Things I Learned In Kindergarten that No Longer Serve Me

Group of kids sitting in a circle with an adult sitting on a chair at the outer middle, pointing at a kid in a red shirt with their hand raised.
Some rules that made sense when you were five don't make sense in other circumstances or later in life. Here are a few things I choose to leave behind.

The idea

It occurred to me recently that some of the things autistics rail against as adults are things that were trained into us in kindergarten.

Some of the lessons of kindergarten apply well at any age. Be kind. Help others. Apologize when you hurt someone. Don’t run with scissors.

But some of the lessons of kindergarten apply more to herding large groups of children who don’t know yet what’s dangerous and what’s not.

You’re not five anymore. You can think for yourself. Here are a few things I think are worth leaving behind. What about you?

Sit still

Sitting still is not the same thing as paying attention. Fidgeting helps me regulate my body so I can pay attention better, feel better, and work better.

Stop fidgeting

This may seem like a flagrant restatement of ‘sit still’ (above), but I think it’s worth mentioning in both forms, as it is something that teachers spent an excessive amount of time and effort training into us.

However, movement helps me regulate my body and sensory input so that I can be my best self.

Look at the teacher

The teacher could hear kids no matter where they were (or what they were up to), and I can hear and understand even (better) when I’m not looking at someone, or making eye contact.

Anyone up for a podcast? Audiobook? (Ha ha, I can pay attention without seeing the speakers, and even while puttering around the house!)

Color within the lines

Trying different things, messing up, and trying again is how learning, creativity, and innovation work. Enjoy scribbling outside of the lines, i.e. doing things the “wrong” way, at least once in a while.

The loud kid is likely to win

Being loud, cool, a leader, or a bully isn’t the only way to succeed. Not “putting yourself in the spotlight” doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, or that you won’t have a good life.

Do what the teacher says

Not everyone in authority is wise and not everything they say is true or helpful. Keep the good things but evaluate for yourself.

Stay in line

You don’t need to follow what everyone else is doing. You don’t need to do things the way everyone else around you does. Find what works for you.

Follow the rules

You don’t need to keep following rules meant to keep large groups of five year olds safe with minimal adult supervision. And they don’t need to hold you back anymore. Make your own way forward.

Closing thoughts

When you’re five, you don’t know the difference between things the teacher said that were meant to help and protect you in a specific circumstance, and the ones that are useful to follow for your whole life.

And some things the teacher said were cultural norms that inadvertently hurt your psyche and robbed you of your power. 

You’re old enough now to re-evaluate for yourself what’s good and true and appropriate.

What other rules did you learn when you were young that you want to challenge, question, or chuck entirely? Please share in the comments below.

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Heather Cook

Hi, I’m Heather. I’m an Autistic writer, advocate, and life coach, and I'm building a life I love. I help other Autistics to build their own autism-positive life. I love reading, jigsaw puzzles, just about every -ology, and Star Trek!

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