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Children are like sponges

manuelita otero


How often have you heard “children are like sponges”? I can count more than 100 times and I’m not exaggerating! I hear it everywhere: At my daughter’s preschool some years ago and at her school now, from my family, my friends, and even social media. And to be honest, hearing it so much ended up filling me with hope when I became a mom six years ago. I figured “One way or another I will get my point across, through songs, speeches, long conversations… after all children are like sponges, so no matter what she will learn”. Without realizing it I had gotten to the bottom of the issue- us moms, grandmas, aunts, we want our little ones to learn as much as possible from us. We want them to learn to “be good”, to “behave the right way”, to be kind, to listen to their parents, and a list of new topics a younger generation is bringing along like loving each other, noticing their environmental impact and respecting differences.

In my desire for my daughter to be an “ultra absorbent sponge” I never stopped to think how much information I was giving her. Mountains of information, I must add. Good things that I believe will help her have a happy and safe life, important values and principles to pass from generation to generation. If I really think about it, I must sound like a walking book full of “how to behave” facts. But not long ago I realized that I wasn’t really teaching her, I was more like bombarding her. This became clear the other day when we had a mini crisis in which I was telling my daughter so many things at once, “teaching” her so many valuable lessons, but she just couldn’t get them all. She was so confused trying to grasp at least one. Was this “teaching moment” about self-love, respecting others, or self-control? Her face kept showing her frustration as she just couldn’t decipher the message.

Just because children are sponges doesn't give us the right to saturate them. Yes, children are smart and they can absorb a lot. Yes, we are meant to teach them as much as we can, but how and how much is the key. There is a difference between teaching and pushing information and I realized I was walking a fine line. I think I got too excited about my daughter being like a sponge that I forgot some things are learned a different way with time, rhythm, and patience.

If you feel you may be doing the same thing, or if maybe you just want to double check with your children, give it a try. Talk to them, it’s worth clearing up the air. You can’t imagine the difference in our home, the tension has been lifted and we are happy teaching without pushing. We are searching our own pace to educate and we have found some inspiration in Tiempo de Juego, a colombian foundation that has been improving the lives of thousands of vulnerable children through soccer. They use this sport to teach with time, rhythm and patience, one lesson per match.