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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Letting them learn for themselves

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One thing that I struggle with as a parent is overcoming the parenting models of my childhood. The urge to lecture, to tell my daughter "because I said so" is often very strong, or to act like a drill sergeant are things I find myself battling on a regular basis. One of the core principles of Love and Logic is to set the boundaries and consequences for your child's actions and then let them learn the lesson for themselves. For example, if your child acts up, you sing the "uh oh song", give them "bedroom time", then when it's over, you go in, give them a hug, tell them you love them and leave it at that. The purpose of leaving the lecture out about what they did wrong or what they should have done is to allow them to learn for themselves. The benefit of that is that as they grow older, they learn to figure out consequences themselves, and rather than just following a hard set of rules, they'll understand that their actions have consequences and behave accordingly. I have a strong urge to lecture to make sure my daughter "gets it", but I can tell by the look on her face on those occasions that I've lecture her that what she's hearing is like the adults talking in the Peanuts tv specials. Waa waaaa wa waaaaa wa wah.

Beyond that, I think that approach can be used in other aspects of parenting, not just discipline. Allowing your child to make mistakes and even giving them the opportunity can be difficult. We often do things for our children rather than let them do it for themselves because they might make a mess or it's faster if we do it, but doesn't that teach the child that someone else will always do the difficult things? That making a mess is ok if you also clean it up? It's easy to become busy with your non-parenting life, but I think it's really important to encourage exploration and foster curiosity in children by letting them learn things for themselves. That doesn't mean that we avoid parental responsibility, but rather that we take on the role of a coach and consultant instead of a dictator and drill sergeant.

This also gives you the opportunity to see that "lightbulb moment" when your child learns something for themselves, and I, for one, cherish those. Nothing makes me prouder as a parent than seeing that happen.

In the secular context, letting your children learn for themselves helps foster critical thinking and problem solving and gives them the opportunity to make up their own minds. I see religious parents trying to force their point of view on their children and I never want to do that to my child.