Saturday, June 07, 2008

Sharing (that old chestnut)

Child screams if other children tries to play with her toys. Holds as many as she can.

I might actually try it the other way around. Pass her lots of toys if she wants toys. As many as she can hold. Make it a game. Balance one on her head. Make it so there are so many toys floating around that there is room for someone else to use one without her even noticing.

Having doubles of favourites can be a good ploy - not expensive things, just soft toys or cars or whatever ("there's one for you to play with and one for Freddie.")

Suggest that visitors bring toys with them, to act as collateral, or as things for them to play with if she'd prefer not to share hers.

Make sure that her favourite toys are put carefully out of sight when people are visiting - of course she can ask for them if she wants them, but it means the visitors don't even know those toys exist and avoids the conflict.

Make activities for visiting children which don't involve sharing against anyone's will. Bubbles. Paddling pool. Lots of balloons to blow up and bat around. A mattress or cushions to jump on.

Remember - the toys at your house are her toys. You don't lend books unless you feel like lending them. She shouldn't have to lend her toys. I think respecting our children's property is an important starting point, personally.

It will pass, but it is so so so much easier to talk about lending and the concept of X playing with a toy and then they'll give it back and in general the concept of ownership when her language is more developed - around 2.5 or 3 I guess. I'd be finding ways of managing things as they are at her developmental stage just now rather than trying to get sharing to be ok (it's like this magic word isn't it? the adults say "share share share" and the children hear "give away your toys, give away your toys". They just don't understand it as an ok thing at this age. We have to wait for them to be ready)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

My parents always sent me to bed at 9pm, whether I liked it or not, and I turned out fine.

I think this idea can be summarised as "Adults know better than children what is best for them"? That message is completely counter to TCS philosophy.

I assume instead that children will work out how best to live in society, with parents offering guidance where tolerated. What are the alternatives? That a child is incapable of learning how to interact successfully with the world around him unless someone forces them to? Or that a child must be forced to comply with societal norms because they won't see them as worth while in their own right. Child as stupid? Child as wrong headed? Child as insufficiently provided with information? (then provide the information for them to make their own reasoned decisions, don't keep making the decisions on their behalf!!)

One cannot assume that all children of certain ages need the same amount of sleep. Or even that the same child will always need the same amount of sleep - it's going to depend on what sort of day they've had. In fact, the only person with sufficient information to know that a child needs to go to sleep is that child themself, and the very best gift their parents can give them is to read their own cues of tiredness. And you don't do that by overriding those cues and sending someone to bed at your own parental convenience.

The lucky children have parents who have let them sleep whenever they want from a very young age. When tired, they lie down and go to sleep. Those parents who have forced bedtimes over the years have to step back at some point in order for their children to learn for themselves what their cues are. And parents can do that stepping back when their children leave home, perhaps to go to college. That's the classic where students stay up really late and miss classes, not because they don't want to be at the classes ,but because this, aged 19, is the first time in their entire life when the only thing telling them to go to bed is their own cues of tiredness, and they are having to learn to read those cues. The bedtime imposing parents have done a pretty rubbish preparation for life course for their children there, wouldn't you say?

The "you have to go to bed because you have to get up for school" argument doesn't wash. If one's own activities at home in the evening are much more interesting and engrossing than school, then it should be a question of finding ways not to have to go to school, or not to have to go to school full time, rather than curtailing those activities. It is quite common, I believe, for children of TCS families not to go to school - because so much learning on someone else's agenda is simply not effective or efficient. And there is no freedom of association in a school. If there are better things to do tonight than go to school tomorrow, then the problem to solve is how to get your parents to allow you to be home educated, not how to motivate yourself to get into bed and shut your eyes.

"I turned out fine" boils down to "I was coerced and it never did me any harm", which is the same in spirit, though of course not in seriousness, as "my father beat me with a belt strap every Friday night and I turned out ok". It's not a question of "how much can we coerce our children and still have them turn out ok?". It's a question of "what is the morally right way to interact with our children?". Respecting their wishes about when to go to bed, and taking them as seriously as our own, is a good starting point.

It all comes down to parental limits, with bed time as one of the classic boundaries not-to-be-pushed. But parental "limits" are parental blind spots, where there is no acknowledgement of parental fallibility, and are thus inimical to consentual family living.