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Misbehaviour and Play

“MISBEHAVIOUR IS NOT ALLOWED!”

Today on the street I overheard a mother bark this at her small child as she tugged him along. I didn’t take in any other details as I was on my bike going in the opposite direction but the impact of those words hit me with shocking force. I’m not judging the mother – I have no idea what had just gone on. But I do think there can be a serious, unintended impact to such harsh words and actions that is worth being sensitive to. 

I thought of the child integrating this voice in his head and it warning him against misbehaviour for the rest of his life. At school, at home, at work. I wondered in what ways it might hamper him and hold him back from taking risks or reaching beyond safe and acceptable behaviours. 

It’s through play that we experiment, we test, we explore. Pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott says that “it is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.”

If you’re not allowed to ever misbehave, or if you’re always governed by warning voices, can you feel free to play, and thus discover yourself? One of the many things coaching has given me is that permission to play, to push the edges, to ‘misbehave’ in order to live a more fulfilled life. It has stretched me out beyond my safe zone and introduced me to the saboteur voices warning me to stay safe and small. So in the interest of growth, here’s to some (not too extreme) misbehaviour!

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