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Archive for September, 2011

I was reading an article today promoting school for young children to give them an edge in life.  … but I have some red flags

First, regarding the research, I’d question where the studies came from because I think it depends more on a child’s environment, development, temperament and opportunities than “age”.  Secondly, I always think “individual child” rather than lumping them all in together to make such a decision.

So when is the right time to put your young child in school? Only you can make that decision, based on what you know about your child and what you believe is best. Even then, I think we might end up with “hindsight is 20/20”. For example, let’s say your child is shy and would benefit from being around more children. So you put your child in kindergarten for this reason. The plan could be effective and the wallflower turns into a social butterfly. Or – the child could become overwhelmed by the classroom of children and the busy-ness and the results could be that the child withdraws further and develops some anxiety issues on top of the shyness.

If we look at what the child needs (experience with socializing, following directions, recognition of basic concepts such as colours, numbers etc), activities to strengthen physical development, communication skills, and so on… then we can provide the best opportunities to meet these needs rather than just saying “school or no school”.

Kindergarten: is it the right time? Maybe. It might be the best thing for your child and then again… maybe you want to wait a year to start the school experience. What do you think? What is best for your child? Just something to think about.

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Last week I wrote about “rebelling youth” and discussed the topic of seeking change in an effective manner. After posting the blog, my mind took a step backwards in the process of seeking change, to the situation of complaining about an issue and leaving it at that.

Sometimes, for whatever reasons, we (the adults) will respond to a child’s complaints/difficulties by a) fixing the problem or b) ignoring their concerns and/or c) telling them to stop complaining. The result of these choices may be that the children learns to just accept injustices in their lives or wait for someone else to solve the problems.

Now, I know that the adult responses above aren’t the typical strategies used but they do happen and they make a great opening to the topic of “Now what? – What are you going to do about it?” When children struggle with something, complain about something, are frustrated with something, and/or disagree with something (even our parenting choices), we have an opportunity to empower our children to think and to take action.

My concern in last week’s blog was that people do not know how to strive for change without confrontation and aggression. A preferred alternative, I think, is to identify the problem from a logical perspective (not influenced by intense emotions, ex. anger), to think through how best to address the issue, and then to devise and act on a plan of action.

  • A child is bored. “There’s nothing to do.” “So, what are you going to do about it?”
  • A teenager says that his teacher is not fair. “He always blames me.” “So, what are you going to do about it?”
  • A pre-teen complains about bedtime being too early. “It’s not fair. I’m 11 now!” “So, what are you going to do about it?”
  • A child sees a homeless person. “He doesn’t have a home? That is sad!” “So, what are you going to do about it?”

Dis-empowerment, apathy, grumbling – not qualities that we would choose for our children. “So, what are we going to do about it?” Well, we are going to teach them to be otherwise! Let’s teach our children how to think through problems, how to address an issue, and how to try and make a difference.

Saying, “So, what are you going to do about it?” is the first step. Next, we have to walk them through the process of deciding what to do and to take the risk of taking action. Let’s look at the bedtime scenario above. Perhaps your first thought was, “I’m the parent and you will go to bed when I say so” or something along those lines. An alternative might be “Really? Convince me that you should stay up later and that you can handle it.” With this response, you aren’t giving away your role as parent and protector but are open to the idea. Of course you have to be prepared to change the current way of doing things. If you aren’t open to change and let the child go through all this effort then my guess is that a notch is made on the “disrespect” tally.

Also, your role as mentor doesn’t stop at the empowering statement but is useful for the entire process. We don’t know where the question of “what are you going to do about it” will lead the child’s mind. Their creative thinking may outweigh their awareness of right and wrong and/or ability to envision possible outcomes of their actions. That is where we come in – helping them to see what might happen “if” …

There is another caution to this empowerment. The other day I had an opportunity to people watch and I was given a piece of wisdom. At a store a young lad was playing with a stuffed animal (a long snake) and he was all excited about the size, how it was taller than even the mother. The Mom’s response was, “You don’t need a snake. What would you do with it?” (A good question, I thought, at first – following along the lines of “convince me”.)

But what happened next gave me pause and I realized something that I hadn’t thought of before. After a second or two the child listed off several things he could do with the snake – it could be a pillow or a scarf for example… it could sit on his headboard, and the list went on. As he rattled on I could see that his excitement had changed from being in awe of the snake toy to the possibilities of having it in his possession. Unintentionally, the mother had planted the seed of desire and the lad’s mind went racing into the realm of “I have to have this.”

Perhaps, in this instance, a “isn’t that fascinating; yes it is very tall; how fun” would have been a better response than the “what would you do with it” question. Perhaps this was an opportunity to teach how to appreciate something without having to have one.

“So now what are you going do about it?” (But not if you aren’t open to the possibilities and not if the child was just making a statement and not a request…  and not – well you get the picture: think it through!

“Everything you say and do and don’t say and don’t do is a lesson… what are you teaching your child?” – drp1997

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