Teaching Our Values?

Our values, the ones that we intentionally attempt to teach our children, may well be learned in ways we don’t notice. I'm not thinking so much of of things like "be nice," "be good", "clean up", etc., but what are we saying and doing about what we (automatically and generally) tend to focus on. You know ... what I like or don't like, what I want or don't want ... and how we use these to get others to do what we want

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How Do We Know What We Know?

This post is in response to my deep concern about the nature of our politics, our values, and our learning (and lack of it in some important areas). I feel I am taking a risk in writing this (I'm afraid right now as I type), but this something that people who know me best both appreciate and feel frustrated or judged by - though there is no personal judgement from my end. And it definitely relates to parenting - relating to our children in an honest and supportive ways.

We have grown up and been educated in a culture that appears to us to value what we know, what we have "learned," and to disregard or hide what we don't know

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I Never Met a Child Who Couldn't Already Read

What is reading? Here is a story from my kindergarten class:

On the first day of the year, my assistant and I sat on the floor with our 16 students, most of whom had attended our pre-k program. We introduced ourselves to whatever degree was comfortable, and everyone relaxed. When I introduced myself, I included telling my class why I do what I do (and it isn't exactly teaching as we know it from our school experience, so I avoid the term teach and teacher. See post on Why Stop Teaching?). I said I am come here to this class because I really enjoy having fun, learning, and being with other people who are learning new things and like to play. And I wouldn't do it if that weren't happening. Then I said that we would be learning about a lot of things, and that what they were interested in was even more important than what I was interested (though one of the things that I was interested in is what they were interested in). Then I had the following conversation and demonstration (which, by the way, is what teaching means - show and tell, only!).

I started with: "One of the things we are going to learn about is reading

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"Be nice ... share!"

Teaching a young child to share, as in 'requiring' or 'guilt-tripping' him or her to share, usually interferes with their willingness to share. Here are a couple of things to think about:

1 - Young children are keen observers of adult behavior, and in the adult world, they likely, by even age 3, have perceived that adults are not as willing to share their own personally valuable and meaningful items with strangers or even acquaintances as they are in being sure they (their own children) do.

2 -  They are in the middle or at the end of learning what "mine" means - from how their parents and siblings (if any) use the word. Again, in the adult world, "mine" means "I get to say (control) what happens to it, including who gets to use it."

3 - Finally, and critical to understand: force causes resistance. Our attempts to "get our child to" do anything always results in resistance (at some level, in some way). [aka The Parents' Dilemma in Beyond Good Parenting]

Imagine for a minute that your parent was visiting, and a neighbor came by and asked to use your car, and you feel very uncertain about it at best, and maybe your first thought is'no way!' Then your parent steps in and says to you, "Let your neighbor use it! Come on, give him the keys. Be nice!" And imagine your parent has the power to make you give the keys to your neighbor, either through force or by withholding something from you that you depend upon (maybe that's why, by adulthood, we try to have as few dependencies on our parent as possible!).

What is the alternative?  Give and support your child having control over his or her own belongings. This also means giving up trying to get your child to be nice. (It is okay to be nice, but being nice only works under certain circumstances. As or if you read more posts, you'll see that being respectful and honest trumps being nice.

Then, role model appropriate sharing at every opportunity. For me, this meant bringing my own toys, balls, etc., to the playground or to my classroom. I did this for two reasons: it gave me something to play with (!), and gave me an opportunity to role model sharing with others. My own child or students could see the impact of sharing, as well as see how sometimes I wouldn't share, such as when the child who wanted to use what I brought seemed likely to break it (whether just to see what happens or by accident)

Summary: Giving your child complete control over their own belongings facilitates their willingness to share, and also facilitates them learning to be responsible for their own things.

Enjoy!   Marty                      Comments?  Please share!

The revised edition of Beyond Good Parenting is now available. It goes into these matters of relationship and social learning in more depth with more stories and suggestions, and will assist you in giving your child an understanding of behavior and responses that leads to increasing respect of others, of diversity, and in effectiveness in dealing with challenging social situations.