Living Life & Learning!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Technology Use and Kids

An argument can be made that technology can be seen as an escape for many — it allows people to “feel connected” to the world, while hardly interacting with it. It gives a semblance of being a part of society while really just fish bowling into it.
We have generations of young adults now who believe that they have “communities” which are actually just “networks.” I find this fascinating. But I believe that individuals who went to preschool and elementary school have been damaged in such a way as to be disconnected from their true selves. They were forced to give up thought for the self to accept taking care of the greater good – at such a formative age developmentally that they do not even know the travesty that was wrought upon them.
I’d like to believe that most radically unschooled kids will not fall victim to this new world view – not because of their exposure to technology and the networks, but because they have been raised to know their TRUTH and what truly makes them happy. (** which is why I say there is a time limit on getting to radical unschooling if you’re headed there, because those formative years and agency within them is critical to reaping the benefits as kids get older) Radically Unschooled kids have experienced connected relationships throughout their young lives and they do not seek escapism from these media, they use much of it as a fun place to learn. They have not been sold a damaged idea of personal relationships that demands parity across many “friends”, while serving no one person in a fulfilling way. (especially for those introverts among us)
Maybe we, who allow for unlimited media use and who sit alongside our children as they explore, see these media as a meandering microcosm of societal and historical data that informs much of our kids’ learning – while not ignoring the personal and physical interactions of real life that kids need to grow into healthy adults. We are parents who normalize the experiences our kids have in technology and give context to the ideas, thoughts and mores seen there. In essence we not only create proponents of tech, we create superior cynics of that which is pedaled on line.
This dance is not available to everyone (even in the unschooling space) – not certainly to those parents who disparage the idea of technology as valuable to learning or fun. And for most conventional parents, who are already disconnected from their children because of life choices (work, school, convention or some other dogma that believes there is more value in some other mode of learning), the idea of unlimited technology causing them fear may be warranted.
In the end, as with everything in the unschooling realm, it all comes down to PARENTAL DESCHOOLING which requires parents to really look at WHY they feel so strongly about some idea (whatever it is) and to break it down into digestible chunks. Our job as unschooling parents is THIS — Deschooling Ourselves. Whether through that process, they decide to allow unlimited technology use, or some hybrid style, the key is to recognize whether our (parent’s) agenda is affecting our children’s authentic ability to choose and discern over time. If we honestly believe we are tempering our agenda (biases, values) to allow our kids to honestly get to their own choices, values based on their personal needs then we are getting close to where our family needs to be. Dogma of any kind has its affect on our children, I choose not to hand lots of dogma down to my kids in order to allow them to develop their own compasses.
For me, that meant really understanding whether I truly believed that one way of learning was somehow more valuable than another. After sitting with this idea for a while, I came to the conclusion that learning is something that happens as a side-affect of doing things we love. My kids don’t play on technology to LEARN. They play on technology because it offers a near limitless opportunity for them to investigate, research, laugh, challenge themselves, seek guidance and to create avatars/personalities, and as a result of those activities, they happen to get all that schoolish learning that schools spend years drilling kids to hopefully be able to regurgitate on a test. My kids do not find any of that learning drudgery and I don’t think they really even know that they are learning all the stuff they are learning – because it’s just part of their whole beings now. Their insights are mature, their ability to identify and discern amongst marketing tactics and scams and other “ills” of the internet is almost more mature than my own. And I get to see all of this learning first hand because I choose NOT to judge how they spend their time. That’s really all it is. No judgement, and lots of opportunities to do interesting things.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Dealing with Kids who Resist

I spend a lot of time helping parents who are trying to shift from conventional models of parenting into more conscious models of parenting.  When they post questions about their challenges, they often fall into common categories and themes.  Below is a note I wrote to one such parent.  Her question was about a situation with her son where they were trying to get out the door to an outing and he was moving slow and forgot the one item he was supposed to bring with them.  When she pushed him to get the item, he refused; Mom and son had gotten into a stand off so his sister went and got the item to solve the issue.  Here is what I wrote in response in case it percolates some ideas that may be helpful for others.


Dealing with kids who resist us.

I spend a lot of time just figuring out what's important to me vs. what's important to my kids. If the outing was important to someone else in the family, and he had to come along - then I'd have worked doubly hard to help make that whole experience low impact and easy for him. 

For all my kids... (especially the two 11 yr old introverts)

1) I give 24 hours notice about every activity we have planned and they have agreed to. 
2) I give 1 hour notice and 30 min notice and at 15 mins I remind about putting shoes on.
3) I ensure that everyone is fed and prepared for the outing. If we need to have things, I usually ask how they want to have me help them remember, so I might identify the item, put it "in our way" and ensure that we have what we need to leave.
4) I bring snacks, activities or otherwise especially if a kid was dragged along outside his interest (and this is rare in this house)
5) I do NOT set my kids up to fail -- nor wait for their failure or get mad at their missteps. Why would a kid want to go out with me if they feel that they are set up for failure from the beginning.

