Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is Your Home a War Zone?

  1. Is your child the enemy, or a terrorist?
  2. Do you refuse to negotiate with your child?
  3. Do you create a united front with your spouse, against your child? 
  4. Do your children combine forces, against you?
  5. Do you have battles with your child?

Monday, May 30, 2011

School Readiness

Remember the Ten Ways For Schools To Confuse a Child? Well, I'm pretty sure someone from the federal government read it and took my suggestions seriously. Because they are planning on taking one of the items on the list and running with it. Here it is:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Does Anyone Care About the Kids?

The Institute of Education Sciences has approved a $1.6 million study of the effects of stress on education. This is great! Right?! We will see how stressful the school environment is on the kids, and maybe some drastic changes will finally be made!

Oh wait... no, nevermind. The study is not about the kids.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Don't Think You Are a Good Mother

I'm just going to say it: I don't think you are a good mother. But I'm not saying I think you are a bad mother either. I used to think I could judge whether other mothers were good or bad. But lately, I just don't have an opinion either way. Even if I did have an opinion, would it matter to you? Does it matter if a stranger thinks you are a good mother? Or a friend or sister or parent thinks so?

It doesn't to me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Three Bad Reasons To Hit Children

Yesterday I put up a flowchart explaining the ridiculous logic that somehow gets us to where parents are allowed to hit their children (and some teachers allowed to hit their students) in the United States.

It's no wonder that parental corporal punishment has been outlawed in 26 countries since 1979. Because people who hit children don't have very good justifications for doing so. Here are what I think are the three most popular ones, followed by my responses:

Monday, May 23, 2011

When Am I Allowed To Hit Someone?

It seems like this is what our society tells us about hitting:

I don't think a child EVER deserves to be hit. But laws in the United States allow parents (in all states) and teachers (in 19 states) to use corporal punishment on children.

Why do we allow this?

Why are children not protected from being hit by adults, by their own parents and teachers?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ten Different Ways To Talk About Your Child

I read this great blog post the other day, with a suggestion for a different way of looking at shyness in children. It inspired me to think of other ways we can rephrase the way we talk about our children:
  1. He's not messy. He's creative.
  2. She's not bossy. She's a natural leader.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Words Matter: Sometimes...

Some of my Geometry tests in high school featured questions that looked kind of like True or False questions, but with a twist. There would be a list of statements, and we would have to decide whether each statement was Always true, Sometimes true, or Never true. I found these questions more difficult than regular True or False questions, because of that middle option, the sometimes.

The deal with the sometimes option is that if you can think of ONE example of when something is not true, then it's not always true. It's only sometimes true. One counterexample is all it takes.

In life, it's easy to lose sight of the sometimes option in the middle, and default to always or never. You might hear parents say things like these about their kids:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ten Ways For Schools To Confuse a Child

In case parents don't do enough to sufficiently confuse their children, teachers and school administrators can do their parts as well. We can all work together to make sure no child is left thinking the world makes sense.

Each of these items is worth ten points, with a few extra credit opportunities:
  1. Punish him for something that is completely beyond his control, like being late for school because of traffic or because his mother overslept.
  2. Make a really big deal about how important it is for kids to get physical activity, and then force him to sit still for 95% of the school day. *extra credit for giving excessive homework, leading to more forced sitting: 1 point for each hour

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kids and Limits

Limits. Boundaries. Restrictions. Things that must be imposed on children for their own good, right? Parents who don't draw hard lines and enforce compliance are told they are setting their kids up for lives of crime. How will they know their limits if you don't tell them what they are?

It is even commonly believed that children don't just need parent-set limits, they actually crave limits. Whenever I hear that, I get a vision of Homer's Odysseus and his encounter with the Sirens. In order not to fall victim to the irresistible song of the Sirens, he orders his men to tie him up and not to let him go, no matter how hard he begs. Are people saying that our children are like this? That they will thank us for restraining them (literally or figuratively), for giving them no choice but to avoid temptation?

This guy did thank his crew for keeping him tied up. (source)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Have You Stopped Asking Why?

Why, Mom?
I have to laugh when I hear adults talk about how unreasonable children are. It's funny to me because I find children usually want to know the reasons, the justifications, the explanations for Everything. That sounds pretty reasonable to me.

Anyone who has ever had a conversation with a young child knows that the most important word to him is WHY. A child will ask why questions until his curiosity about a topic is fully satisfied. I have heard the adults in these conversations get irritated. I have heard adults respond with Just Because. Or Stop Asking So Many Questions.

When an adult complains about not being able to reason with a child, I find it's usually code for:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Control, Criticism, and Contradiction

When it comes to parenting, everyone is a critic. I am certainly not without guilt in this area. Especially before I had kids, I wasn't afraid to talk about what other people were doing wrong (although I think I rarely expressed it directly to them). If you are a parent, chances are, you have been accused being a bad parent at some point.

Maybe you have been accused of giving your kids either not enough freedom or too much freedom. Because people like to put other people in neat little boxes, they want to put you in either the box marked: HELICOPTER PARENTS or the box marked: LAZY NEGLECTFUL PARENTS. Just for the sake of convenience.

