Thursday, July 28, 2005


I just linked Jabbermommy.

There are some great posts there on co-sleeping, not spanking and attachment parenting in general. Go read, right now. :-)

Pippi Longstocking

By Astrid Lindgren.

There are at least 3 books in the series. They are a wonderful exploration of how a child can live autonomously, delighting in cleaning the kitchen floor with sponges tied to her feet (though she wouldn't want to do it every day).

In a couple of short paragraphs, Pippi exposes the nonsense of teacher-led schools (and decides not to go again, thank you). Her enormous strength protects her from intrusive adults, and Tommy and Annika gradually learn to relax into Pippi's unconventional adventures - what does it matter if some crockery gets broken on the way, ot Tommy cuts his finger a little?

But Pippi is also aware of not quite fitting into societty's norms and it bothers her. She would benefit from a trusted advocate to help her navigate a tea party or a circus trip ensuring that others enjoy themselves too.

I would recommend Astrid Lindgren, but Pippi in particular, to any child, and most urgently to those who spend too much of their time being bossed around by adults. A splendid subversive birthday present...

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Letting go as children grow

I loved Deborah Jackson's "Three in a Bed" so I had high hopes for this book. NB it is the updated edition of "Do not Disturb".

The best parts are derived from - or directly quoted from - Alison Stallibrass's "The Self-Respecting Child", an absolutely splendid and unpretentious book written by a playgroup leader which has been on the shelves of my mother's house since the mid1970s. So I had already encountered those.

There is far too much primitivism in the book. The treatment of children in primitive tribes is romanticised, as if lacking the material trappings of modern society makes it easier for parents and children to interact. There are many quotations from starry-eyed anthopologists. Such primitivism is anti-rational and anti-knowledge, I think, as if progress has jeopardised the nourishing interactions between humans, and we were all better off when we spent all day growing food and washing clothes in rivers.

It's certainly true that in a pre-industrial culture where everyone has to work all the time, it's likely that children will be invited to do their share as soon as possible. But there's absolutely no reason why a western family shouldn't let children help chop vegetables/do laundry etc etc as soon as they show interest. Children mostly seem to want to join in with the activities around them. It's not being a pygmy which makes it possible for children to contribute to the family tasks as they want to.

TV is seen as bad (surprise) rather than just another medium for learning. And family celebrations of the seasons are promoted hard, I'm not sure why. So there is just a hint of nature-worship here (where books are natural and televisions aren't, of course). Maybe there is tremendous value in marking the passing of the year with family rituals and celebrations; I suppose I just choose mine from my culture (Christmas; Easter for new handkerchiefs and easter egg hunts; November 5th for fireworks and burning effigies of revolutionaries) rather than solstices and things.

Good ideas:

Not interrupting our children when they are in the middle of something

Designing our lives so that adult schedules impinge as little as possible on children, but also so that we can do what we want as well.

Stopping a child doing 'dangerous' things like climbing stairs prevents them developing physical grace and confidence. Stopping them doing dangerous things like drinking bleach is a good plan, however.

Allow a child mental and physical space to play, learn, think, be creative

Reacting to a child's actions honestly and specifically in a good plan. Rewards are silly.

"We owe it to our children to convey the rules of our culture, although we may expect them, as they grow, to question those rules"

So there is some good stuff which leans inthe direction of common preference finding, and respecting a child's autonomy, but I learned less than I hoped from this book.