Parenting - Like / Not Like Driving

Virtually all of our attitudes, beliefs, biases, self-images, and perceived belonging and security are rooted in our early childhoods (birth to four or so). Our early learning is stimulated by our engagement with the "stuff" around us - who and what is in our house, yard, around the block, or around the world. But the meanings and possible uses of all those experiences originate in the conversations of the adults (aka “Big People,” in Beyond Good Parenting). And what should be talked about and what shouldn't be talked about - a result of the perceived meanings - is learned early, gleaned from parental responses. But what should be talked about and what shouldn't be frequently aren't the "safe" things, and we end up feeling guilty for what we should have or shouldn't have said or done, when in fact our communication matches our level of perceived security. But this perceived security was perceived, and adopted as true, when we were young and did not yet have the ability to rationalize why a parent was angry or concerned unnecessarily. 

Back to driving!  These early responses and meanings are like potholes in the road. If we saw them ahead of time, we could take evasive action, and say something like, "Oh, yes, that really did bother me but that was my problem, not yours, sweetie. I love you, and I did then too even though I was (angry, or concerned).  I think it bothered me because my mom yelled at me when I was little, too.  But now I know how much she loved me and was worried about me." (This is not a word-for-word suggestion to repeat. Every child and circumstance is different. Look at it from what could you say?  Then, start. Practice saying something about what you are noticing that is accurate for you. Your child will begin to do the same. 

Like Driving a Car

When you are driving your car, and you don’t see a pothole, you likely will hit it. After a while, you “see” the road as a very bumpy one.  But if you see the potholes, you will do the best you can do to safely avoid them, especially the most potentially damaging ones.

Parenting is like driving in that way. When you actually see the potential impact of what you say to and do around your children, you will naturally try to avoid hitting that "pothole" - the one that shuts off further communication. And if you do hit it, you will likely stop and see what kind of repair is necessary to keep going.

Not Like Driving a Car

Parenting is quite different also. The “car” we are attempting to control also has its agenda, or path. With enough awareness, however, we could see what is needed and wanted to keep communication open, respectful, and accepting. When this happens, our children can be our most valuable partners!

This is consistent with Martin Luther King’s view:

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality; tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Our young children experience this more powerfully than we do - but just don't have the experience and language to tell us, and frequently we do not grant them the time and respect to allow them to contribute to us. Fortunately, children growing up in this context for partnership means this context will become the norm. Imagine! What if this were the norm for the current generation?

By the way: this kind of partnership will save you time, energy, angst, and bring you fulfillment - every day you bring it into your family.

Parenting will still be challenging.  If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be rewarding either.  

Yes, and you are up to it.     Marty

A Gift That Keeps on Giving

Being responsible for a job or chore can be a win-win for parent and child. Offering a job or project as an opportunity rather than giving it as an unending assignment is what keeps it growing in the future.

For your child, learning to be responsible for something requires learning how and when to say “yes,” and if it is not a personal choice, then it is not an opportunity to be personally responsible. The process of agreeing to be responsible for a particular job or project, whether invited to or not, is the second part of the learning process.

For a parent, this means 1) giving your child the option to decline your request, as in an invitation, and 2) being sure the agreement has clear conditions, including a beginning and an ending time. When the ending time is not obvious, put a time or clear condition on it.

Finally, let your child know (don’t assume) it is safe to ask you for support and advice.  If you child wants to quit, be understanding. What has changed?  Does he or she feel appreciated?  Acknowledge that sometimes we adults agree to do something and discover that it doesn't work for us. Trust yourself to look from your child's point of view, and choose whether allowing your child to quit (without a harsh relational emotional penalty), or be understanding but firm about keeping the commitment.  If you are not sure what would be best, cancel the agreement.  If your child is ready for it and it is set up well, your child will not be reluctant to take it on again or to take on more.  Allowing an occasional withdrawal of a promise is a good exercise in learning to be responsible for others' expectations. This maximizes the learning as well as the likelihood that your child will accept more responsibility later.

[There is a little known axiom of human behavior that is well-known in physics: force causes resistance. Sometimes force is necessary, by the way, but even then it causes resistance. You choose whether it is worth it, and then share those thoughts - including that being or feeling made to do something frequently can make you not want to do it.]

 

 

What to say ... that is ...

... how to promote acceptance of diversity of sexuality, gender identity for very young children without talking about it. It is very infrequent that I pass on any blogs or articles on parenting, but occasionally, as I expand my personal network in the arena of parenting, I do, so here is a good one ...

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Measuring Learning, Part 3

Now let’s look at language learning. Learning a language for a young child is, it seems to me, the most difficult and demanding learning project any human being ever accomplishes. Even learning to read is a no brainer compared to learning to understand language and speak it.  

The first obstacle is to get what language actually is

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