As a mom of three kids, I’ve had my share of squirmy, wiggly, “likot” moments. Little Sir, when he was about two to three years old, would zoom around the house on his balance bike, climb up the back of the couch, and walk on the dining chairs that he had gingerly lined up. His big sister loved jumping on the bed and twirling around and around like a ballerina. I’m sure there are a lot of other moms with really heart-stopping stories to share!
Like other moms desperately trying to stay sane during their children’s childhood, I feel inclined to stop – no, stamp out – the ruckus. Can’t you just sit still, darlings, please? But that would be too gentle.
A common reaction to squirmy, wiggly kids is actually to say, “Huwag kang malikot!” in a tone ranging from pleading to threatening. In fact, that’s what we often hear from anyone looking after a young child.
Reasons for trying to curtail a child’s squirminess vary. The most common, I think, would be our fear for their safety, that they would get hurt or they would hurt someone. Some also are squeamish about getting their little ones sweaty, dirty and – dare I say it – stinky.
Movement is the key to learning
I’m lucky to have learned early in my parenting career that squiggly, wiggly, “malikot” kids are perfectly normal. I trained to be a U.S. licensed Kindermusik educator when my oldest child was just 10 months and learned this important concept that has stayed with me throughout the years: “Movement is the key to learning.”
In the Kindermusik classroom, movement is welcomed and celebrated. When children move, their vestibular system located in the inner ear and responsible for people’s balance and coordination, is stimulated. In addition, their muscles are exercised and developed.
In short, those movements that parents dread, like jumping, leaping, rolling and swinging are actually beneficial!
How to handle the wiggles
In our parent education classes, we teach parents and nannies (in our Teacher Yaya workshops) that being squiggly, wiggly or “malikot” is perfectly fine. Children, in fact, need to be encouraged to explore and learn from their environment.
According to Jane Nelsen, author and main proponent of positive discipline (of which I am a certified parent educator), when we keep stopping kids from touching things and moving about, we may cause them to feel embarrassed and develop a sense of shame. We may also unknowingly instill doubt in them instead of boosting their confidence and independence.
So what should frazzled parents do?
1. Change your mindset
We must understand remember that children move because they have to. It is developmentally appropriate and they learn from doing so. Little kids are not whirling dervishes because they want to annoy us or because they are being, wait for it, “naughty.” Being kinesthetic is not equivalent to naughtiness.
Once we accept this fact, it would be so much easier to be encouraging and supportive of our children’s action-packed movements.
2. Avoid labeling
Labels can have detrimental effects, and according to researchers, “have the power to alter a child’s self-concept.” When we consistently tell our children that they are “malikot,” they will most probably try to live up to the label we have bestowed upon them.
So, instead of saying in exasperation, “Ang likot, likot mo talaga!” try saying, “Do you need to get your wiggles out?” Providing the opportunity to move and explore is more effective, loving and respectful than trying to stamp out children’s innate need to move.
3. Make a “yes” space
Children need a safe environment where they are free to move and explore. This is where a “yes” space comes in.
According to Mars Medina, former Montessori teacher, author of Montessori on Mars and speaker at our most recent parent education workshop called Montessori at Home, children should have a space where they will not be repeatedly told “No, don’t touch that!” or “No! Stop that!”
Having a safe space where they are free to move as they please is empowering for kids. It allows them to take steps toward independence in a space that is completely theirs.
4. Show them what to do
As a certified Positive Discipline parent educator and advocate, I love sharing what I’ve learned from my training. “Show them what to do instead of what not to do” is one of these.
Instead of just saying “No, no, no!” to stop a child from doing something we disapprove, Jane Nelsen says that we should say what we want him to do while showing what you want him to do instead.
Wondering how that looks like? Let’s say your son is zooming around the living room, endangering your precious décor. Instead of saying “Don’t do that! Ang likot mo!” say “Walk slowly” and take his hand and walk slowly.
Knowing that it is perfectly natural for kids to be wiggly — okay, “malikot” — and that it’s actually good for them makes it easier to be accepting and supportive of their development. Parents, let’s rejoice in our children’s exuberance and embrace all those squiggly, wiggly, “likot” moments!