Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Obedience vs. Collaboration

Obedience vs. Collaboration

In all our fretting over how to raise kind, respectful children, the temptation is to double down on discipline—to require “instant obedience.” Even our dearly beloved Charlotte Mason talks about obedience as a core value in child-rearing, saying that a child who obeys promptly is a joy to his mother!

And indeed, if all those little rascals would just do what I ask when I ask it I would feel waves of joy—explosions of glee, wouldn’t you?

Most obedience systems rely on some kind of punishment to enforce them—be it, time outs or spanking or withholding of privileges (or even withholding smiles—I read that once!).

Charlotte puts a huge priority first on children being known as persons—respected for their current completeness (not immature adults in need of maturity before they deserve full respect). When she talks about a mother giving a command, Charlotte assumes that the parent has already given a child a chance to grow in a habit that takes into account the child’s current developmental stage. In other words, Charlotte believes in practicing a habit before expecting it to operate effectively.

Today, we call this interaction with children “collaboration.” Collaboration is the value that says:

“Together, we will secure a healthy, respectful relationship
while developing habits that help us meet our goals.”

Those goals are shared, not imposed.

Obedience is too often a synonym for “coercion” rather than “glad cooperation.”

Collaboration, as a value, allows us to take into account the child as person, and our unique vantage point as parents. We can first get to know what the child needs, address that need, and then work to create the conditions of partnership to achieve our goals.

Obedience vs. Collaboration

It might look something like this:

On occasion, I need to go to Target. Often, my kids are playing video games when it’s time to leave. I’ve recognized that this is a challenging transition for my kids. So I talk to them about how sometimes they will be interrupted based on my need over theirs. I’ve asked them how we can make the transition smooth, and we decided together that a five minute warning would help.

So we practice (no Target shopping trip about to occur). I give a fake five minute warning and we find out if it is possible to wind up games in 5 minutes. Kids give their input. “Yep, that was plenty” or “No, I need 15 minutes of warning.” More practice.

When the real Target-trip-moment comes, instead of expecting the kids to hop up and put away their games the moment I’m ready to leave, I follow our solution: “In fifteen minutes, we’ll need to go. Now is a good time to get to a stopping place on your game.”

Usually when you’ve taken the time to be respectful of your children’s needs, they are much more willing to respect yours. It’s a dialogue, it is not solved once and for all, and it doesn’t mean perfect cooperation at all times. What collaboration provides is a two-way street—everyone aware that their behaviors impact others both adversely and positively. Negotiating how to sustain the positive is the goal.

Respect for personhood is essential. Just because the situation seems easy for me to solve with one idea doesn’t mean that idea works for everyone. Collaboration requires a tolerance for views that interfere with our own best ideas about the subject.

In a writing-editing relationship, we’ve found this to be profoundly true. You get the most writing from a child whose writing voice and ideas are respected and valued. Over time, as the child practices writing about what he or she values and has the pride and love of a parent, a time comes when a parent can ask for writing related to a subject that is important to the parent’s educational objectives for the child…and the child will be willing to comply.

Collaboration in other areas of life builds trust and cooperation that facilitates learning in others. Collaboration leads to the “peace” that Charlotte promised. In fact, in trusting respectful relationships, kids do sometimes simply hop right up when you call them and that experience really IS pleasing to the mother.

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Still a winner!

Brave Writer Instructor Jean HallTen years ago Brave Writer held a Mom’s Writing Contest and the Grand Prize Winner was Jean Hall who went on to become one of our first writing instructors (she started in 2007)!

Jean is a veteran instructor of high school students and an expert at helping students become proficient in the SAT and ACT timed writing tests. Jean teaches: Advanced Composition 1, SAT/ACT Essay Class, Expository Essay Class , and Kidswrite Intermediate.

Here is Jean’s award winning essay:

Ugly Pants

Today, I bought my daughter ugly pants.

I didn’t plan to buy ugly pants. I certainly didn’t wake up this morning thinking, “You know, what we really need around here are uglier clothes for the children. Maybe some horrible pants!”

But my 10-year-old angel has a cute smile, and she is blessed with more persuasive skills than fashion sense.

It started with an innocent family trip through Target. While my husband and the boys looked at something distinctively manly, I stood browsing the swimsuits at the other edge of the aisle with my daughter and her best friend. Suddenly, their attention was drawn further into the clothing department by a rack of knit gauchos. A point. A squeal. Suddenly, the girls were no longer at my side. I shuddered and followed reluctantly.

I should explain that I have worn gauchos before. Somewhere along the fashion timeline that defines my place in history, gauchos were stylish, although I can’t pinpoint the exact date. It was definitely between the green double knit pantsuits I wore to start kindergarten in the mid-70’s and the purple velvet harem pants I wore to start college in the late 80’s. My childhood education is with conspicuous pants in fashion at both bookends.

Where did the gauchos fall in relation to the zipper-infested parachute pants? Were they before the yoke-front Lee jeans with legwarmers? After those goofy stirrup pants? Some of the fashions blur together. They were all cool at the time. Gauchos stand out in my mind because they were a style I hated even when I was wearing them. You see, I am a little sister. I grew up in hand-me-downs. Nothing unusual about that really. But gauchos came in to style at a time I was coming into self consciousness, and I wore them 2 years after most people had moved on. Gauchos made me conspicuous. I was different. I was snickered at and I knew it. An uncomfortable place to be.

