Wisdom vs Knowledge

The key aim we have for our children is for them to be wise. Although we value education, we have seen that mature people will seek the education they need for themselves. Well educated people don’t always seek wisdom.

The difference between the two can be easily explained in an analogy I read this morning – knowledge is being able to label a tomato as a fruit, wisdom is knowing not to put the tomato into a fruit salad.

It is through hundreds if not thousands of experiences with both tomatoes and fruit salads that gives us the wisdom not to mix the two. Most people won’t actually experiment with the combination (but those who do are probably Hares!) – nevertheless it is through repeated similar experiences (or one very intense experience) that we learn wisdom.

One day these darling boys of ours will drive a car. They will be at a party where drugs are available. They may well be in a position where someone is going to commit a crime, and they are in the same vicinity. It is these situations that they will need to make a wise decision. Or suffer the consequences.

Consequences are what make us wise. Children might break an arm or leg. They might get a graze, dislocate their thumbs, cut their fingers, they might get into trouble at school for misbehaving – I would argue that they need to do these things – or at least have the chance to do these things, and face the uncomfortable reality of the consequence.

It is only through getting things wrong that they will have the opportunity to learn wisdom.

By getting things wrong and experiencing the pain or embarrassment of the consequence children also learn they can manage when things don’t go their way.

We allow our children to take physical risks as they are driven to do so. (Yes, I cringe at playgrounds with two year-old Mr Butterfly).

We also are very firm and unmoving if they do something which could be considered to be naughty – rudeness, violence, damage to property etc. It is difficult not to buy into their Power Tantrums at these times – to hear them tell us how upset they are and how sorry they are, to witness their tears and to to hear their pleads. But these are just words and noise. While we might say, “I know you’re sorry” or “I can see you’re sad” – to acknowledge their emotional state, we don’t back down. In the adult world, the consequences for violence, damage to property and even rudeness will happen, and we will not be their to protect them. To be wise, our boys need to know they can made amends and how to make those amends through real actions. They need to know the emotions of sorrow, embarrassment, frustration etc are to be ridden not fought.

School is backward –

real life works with experience coming first

and then knowledge.

Parenting for wisdom and self-assurance is very different to parenting for education and high self-esteem. We need to throw out the idea of moderation in all things and replace it with excess in a few areas – excess affection; excess freedom to explore; excess firmness around a few rules; and excess stories and rituals.

Education is great – I’m all for it – but not at the cost of wisdom and maturity.

(Donations are accepted via the Koha button. 🙂 )


About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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8 Responses to Wisdom vs Knowledge

  1. akcielo says:

    Hi Karyn, I also agree that knowledge and wisdom are two different things. Knowledge is information, but wisdom knows how and when to use that information for he best possible outcome or advantage. How funny that I as well am a parent of 3 (older than yours) and a former counselor and educator in US. Even though I agree with you on the fact that time and experiences are great teachers in life. I would say for both instruction of knowledge and wisdom, I don’t believe that wrong choices or negative consequences is the only way to acquire wisdom. Why do you believe this is so?

    • Hi there,
      It has been my experience that wisdom comes from making mistakes and then consciously reflecting upon them (either immediately or at a later time…sometimes years later). Sometimes wisdom comes from watching others make mistakes and then reflecting on them too. Is it the only way to gain wisdom – at the moment I believe so. 😉

  2. janektcs says:

    I believe this is so important, Karyn. True wisdom means to see and understand for ourselves. There is no way we can teach this to our kids–we can only allow them to gain it for themselves, through their own experiences!

    • Some days I wish I could teach our boys wisdom – rather than watch them suffer with sore toes and grazed knees, or sore hearts when friends don’t want to play fair…but yes, their own wisdom is a sum of their experiences. At least they know they can come to me for as many hugs as they need.

  3. Pingback: One and Done #11 | JM Randolph, accidentalstepmom

  4. Yes, yes, yes. The moments seem relatively hard, but it is generally quite clear when to be gentle and lenient and when to be gentle but firm. We share basic goals, I think: let them experiment and do and be unless it’s mean or rude or dangerous, in which case the line is unwavering.

    But I find it so hard to know whether or not this approach is working. Behaviors repeat and repeat and repeat even with firm, gentle repetition. (And even with an occasional, ill-advised and immediately regretted cross word to angry reaction.) How to know if they are getting wise? How to know if they will ever make good choices in the car, at the parties, when nobody is looking?


    • It is a dilemma – that knowing if it’s working, when they keep repeating business – one key is how good their eye-contact is with their mothers and another is how ‘soft’ their face is to look at (shall have to think about that and see if I can put that more clearly in a future post!) Yes, I think our goals do seem to be similar. Lovely to have you around and commenting! 🙂

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