Unschooling Journey

Our journey from traditional schooling, to "school at home" and then on to greener pastures…

Tag: respectful parenting

Why not??

Sometimes, we say “No,” because we’ve been conditioned to have that as our first response. “No,” because it’s too hard. “No,” because I’m busy. “No,” because I said no last time. This journey has forced me to look at what I’m saying no to, and really ask myself why? Why not?

Take bubble bath for example. Jessie loves bubble bath. Like, a LOT. To the point where there’s never enough bubbles until the whooooooole bottle is gone. She has so much fun, pouring in the soap, discovering that it works better under running water, building up the bubbles on her head like a hat, chin like a beard, my entire face like…..well, that’s just because it’s funny apparently.

Unschooling girl covered in bubbles

Why do I “let” her use the whole bottle in one go? Isn’t that a waste?

A waste? Of what? She’s going to use it all anyway, eventually. What does it matter that it goes in one bath or ten?

The cost?

Bubble bath costs $3.20. I’ll grab a bottle when we’re at the shops, maybe a couple a week, maybe more, depending on how often we pop to the shops. I spend more than that on coffee…much more than that on a bottle of wine…so really, when this first started to happen, I had to ask myself, is it more important for me to save a few dollars, or to just let her have the fun and use her bubbles the way she wanted to.

Sometimes, bubbles get alllllll over the floor. That’s ok, I throw a towel over the top, they get cleaned up pretty easily…and I rarely need to mop the bathroom floor, so really she’s saving me time, right?

Obviously there’s times when “No,” is the only response you can give, “No,” you can’t run across the highway, “No,” you can’t ride the dog, “No,” you can’t drink the cleaning fluid…unless it’s homemade with vinegar, then they can fill their boots.

But next time you hear yourself about to give “No,” as an answer, try and pause to ask yourself “Why not?”, is the “No,” because it’s a real safety issue? Is the “No,” because you really don’t have the money? Is the “No,” because you have an important appointment?

If not, can you instead figure out a way to lead with “Yes,”? Saying “Yes,” fills them with the knowledge that they have some control, that they can make things happen, that they have a say in their own lives. This is so important, in this world of rules and constraints, to have them grow knowing that they can have an affect their situations…be it as small as bubbles when they’re 4, or  taking the leap to move to the other side of the country when they’re 18.

"Children learn to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directios." Alfie Kohn

Yep, there’ll be plenty of “No,”s in their lifetime, I’ve learnt not to add the unnecessary ones…

xx

Getting in the way of learning…

THEN:

Rightio, I had all the worksheets printed and ready to go. Clipboard? Check. Pencils? Check. Erasers? Check. Enthusiastic child? Check. Well…kind of.

Clay was excited about going to the aquarium, but seemed less so once I went through the worksheets. I wasn’t asking him to do much, a few pages, and he got to choose which ones he wanted to do, I wasn’t being unreasonable. A trip to the aquarium was expensive, it couldn’t just be a fun day out, we needed to do some learning today!

What. A. Nightmare. One word answers, copying exact sentences, scribbly illegible hand writing. And then he got all stroppy at me when I erased a few words and asked him to re-write them.

He wanted to go home.

Well that was a waste of money!

NOW:

Clay and his friend were so excited. The King Tutankhamun exhibit had been a long time coming, they were skipping this way and that, and we hadn’t even gone in yet!

The doors open and they scooted around the first section, calling excitedly to each other “Come look at this!!”, “Whoa!!”. They were reading, listening, watching…and learning. All without a worksheet in hand, no pre-exhibit planning, no assignments, no post-exhibit test looming.

Who would’ve thought.

It made me smile, to see Clay so enthusiastic, so excited, chatting after we left and for well over a week afterwards about all the things he had seen and learnt.

It was an awesome day.

I cringe looking back, now, how I killed any sense of wonder, any free range learning, by forcing him to do worksheets and research before and after going to places like the aquarium, the zoo, a play. I mean, think about it, I come to you and say “Hey! Want to come to the movies with me? But hang on, you have to do this worksheet first, analyse the film afterwards, there’ll be a test too…”.

