Thursday, February 11, 2010

I've Still Got a Lot to Learn...

“Arbitrary rules and limits have the characteristic that they entice kids to think about how they can get around them and can even entice kids to cheat and lie. I know a couple of really really great unschooled kids whose parents set limits on their computer use time. The kids used to get up in the middle of the night to use the computer while their parents were asleep. It is an unintended but very very predictable side effect of rules and limits that they always set parents and children up as adversaries (the parents are setting the rules and the children are being required to obey them - these are adversarial positions) and can lead to kids feeling guilty and sneaky when they inevitably bend or even outright break the rules. Avoiding that kind of possibility is one really good reason for not having rules or limits at all.”
Pam Sorooshian

After I read this I almost cried. “Almost” because I’m not one who cries very easily…unless it’s a Hallmark commercial. Don’t ask…

There are a few reasons why I was moved so much. The first reason being that this is the way I grew up. My dad ruled the roost. He was loving in his own way and a provider. That’s what he was taught to do from a very early age. His father died when he was still in the single digits and being the only male left, he was “the man of the house”. I was given a set of rules. I was given many limitations. In response to them I lied, cheated and stole my way out. I became good at it, from a very young age. Somehow, over the years, I managed to climb out of that dark hole. There was a major turning point in my life and from that point on I was a different person.

The second reason is that this is the way we parent. I could say, “the way the husband parents”, but I have to take much of the responsibility. I can already see the sneakiness starting to rear its ugly head in my 4-year-old. It appeared about 6 months ago and I was floored.

You do what you are told. You live by my rules…even if they are gentle rules. The End.

But, that’s not the end. It is the beginning. The beginning of raising a child who does learn to lie, cheat and steal. And I feel I should know better. When my two oldest begin to argue over something I simply tell Eli that if he stops fighting with his brother, eventually Odin will put whatever it is down and walk away. Hello! This is exactly the same behavior occurring with me and Eli, or the husband and Eli or…well, pick a combination. How did I not see this before?

Over the past few months I have been reading a lot of Sandra Dodd’s website. A little here and there. This past week I have read a section a night. Tonight’s section was on The Value of Choices. I can honestly say that her words, and the words of many other unschoolers, have stayed with me throughout the day. (As I type these words I feel almost brainwashed and like I’ve given into a cult.) When a situation arises with my boys, I have begun to handle it differently…more proactively rather than reactively. This is a good thing. I love my boys more than anything. They are my babies. I will make many mistakes along the road, believe you me, but I can try to learn from them and hopefully change the behavior.

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