Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I Don't Make My Son Share

It gets pretty awkward when my son is around other kids who have been made to share. My son feels entitled to want what he wants and he goes for it. He has no insecurities and he doesn't wait to seek my approval. He has been trusted to make most decisions for himself and so he does. When he plays with other children who are also being raised this way, it is peaceful and quite lovely. Both children grab toys from one another at will, neither are bothered when a toy is taken from them (for the most part) and immediately look for other things to do, when one is bothered and protests, the other listens and often gives the toy back! It is a marvel to see. There is almost never a need for adult intervention and, the truth is, these play dates are peaceful in the extreme i.e. though I have seen a child protest every now and then, the protests are rare.

Sound crazy? IT IS. It is crazy to watch these playdates and wonder what on Earth parents are useful for. If you think of toddlers as I do, as distinguished visitors from a far off land who don't quite understand out customs, and you watch them interact it is clear that toddlers are often from the same land... and have a natural understanding for certain customs like grabbing.

I feel fascinated when watching children who are being parenting the Standard Way with lots of talk about sharing since the moment they are born. These children don't feel entitled to want what they want. When they see something they would like to investigate further, they hesitate and wonder what the rules are and whether they are good or bad. They look insecure in moments of disagreement with other children and seek an adult to tell them what is right and wrong. At the same time, they are sneaky when adults are not around, immediately doing what they know they are not allowed to do when the adult is there.

I have never noticed my son trying to be sneaky. He doesn't make the "I'm ashamed" face and he doesn't make the "I'm going to get away with it" face.

Today my son played with three children aged 2, 3 and 4. All three were required to share, more or less. I noticed that my 21-month-old was less bothered when the other kids took things from him and at the same time, more generous with the other children. If he noticed one wanted something, he was happy to get it for them, and happy to give it to them (as soon as he was done with it). The most interesting thing was how sensitive he was, noticing when other kids got upset and also how independent.

When children are forced to share they learn that when another child comes up to them and takes something from them, they have been wronged. They get upset and look for an adult to solve the problem. A scenario has been created in which one child is the victim and the other is the bully, one is good and the other bad. Both children must do their best to win the favor of the arbiter, the adult. This was the case today and it was fascinating to watch. Anders never came running to me to complain of a wrong.

This is what I have noticed so far. I am curious to see what happens as they get older!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Is Fantasy-Fiction Bad For Kids?

Wanted to share this great article!


Peter Gray is right on about control, external motivators and depression, but I want to know more about the role that adult-created-fantasy-for-children plays because I believe it is significant. Take a kid, let him have all the free choice he wants, but spend hours reading stories to him about people with magic and watching movies about dogs that fly and rather than using his own brain and working out his creativity muscles, he will spend the rest of the day (or week) digesting what you just read to him, trying to figure it out, the way a traumatized child would.

A child who experiences something traumatic, like seeing a car accident, will reenact this scene over and over trying to make sense of it and understand it. Processing. The child previously thought that cars don't hit each other or fly through the air but now he saw that happen and he needs to understand. So he "plays" the car accident over and over.

A child who is read a fictional story that doesn't agree with his current understand of reality reacts similarly. Children who previously thought that dogs don't fly but now saw a dog flying also need to play over and over this scene of dogs flying. Or witches casting spells. Or people with magic powers killing bad guys. The child "plays" these scenes over and over until he "understands".

Maria Montessori wrote about the detrimental effects of fiction on children in The Child in the Family. Ayn Rand echos these concerns in her essay "The Comprachicos". Many huge businesses would lose a lot of money if they are right so I can understand why the initial research on this topic was never repeated. I would love to know the role that understanding reality plays in creativity. Don't you have to understand reality in order to recreate it? If you are genuinely confused about reality... how "creative" can you be?

There is something that really doesn't make sense about a billion kids all acting the exact same way and re-enacting the exact same stories... that just can't be how creativity starts.