Flash forward to 2006. I’m emotionally secure, and I sometimes choose to wear hand-me-downs. I outgrew the awkward stage of student trying to fit in with the other kids (somewhat after I outgrew the gauchos). But when my little girl pulled out a pair and begged to try them on, my instinctive reaction was to scream, “NO!” I wanted to tell her how truly dreadful those are. No daughter of mine is going to be seen in public in those.

But I didn’t. Because in that 10-year-old girl asking me for a pair of pants that I hated, I saw a quickly growing young lady with an overwhelming sea of decisions to make in her lifetime. In a few years, she could be choosing a wedding gown, not to mention a man to stand next to her in a tux. She will choose a college, a career, a church, a home, an identity. I want her to make those choices with the confidence and skill that comes from practice.

But there was more to it than just letting her learn to make choices. Within me, I have a strong moral code, a set of values, a standard I want to instill deeply in my children which will benefit them. I also have quirks, prejudices, and emotional hang-ups which will not. I want to teach my daughter, but not to force this matchless child into a me-shaped mold. My personal hang-ups are irrelevant to her. Why should she hate these pants because of my bad memories? That makes no more sense than teaching her to hate basketball because my coach benched me during a tournament, or to hate Jeeps because my ex-boyfriend drove one. These are not helpful guidelines for her.

My daughter adored the gauchos. And I told her she was beautiful in them, which she was. I chose not to burden her with my baggage; I’ll carry it myself. I separated her individuality from mine. It was the bravest thing I’ve done in awhile.

I will let her walk away from me as her own person. She will walk away with her own preferences and passions. Her own quirks. Her own hang-ups. Her own sense of style.

And her very own ugly pants.


Jean’s 2016 postscript to her essay: My daughter, now 20, still has a sense of personal style and a confident sense of who she is. She’s made most of the decisions I mention in the essay…except she walked away from the man she first wanted to marry because he insisted that she change to be more like him. And she said no. So I think that the goal I set out in the essay can be stamped successful.

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Do You have a Challenging Teen?

When your teen has a bad attitude

Here are three principles to think about.

1. Realize this is a developmental stage

When your child threw a tantrum at age two, you didn’t take it personally (well at least, usually you didn’t). You recognized immaturity, you recognized the lashing out as a function of that developmental stage of growth. You waited out the storm. You knew you would be okay with the little guy or gal in ten minutes. You offered snacks or a breast or time to cool down.

Teens throw a different kind of tantrum. They lash out at you, right where it hurts. They boldly go up against you and your ideas, fashion sense, food choices, political beliefs, how you breathe aloud in the car when they are in the front seat, which radio station you like, how you parent the other kids, what you expect of them.

It’s jarring to be on the receiving end of so much opinion, all about you! It’s so easy to take it personally! They know you so well, they can find ways to target any one of your own insecurities and nail it.

When you can, remember that this is a teen developmental stage—individuation—separation from you. It’s not rejection (their opinions will flip faster than pancakes on a hot grill!). It’s separation—testing their thoughts and ideas with the safest person in their lives: you.

They are also not yet ready to be adults so they boomerang between wanting a mommy, and wanting nothing from you, AND wanting to blame you when they don’t take enough responsibility yet for their lives!

When your teen has a bad attitude

2. Create avenues for communication

You do get to stick up for yourself, but you want to do it without getting into a big argument (um, so I’ve been told). 🙂 Sometimes I really need to be reminded of this by those near me and it helps. You can walk away, you can say, “I want to hear what you’re saying but I can’t listen when you are yelling at me,” you can say, “I’ll look into that” or “So that’s what you’re thinking and feeling! Thanks for telling me.”

You don’t have to defend or argue or take abuse. It is important to create avenues for the teen to be heard.

3. Look for points of connection

Schedule some alone time fun with that teen—in my house with Caitrin, I went to all her Guard (flag) events and we would come home late and I’d make her quesadillas and we’d all stay up talking and eating in the kitchen way past a regular bedtime. This became a connection point—an essential one. Look for those, even in a busy household. They do help.

And HUGS. 

Help for high school writers

The Scourge of Perfectionism plus a FREE transcript!

The Scourge of Perfectionism

My son is a perfectionist. He won’t write because he’s afraid of misspelling a word.

My daughter refuses to work on math problems because if she gets one wrong, she falls apart.

I know I shouldn’t worry so much, but if I get behind, I feel really bad about my homeschool.

I can’t think straight if the house is a mess. The house is always a mess.
Hence, I am depressed and feel like a failure.

Perfectionism is the “ism” that leads us to the end of ourselves. We believe, falsely, that there is some way to mitigate problems, disappointments, mistakes, failures, and interruptions. We imagine that others are successful where we are not and then berate ourselves. Perfectionism is the ultimate “outside-in” perspective where we measure what we do against what we imagine everyone else expects us to do.

How can we dismantle this ticking time bomb before it goes off in our homes? Watch the recorded broadcast below and find out!

Would you like a text version of the scope to
refer back to, print out, and make notes in the margins?

Then grab this FREE transcript:

Download the transcript here!

Show us your enchanted learning spaces!

Share your enchanted learning spacesAre you on Periscope? Then we want to see your Enchanted Learning Spaces! At the kitchen table, in the backyard, on the front porch–wherever learning sprinkled with pixie dust happens in your home!

What is an Enchanted Education, you ask? It’s when time moves molasses slow and learning is pleasurable and playful. Learn more here.

Use the hashtag #EnchantedScopes and share!

Image by Flo’s shots 4 me (cc cropped, tinted, text added)