Free Range Kids

In April 2008, Lenore Skenazy wrote an article for The New York Sun entitled Why I Let My 9-Year Old Ride the Subway Alone. There was a lot of feedback from this article. Parents were outraged that she allowed her child alone on a subway. Parents were thrilled to see another parent allowing her child freedom. She was immediately called by television studios for interviews. Later she began her blog Free Range Kids and wrote a book entitled the same, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry. There was a lot of publicity in the radical unschooling world prior to the book’s release. I have to admit I felt some excitement about it and considered pre-ordering it. The price at the time held me back. My ideals of simplicity gave me enough common sense to know that I should probably check the book out and read it before spending hard-earned cash for my personal library.

It took our public library a while to get the book in. In fact, I just recently was able to request it and read it. I sat down to read the book and was immediately drawn by the fact that it started out very conversationally – promising to be a quick read, something every time pressed parent of many young children appreciates. I found myself thinking that many parents would enjoy that aspect, however, I found that I did not. I would have enjoyed a book which read like a novel, with great insight and some research. Instead, the book is written in the manner that (admittedly, I presume here) Skenazy speaks. I have to say that it really grated on me and I contemplated not finishing the book many times. I have an affinity for complete sentences.

During the 200+ pages of the book, the author attempts to make her point against helicopter parenting by giving example after example of over the top control. One can only read so much of this before thinking that enough is enough. She states several times that parents also need to lighten up on each other and not judge, but she doesn’t give other parents that same respect she asks for, continually joking about other parents and being quite harsh at times. While some may find her style humorous, I don’t enjoy spending my time reading about one parent degrading others, whichever side I happen to agree with. It grows old quickly, and I found myself freqeuntly checking to see how much I had left to read. She stated that we shouldn’t pay attention to so called parenting experts, and then would repeat other parenting experts to support her side.

The crux of the matter is that in order to allow our children more freedom, we need to know our kids and trust them. A healthy dose of common sense goes a long way and will help your entire family to enjoy life more. With those two sentences, I’ve just saved you some valuable time reading the book and preserving your sanity while preventing eye strain from rolling your eyes and dental bills from grinding your teeth.

If you are really interested in what true dangers are out there and how to put your mind at ease, instead I recommend picking up a copy of Gavin de Becker’s Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe. It’s definitely worth the time to read and occasionally review.

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children

Between Parent and Child

Before Alfie Kohn, Pam Leo, Naomi Aldort, or many of the other consensually living authors of our time, there was Dr. Haim GinottGinott revolutionized the parenting and psychology worlds with his new philosophy on communicating with children. His book, Between Parent and Child, was on the national best seller list for over a year when it was written in 1965. While the republished version, edited and amended by his wife Dr. Alice Ginott, has been updated, it retains the same basic premise.

First and foremost, children need compassion and understanding from their parents. They need to hear that their feelings, wishes, and dreams are acknowledged by us and that those internal feelings are always acceptable, although the resulting behaviors may not be.  Guidance, not criticism, will help them to convey their thoughts and feelings in appropriate manners. As parents – the indviduals whom our children should be able to count on and trust more than anyone else, the words we use hold much more power and we should be cognizant of that when we speak with them. By modeling effective communication and giving our children the opportunities needed in order for them to develop their own responsibility, we will be helping them develop the skills they need.

If you are looking for one book to add to your home library this year, I would strongly recommend putting this one on your list of possibilities.

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children

Raising a Thinking Child

Most parents want their children to be equipped to handle life when they are grown. The skills needed to do this are ones that we can help them with right now. Rather than handling situations for them, and hence taking responsibility for our children, we can show responsibility to our children by helping them to problem solve and handle conflicts on their own. Myrna Shure has addressed not only the philosophy behind helping children learn how to think rather than what to think in her book Raising a Thinking Child: Help Your Young Child to Resolve Everyday Conflicts and Get Along with Others, but has gone the step further so often requested by parents by going through numerous examples of how exactly to do this.

Shure begins by explaining the principle concepts of Interpersonal Cognitive Problem Solving, generally referred to as I Can Problem Solve (ICPS), which has been successfully used in home and institutional settings for decades. According to the book, ICPS will help you:

  • increase your awareness that your child’s view may differ from your own;
  • see that helping your child think a problem through may in the long run help more than immediate action to stop what she is doing;
  • provide a model of problem-solving thinking for your children – as a thinking parent, you might inspire your child to think.

ICPS will help your children:

  • think about what to do when they face a problem with another person;
  • think about different way sto solve the same problem;
  • think about the consequences of what they do;
  • decide whether or not an idea is a good one;
  • realize that other people have feelings and think about their own feelings too.

The concepts in the book were not new to me. As part of striving for a consensually living family, we try to brainstorm solutions as a family or help our children think through their own problems to come up with their own solutions. When people develop their own solutions, they are much more likely to implement and follow through with them. What makes Shure’s book unique is that she goes through specific key words to use during dialogues and has numerous examples to help parents new to using this type of technique.

Reading through the examples, I was struck with the thought that the process and word choice was almost patronizing to children and adults alike. I couldn’t imagine going through the examples with my children. However, as I continued through the book, I was immediately struck by the example given where the mother stepped in, using ICPS techniques with her children when the father, who had less opportunity to practice these techniques, was frustrated and reaching his limit. That was the moment when I realized the value of the given examples for families, children and parents, who are new to such concepts and are looking for key words to help them in the learning process.

As the title implies, the examples in the book are geared toward families with young children. They would need to be adapted quite a bit for familes with older children (or even some familes with younger children) so that the kids didn’t feel as if they were being spoken down to. However, the main philosophical concepts are relevant to all families and individuals for thinking through conflict and resolution.

Shure shows in her examples that children are empowered by solving their own problems. Yet, she also advocates liberal use of praise in order to get children to practice these new found skills. In my opinion, the book and concepts in general would be strengthened by removing the use of praise.

 

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children

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