These are bee boxes. But you get the idea.

One interesting part of being an unschooling parent is having lots of opportunities to be accused of being too controlling AND not controlling enough, sometimes by the same person, in the same conversation. Here's how it goes:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

7 Indispensable Parenting Lessons From Disney Movies

LESSON ONE, from Peter Pan
If you are going out for a night on the town, don’t leave your dog to watch your young children

But if you must do so, at least don’t chain up the dog outside the house. There’s not much she can do from there.

Even the most trustworthy dog would be rendered useless by this arrangement. (source)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When a Child-Hater Writes a Parenting Article

It warmed my heart yesterday to see all the wonderful feedback I got on Ten Ways To Confuse a Child. I am often upset by the hypocrisy and the double standards inflicted by adults on kids. But yesterday was a good day. A lot of people agreed with me. That made me feel good about the world.

And then my sister-in-law sent me this article, republished from this month's issue of Parents magazine, called 25 Manners Every Kid Should Know By Age 9. Brace yourselves. I have picked out some of the "manners" that were confusing or otherwise bothered me. And here they are, with my responses:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ten Ways To Confuse a Child

  1. If he's yelling, yell at him: STOP YELLING! IT'S NOT NICE TO YELL. 
  2. Tell him never to talk to strangers because it's dangerous, but then tell him he is rude when he won't say hello back to the cashier at the grocery store.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I Think I'm a Human Mother

Every day in the news, there is another article about some kind of animal mother someone is claiming to be: a dolphin, a sloth, a panda... all thanks to the original self-titled "tiger mother" Amy Chua, who got all this craziness started a few months ago.

But as Peter Gray so brilliantly writes in this article, Amy Chua is more like a circus trainer than an actual tiger mother. She is ultimately concerned with performance, with impressing others. Her children are just actors (like it or not) in her big life show. It makes me sick to see anyone in the media congratulating her for her daughter's recent college acceptances, as if it somehow justifies her method.

As a parent, I have a choice. I can choose to focus on trying to craft a "designer child," as Chua and many other parents do. If so, then everything I do now is with an eye on the future: Punishments/Rewards, Requirements, Expectations, Manipulation, Forced Lessons. It's all just in case. It's all with the hopes that my child will be some certain way. If I do all of that stuff now I can control the future.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"You Can't Always Get What You Want"

I don't like to hear adults say this about children: They have to learn they can't always get what they want. And I really don't like the implication that it's my job to teach my children this lesson, by withholding things they desire.

Because I want my kids to keep having big dreams. And to keep sharing them with me. There are enough obstacles in the world without me having to be one for my own children. I want them to see me as someone who will help them get around the obstacles instead of add to them. Someone who will help them realize their dreams instead of shut them down.

These kids (my cousins) were determined to throw this really heavy rock off the pier.
I wonder if the parents who never want their kids to quit things are the same parents who consistently respond to their kids' requests for things with: No, you can't have that. And quit asking! I hope not. Because that would be confusing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How We Eat

We usually don't do traditional meals at our house, in that most of the time, I don't make individual plates for the kids and we do not have set meal times. Instead, inspired by Sandra Dodd, I have a few platters with small sections and I put different foods in each section.  I cut up vegetables, fruit, meat, bread, cheese, and I even include candy, cookies, or chips.

Tomatoes, Carrots, Mango, Avocado, Blueberries, Purple Licorice, and Bacon

Rather than sit at a high table, we eat at the coffee table so the kids can reach it easily, and they can come and go as they please. We do this two or three times a day, and we snack on things in between. As I explained in Food Freedom last week, my children are free to eat whatever, whenever. Sometimes they have ice cream or popsicles or chips while I am fixing a platter. Often they will put down a half-eaten popsicle once the platter comes out.

Some of my favorite things about the platter way:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Have a Parenting Question? Ask Your Child!

In my last post, Mom To the Rescue!, I mentioned a presentation I attended. The presentation was called Choosing the Right High School For Your Child. I only went because one of the presenters was Madeline Levine, who wrote The Price of Privilege and was featured in the documentary Race to Nowhere.

I thought overall Levine was pretty good. She talked about things children need like unconditional love, acceptance, and hands-on learning. I was happy to see parents around the room taking notes, writing down the words "unconditional love," in hopes that the act of writing it down would help the concept to sink in.

The rest of it was not so good. Even just the title and premise of the event did not sit right with me. It would have felt better to me if the title were Choosing the Right High School WITH Your Child, or if any of the parents who attended had brought along the person who would be attending said chosen high school (there was not one child in the audience).

Boarding school was on the list of topics covered. I don't know if that is even "a thing" anywhere else in the world besides here in New England, but apparently it is a big thing here. There was a lot of talk about why boarding school is so great and how to choose among the wonderful options.

One presenter, headmaster of a boarding school, kept saying that choosing a high school for your child is "THE most important parenting decision you will EVER make." Um, ok.

But it was a question from a father in the audience that really got me riled up. He asked the panel, "How do I know which one is better for my child- boarding school or day school?" It was at this point I wanted to jump up out of my seat and grab the microphone and say (shout):