Spiritual Autonomy in Children: A pots and pans and prayer beads approach.

One of the Provocations I had set up for NJ looked like this:

Again, there was nothing I was trying to teach her and nothing she had to specifically learn. These items have been placed together in different ways for a couple of weeks- and some days they don’t even get touched.

But some days something huge happens.

NJ used the brush to transfer water onto the rocks, watching as the sun evaporated her watery works of art. And then she started balancing her Sesame Street characters on the very unbalanced rocks. All of this went on for more 30 minutes (a lifetime in toddler).

This experience has provoked NJ’s investigation and exploration of balancing with almost everything, including herself!

This is what provocations are all about. They provoke independent learning, exploration, curiosity, and a deeper understanding of a person’s inner self.

Provocations are also valuable in spirituality, especially when we want to give our kids autonomy in their spirituality and religious exploration.

After seeing NJ’s deep desire to experience, learn about, explore, and practice balance- I’ve been trying to give as many opportunities and more provocations to do so. In this way listening to your child’s learning establishes deeper connection and deeper relationship.

In using provocations for spiritual exploration the same listening and open invitation practices remain intact. For older (elementary ages and beyond) provocations in spirituality could look something like this:

pictures of different places of worship beautifully displayed on the kitchen table with a piece of card board, glue, scissors and yarn. What happens next? Only the explorer can tell you.

different pictures of praying positions taped to the wall with a blanket laid out in front of it and some different spiritual tools like a rosary, singing bowl, bible, prayer beads, statue. What happens next? There are so many different ways of approaching a set up space like this!

For preschool aged children, you can intermingle traditional objects- that are specific to spirituality- with everyday objects and just be ready to listen to where they are going with the objects. When NJ started exploring balance it’s not only a physical exploration, it’s also social-emotional, mathematical, and spiritual.

Setting up provocations is practice of mindfulness for me- whether it’s for my own child or for the classroom. I am incredibly gentle in how I place objects, I move slowly, I’m thoughtful and it often resembles a sort of altar to me. When I finish setting up a provocation – big (sometimes an entire room) or small (a little corner in the house), I feel so immersed in love for the little person that might come across it. I think the most profound feeling I have is that I am immensely open at the top.

Alright all you cool cats and kittens 😂 If you don’t get why that was funny, I kind of envy you.

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