I do not have kids, nor do I claim to know the first thing about parenting. Well actually, do not let the kid die would probably be at the top of the list. Beyond that though, I am a bit fuzzy.
I have spent some time with a few of my younger cousins recently though and it is interesting to watch them.
While he is not the first person you would probably go seeking parenting advice from, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has a rule I try to follow when I am any kids, even if they cannot talk yet:
Kids need to be able to explore freely… The kid comes into the kitchen and pulls out the pots and the pans and starts banging on them, what’s the first thing you do as a parent? ‘Stop that, you’re getting the dishes dirty!’ And yet, these are experiments in acoustics, that’s what that is.
Whatever the kid is doing, if it has the chance of breaking something you’re going to tell them to not do it, without thinking that that’s the consequence of an experiment that they are conducting. And every time the kid wants to do something—provided it doesn’t kill them—it’s an experiment. Let it run its course, even if it makes something messy. You agreed to have a kid in the first place, fine, clean up after them.
In other words, do not pull them one way or another. Do not pick them up and cart them around. Put them down and let them do whatever the hell they want to.
It is allowing these experiments that will plant the “seeds of curiosity” in them from a very young age, says Tyson. Who knows what they will learn from pulling all of the magnets off the fridge or sucking on a spoon for 20 minutes, but it is no doubt more than they would learn from telling them to sit down and shut up.