** I know that working to a schedule is a trigger point for me -- I get stressed about the clock and making it somewhere on time. I know this and I recognize that I must be ahead of schedule to alleviate the pressure on the back end to set myself up for success. Everyone has their tricks to be successful -- I know mine and I work those to my benefit to avoid adding more stress to the situation.

I assume that most parents think that if a kid cannot get "prepared" to go out to an activity at age "x" then they will NEVER have that ability. 
that is false. As a result, said parent will knowingly or unknowingly test that kid to "prove" their assumption. Well, unfortunately, if we place ourselves into our kids' shoes, we'd quickly realize that we'd not want to go on that outing or do that thing with our parent's judgmental glare either. 

I think it all comes back to expectations. You have them and it's likely that your son knows you have them and he tends to SLOW down because he knows better than you where this whole scenario will end up and he's loathe to go there, but knows, oh so well, that it will become a shit show. 

You are the adult in the room, though, you can change your whole attitude about this and come to these activities with a much more positive attitude and choose, consciously, NOT TO OWN your son's actions nor attitude and to work to make sure that you are spending time figuring out how to make him successful. In that one small shift, you could have changed the entire episode into a calm and peaceful one.

I'd start by talking to your son well in advance of the trip to say "hey, We have this thing this week where we are gonna have to go out. I want us to get out the the door as seamlessly as possible. What can I do to help make that whole process easier for you?" My guess is that (if your son believes in your sincerity) your son will have some ideas about what will grant him the best opportunity for success. This all may take a few tries and a few times where he can learn to trust that you won't end up with the expectations/failure shit show scenario again -- but as he builds up trust, it all should get better. And in this case, it could be that if he is responsible to bring something he may ask you to get it and put it in the car for him. And you should JUMP at that chance to do so. Why set yourself up for disappointment and frustration when in fact you could have avoided all of it by just HELPing him be successful? Every kid should have someone in their corner helping them be successful and over time, they will learn the process for being successful on their own.

In the end, our kids will be and act in whatever way we "assume" they will be and act. You likely have set up models of behavior with him that he rejects and the only way to get change is to allow him to have numerous successes/wins on his own terms not on yours. I'd much rather have my kids feel good about their outings and feel confident in knowing what works for them (not for me) and watch how over time they take on more and more responsibility because they've incrementally gained experience and success and confidence in their own choices. That is what childhood is for, kids don't come out perfect and capable of all the things we think are important for them to learn/know -- they come out with rudimentary skills and do many years of trial and error (hopefully in a low stakes situation) to figure out what works for them.

And as a parent of three kids 11,11,and 9.5 yrs - each has come to differing levels of responsibility and awareness of self and confidence in choices at different times and with different things. But since my kids get to choose to "grow" in a manner that is natural for them, they don't have angst or hang ups and therefore do not resist me hardly at all. But that's because I don't let my agenda, expectations and wants/needs to cloud my interactions with them (at least not very much these days). Kids won't resist if they don't have anything to push back on. And when we allow our kids to unfurl and "become," naturally, in a supported and loving family, they reveal much more about their personalities and selves to us and we get to learn to respect their process equally as we do our own. And sometimes we learn that those "prickly parts" that we have pushed back on are actually core competencies that make them wonderfully good at other things... so we should celebrate them, not deny them.

And to that last point, I have realized that none of my kids value the same things as me. They are their own people and what I find fascinating is that even amidst all that 'individuality' they all have a fierce need to be a valuable member of our family and an innate need to contribute to the whole. We have achieved this because I do not believe that I am somehow more important because I am the parent. My goals, agenda and wishes do not carry higher weight. We all compromise and we all get to win sometimes here and if my kids can't be on the winning end, they fully understand why and what the trade offs were. and that happens so infrequently that they rarely bristle at those times when we have to say no. 

At its core is the use of power and authority, though. Maybe this is just the core of what's going on here. Somehow in your family, you have expectations you want him to reach/meet and he feels overloaded by those expectations. You often mention how you are proud of how you "steeled" your response/reaction. How about trying not to have that reaction at all? How about just let him be who he is for a while, let him be slow and noisy at the table and not the perfect "approved" person you want. Then take a look at who he actually is and revel in his uniqueness and see his talents and be so thankful that he was sent to you so you could heal all your own stuff. That is all kids are meant to do, when you really peel that onion. The ones that are our hardest are the ones who parents need to listen to the most.