We are all people, right? Individuals, persons, who have our own preferences, our own ideas and our own wants and needs. Just like everybody else, children are people too with wants and needs and ideas and preferences. As parents we hold a great responsibility. And even more so, we hold the potential to exercise power, an incredible amount of power, over another human being. The potential. Not the duty, not the natural way of going about having children, not the right. We have the choise NOT to exercise that power. And this post is going to be about why I think we should think again when we feel our inner dictator scratching. And why I think we should choose NOT to exercise that power. Especially in the process of deschooling.
It is not easy. I guess everyone has a kind of inner picture of what a wonderful day looks like. And I guess most parents have an idea of what a wonderful day with their children should be like. A day of fun and play, exercise, talking, laughing, preoccupation with a subject of interest to the child and so on and so forth. Or something entirely different. The picture probably doesn’t involve the image of your five year old curled up on the sofa with the iPad watching netflix for ten hours straight. Or rather, that picture is maybe your worst nightmare? Or, your dream scenario. But in this case I am mostly addressing the ones with nightmares: Since this could very well be a realistic picture, the best way to deal with that is to embrace it. Engage in it. See your child’s joy and appreciation of the show. Let her immerse herself in exactly that activity. For sure, the only certain way to make this scenario last is to turn it into a problem, to demonise netflix or cartoons or sitting still for many hours. We all know where that leads; a tense atmosphere and anxious children and stressed out grown-ups.
Noone, let alone a child, likes being coerced or manipulated into doing something that he or she is not interested in doing at the time. You probably know the feeling; if someone kindly but firmly asks you to PLEASE get off your behind and mow the lawn! You’d probably be inclined to do anything but actually mowing the lawn. If your employer asks you to stay after hours and finish the last reports you might do it, but you probably wouldn’t find much joy in doing it if that wasn’t what you had planned to do. Short and sweet; things are always more enjoyable if you have chosen to do them yourself. And exactly that goes for children too.
The inner joy of having found an activity you love, having gotten an idea all on your own, having made a drawing, a song, a lego house, having written a letter, having thought of a story, having planted a seed or any other thing that has come to mind is an incredible gift to give your child. A gift of having made something entirely because you wanted to make it. But it takes time. It takes time especially if you haven’t practised that way of being with your child before. It takes the building up of your trust and confidence. And that will take time, patience, love and acceptance. It probably will demand of you that you put your own needs and ideals aside. Especially your ideals.
In our case, my daughter and I have only just begun our unschooling journey and we are still deschooling. Since my daughter spent a significant amount of time away from me in institutions she never chose to be in she needs a lot of time to decompress. And she has found her way to do this is in the corner of the sofa, curled up with her iPad and watching netflix. My job is to make her feel comfortable while doing this. To bring her the things she asks for and answer any questions she has. My job is not to try to coerce her into doing other things. I may introduce ideas and activities if I think she may like them, but I am not going to force things on her.
In order for a flower to bloom you must water it and give it attention and love. The same goes for your child. Water, attention, and love. Along with a great amount of favourite foods, reading aloud, answering questions, playing, singing and dancing. Just plain living and enjoying life.
Let go of your ideals for a while (or forever) and embrace what is there to embrace. Eventually, your flower will bloom. Remember, spring has a way of jumping in your face every year, even if you didn’t notice the buds in the first place 😉