, too much imagination, too much anger, too much sadness. The greater the repression in the adult carried forward from childhood environmental failures, the more overwhelming an exuberant child can be.
It takes a lot of playfulness in the heart of an adult to receive and encourage beaming amounts of playfulness in a child. It takes a soaring imagination in an adult to welcome a child’s imagination wishing to travel the galaxy. It takes much depth of feeling for an adult to safely empathize with the large emotions of a child.
Indeed, what an adult struggles to make room for inside himself, he might find “too much” in a child. Often without realizing it, the adult will make the child wrong or suppress the spirited, wild nature of the child; he’ll mold the child into just the right “amount,” so that the adult feels comfortable in his or her own skin.
The adult will make the child fit into the adult’s diminished world rather than letting the child be a full expression of her unique, bountiful, unadulterated world. (School is a widely accepted systemized example of this.)
If you carry a fear that “you’re too much,” you might want to spend some time reflecting on where this belief comes from. Who or what made you feel this way? What is it that you consider to be “too much”? Perhaps the very thing you consider to be “too much” is the same quality that your mom, dad, grandparent, or schoolteacher had a hard time being. What they struggled to tolerate in you was the same thing they learned to shut down inside themselves. Most likely, shutting down was what they needed to do to cope and survive as a child. That quality, whether it’s sadness, joy, imagination, or anger, was not welcomed when they were little.
It’s worth remembering that children, by their very nature, are spirited. They are meant to be BIG in their little bodies. (It’s why they thrive in big, wide-open spaces like nature, and why traditional hunter-gatherer societies have been proven to be optimum for child development.) Loud cries, dramatic displays of anger, awe-inspiring wonder, intense curiosity, bold dreaming, splashy eating. Anyone who spends time with children knows how confrontational their BIGness can be. The more we have dimmed our untamed, free spirit, the more their unabashed nature will feel uncomfortable, or even a threat. In order to cope with their wildness, we unwittingly inflict our lifelong coping mechanisms of self-suppression onto them by bottling them up. In many direct and indirect ways, we deny their BIGness and make them feel like they’re “too much.”
Euro-western civilization has, as a whole, been designed to do just this. Look carefully—the suppression of children has been happening for millennia. We’ve just normalized it, and continue to do so.
Healing the wounds that come with decades of suppression, while learning to express those lost parts of ourselves, is indeed not only a gift to ourselves, but to our children as well. As we reclaim our anger, we naturally find it easier to be with our child’s anger. As we fan the flames of our lost imagination, we automatically, and effortlessly, encourage the imagination in little ones.
Imagine how one would parent differently, and how the education system would transform…
Truly, as it always does, it begins with us. Children reflect our energy. They are little mirrors, powerful sponges. We point at them when they are anxious—but how often do we point at ourselves and consider that maybe they are “acting out” the aspects we have long denied?
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #61.
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