When we are at the Abrome facility we have a fairly nice-sized, fenced-in back yard. Learners are free to spend as much time as they wish out back, and may flow in between the back yard and the facility as they wish. At Abrome we value their freedom and autonomy. However, we are also responsible for their safety, and cars too often speed down the road that runs alongside the facility. Therefore, we do not typically allow the youngest Learners to go into the unfenced front yard without a Facilitator or an older Learner who is willing to take responsibility for keeping them from wandering off into the road.*

As with anything that is restricted, the front yard calls out to some of the younger Learners. One morning one of our youngest Learners asked me if she could go out front, as she had done multiple times each day that week. I said yes and reminded her to stay out of the road (in addition to the heavily trafficked road that runs along the facility, we face a lightly trafficked cul-de-sac).

Image by Amanda McConnell from Pixabay. 

Image by Amanda McConnell from Pixabay.

She started joyfully twirling in the yard. Twirling and twirling she moved all over the yard. And then she twirled right into the road in front of Abrome. At that moment I called out her name to tell her to come back to the yard, and she fell. She began to cry. She had scraped her knee. I comforted her, and we cleaned up her knee. And then she asked to go back out front again.

I told her I was concerned about what had just happened, and that I needed to know that she was going to be mindful of what she was doing with her body. I then prompted her with, “what should you not do …” and she cut me off. ”I know, no spinning,” she responded in a frustrated way.

Of course I never told her that she should not spin, only that she needed to stay out of the street. But often what we say does not register with children (or adults for that matter). Everyone takes in words without taking in meaning. Young people who are newer to the world are often inundated with advice, boundaries, suggestions, and other forms of feedback. Our minds look to ease our mental load by picking and choosing when to really tune in to what others are saying. We also talk different languages, adults and children. We adults have much more life experience which provides us with context around our words, and that is often lost on younger people who do not have the experience to comprehend what we are saying. And sometimes they just don’t really care to hear what an adult has to say when something more interesting is calling out to them.

The entire experience was a stark reminder that what kids hear is often not what we were trying to say.


* We don’t have definitive age limits when it comes to determining who is ready to take on certain responsibilities (e.g., go out front by themselves, participate in an overnight trip to another city). Instead, we focus on self-awareness, a demonstrated commitment to our agreed upon awarenesses and practices, and a concern for the wellbeing of others.

Banner image by Willi Heidelbach from Pixabay