Seriously? No thanks.

Why do we find it so necessary to check boxes? To have someone else tell us what is important to know? I’ll tell you why.

School.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that without being forced, without being coerced or bribed, we would not learn, would not want to learn. But that simply isn’t true! When a child is interested in something, stay with them in that moment, be engaged with them, converse, ask questions, offer information.

Unschooling Dad holding and talking to daughter

Unschooling Dad and son gaming

And if a child isn’t interested? Well, please think about that, do we really believe that forcing a child to fill out a worksheet is going to miraculously make it interesting? Make them retain information about a topic they do not care for long term?

And if not long term, if the information is not valuable enough for them to retain and build on, why are we so fixated on having them “learn” it?

Oh yeah, to tick boxes.

So next time you’re trying to steer your child down a road they are uninterested in, check yourself, ask why, throw the boxes out the window and instead just be present.

xx

Respect. Word.

THEN…

“ENOUGH! Into your room! You’re in time out!”

How dare he talk to me like that?? That’ll teach him. He needs to learn to be respectful, he can’t yell at me or get angry because things weren’t going his way, that’s life, better get used to it!

My child was going to learn to be respectful, any deviation from that path would be nipped in the bud. Time out, privileges gone, toys binned, whatever it took to get him to toe the line, I mean, if I couldn’t get him to be respectful at age 5, what hope did I have of having a respectful teenager??!

NOW…

*Cringe*. Oh dear. Those days were not my finest parenting moments.

Where had these ideas come from?? Ohhhhhh, wait. I remember now, all those glossy parenting magazines with glowing, happy mothers and perfect children on the cover. Oh oh, and the books, yes, that “magic” counting method, and that other one about wrestling…no, “wrangling”…kids…then there’s that Nanny…

Those books and shows have a lot to answer for.

The term “respectful parenting” is a relatively new one for me, having spent most of Clay’s life more on the “authoritative” side, believing that children should do as I say, toe the line, that sort of thing. At the time it didn’t feel right, I hated how upset he got…but it was easy. I had control, I could give and I could taketh away, not just toys and experiences, but affection, attention. Nine times out of ten it worked straight away!

But the older he got, as we left the school system, I saw around me different styles of parenting, children who were happy, Mums who were happy…there was no yelling, they weren’t constantly on guard, hovering, waiting for their children to step out of line…it made me question how I was doing things…

Turns out it’s called “respectful parenting”, and, essentially, it boils down to treating your children with the same respect and courtesy you would your spouse, a friend, a guest in your home. Interesting concept hey?

Unschooling Mum and kids exploring nature

At first it was…weird. Here my son was getting frustrated and raising his voice, and me, responding gently, acknowledging his frustration and calmly asking how I could help. Then there was the time when he was swinging over the bars in the shopping aisle, narrowly missing passers by, and me asking if he would mind not doing that as he may hit someone….asking a few times, explaining a few times…or that other time when he jumped up and started walking along a brick fence, and me, pausing, asking what the harm was…averting my eyes as a parent behind me scholded their child for following suit, glaring at my apparent disregard for…what now?

I wont pretend to have this all figured out, I’m still learning, I still slip up every now and then, though fewer times this week than last, fewer last than the one before… And there’s still meltdowns that happen, there’s still tantrums, like just yesterday, in the car on the way to dropping hubby at the train station, lots of yelling….oh wait, sorry, that was me…don’t worry, my husband was gentle in his response and helped me calm down…see, he has this “respectful husbanding” down pat.

So yeah, it’s different, it’s weird, it’s likely to bring more than a couple of sideways glances from friends, family, strangers….but you know what? Our family life is calmer, our relationships stronger…it works. It really does.

xx

PS. Read more about respectful parenting over on Rachel’s blog, Sara’s explanation here,  or the facebook page Respectfully Connected…or pop it into Google, it’s everywhere now, get on board, the grass is greener over here 😉

 

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