Be curious

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A follow-up to yesterday’s “Take Your Time” post.

“Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it can resurrect your homeschool!”

“I’ve got the powah.”

Everybody agrees—parents, children, media, government—parents have the power in the parent-child relationship. (We parents don’t always feel it, so we get a little crabby and pushy about it; but clearly, there’s not a child alive who doesn’t know that his or her parents have more power than they do.)

Power is a heady thing. We do stupid stuff every day just because we’ve got it.

We expect little people who’ve been on the planet a mere 3, 7, or 14 years to:

make consistently good decisions,
always listen to us,
be “rational” the way we’d be rational,
show interest in what our interests are,
be happy to do what we expect them to do,
you know…

…All. The. Time.

One mom I spoke to on the phone, for instance, told me she had four strong-willed children.

I paused. “Is it possible your four children have a strong-willed mother?”

After all—how can all four be strong-willed? It seemed more likely that this was a case where mom was frustrated that her superior way of living was not fully embraced by her kids, you know…All. The. Time.

I remember another mother saying to me: “I don’t get it. If my kids would just do what I said, everyone would be happier. Life would be so easy if my six kids would just go with my program.”

Of course, right away, you can see the problem.

Life would be easier for these moms, but clearly the kids don’t feel that way—that’s why they aren’t following the program!

How do you fix this clash of emotions in a 24/7 home… school?

Curiosity

That’s right.

Being curious. About your kids.

You’re the big person, with the power.

You’ve spent years in school,
you’re either navigating a marriage,
or you’re a single parent who figured out what to do after a relationship,
you’ve had your feelings hurt,
you’ve failed a test or three,
you’ve gotten cut from a team,
you’ve worked a couple of jobs,
you’ve pretended to eat your vegetables,
you’ve not made your bed,
you’ve been late with income taxes,
you’ve complained about the line at the DMV,
you’ve been blamed for something you didn’t do,
you’ve been forgiven for something you did do…

You know about life.

Your kids don’t yet. They’re just starting to accumulate experiences that will teach them.

Most conflicts (I dare assert) could be—at minimum—relieved of the strain, and at maximum—resolved, if the person with the power (Dad, Mom, Grandma, teacher, adult in charge) directed a curious gaze at the offending child before launching into a tirade or asserting on behalf of the youngster, the nefarious meaning of the act, thoughtless word, or behavior.

Let me spell it out a little more clearly.

Curiosity is your deliberate choice to not assert your power.

You can be patient for a moment,
you can choose not to fly off the handle,
you can stop wringing your hands…
and instead, draw on the depth of your experience of life—

that things work out,
that you can fix problems,
that time is on your side,
that opinions and feelings change, and aren’t irreversible,
that moods swing,
that we’re all learning, all the time.

Parents must carry and exercise their power gracefully if they want to preserve a loving-mutually satisfying relationship with their kids which in turn fosters academic growth (amazingly!). How cool is that?

When a conflict arises:

resistance to the math page,
reluctance to write,
punching baby sister,
throwing away a perfectly good sandwich,
spouting beliefs contrary to the family expectations,
“forgetting” to clean the bathroom,
arguing about time limits for media, etc.,

the child already knows that the parent has the power to win the argument.

Starting with judgments:

“You’re lazy,”
“You know better,”
“You have to learn to spell or read or write,”
“Your sister is not a punching bag…”

leads to longer arguments and unhappiness in the relationship.

Curiosity can defuse an explosive situation—it allows a child to express a point of view before a summary judgment is rendered. Not just the “What happened?” question, shouted with exasperation; but the “I’m curious to know what you were thinking,” question expressed with gentle directness.

Curiosity allows problem solving. If you’ve got a child who every day for a week tells you she hates copywork, it’s a good idea to find out what “hate” means rather than assuming she is lazy, resistant, or trying to “get out of” the work.

If you ask a question like, “What’s going on inside you when you try to handwrite?” you may discover the exact bit of information you need. Perhaps the chair is too low to the big table and her forearm is leaning too hard against the edge, which hurts. Maybe her baby brother keeps gurgling and it’s hard to concentrate. Or maybe it’s something so silly: She wishes she could use a purple pen.

Likewise, if your child is laughing at the disturbing part of a film, rather than shame him for not seeing the cruelty between characters, find out what triggered the hysterics. Could there be some antic happening in the corner of the screen you missed? Or it may be that he doesn’t yet grasp the horror of the moment because he lacks life experience and just thought the bombs were cool. You may need to teach him nothing. Just knowing he’s not mature enough to get it could be okay.

In homeschool, curiosity is the key ingredient
to educational growth

Our kids are not supposed to be repositories for adult information. They are meant to be like plants unfurling their light green limbs toward the sun of illumination. Insight (that fabulous experience of lighting up within when you “get” it) comes when a person connects the dots in their own mind. It does not come secondhand (by lecture, or requirement).

What promotes insight is the opportunity to talk about all the fragments of information with an interested person.

When that person listens and mirrors without judgment, scripting, tricking, manipulating, or controlling the outcome of the conversation, the child has the chance to make connections for him or herself. The actual conclusions drawn by the child are less important than the process that helped form that tentative conclusion.

Allow your child room to grow in the sunlight of your curiosity and love!

Cross-posted on facebook.

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2 Responses to “Be curious”

  1. Joyfulmomof6 says:

    This is so good to hear! Julie, you really have a gift of insight in helping parents to deal with their children, and even more importantly, giving ourselves some grace (which is so hard for me to do)

  2. Julie Bogart says:

    Thanks Joyfulmom! I appreciate all your comments today.

    Julie