Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Doing Things

Sometimes I wonder if I want the wrong things for my children. Being me, I more often wonder why everybody else does. One time I came across a blog where a mother recounted how she would train her children when the ship was getting a bit too loosely run, and one of the things on her list to retrain them in was to ask permission before doing anything.

Maybe that was just a temporary measure in response to running too wild. But I was still struck dumb at the thought. I'd probably survive about five minutes of that much decision-making. More than that, though, I don't want my children to have every choice they make subject to my scrutiny. I try to set things up so they have a wide range of things they can do without even consulting me (although if it involves poison, fire, or considerable heights I hope they'll check in first). Maybe it's just for my own sanity. But maybe there's something more to it.

Another thing that would bother me, that doesn't seem to bother (in the sense of thinking it ought to be otherwise) many mothers, is children who have trouble finding things to do. Most parents of schooled children complain about the difficulties of summer and the need to plan for it, and many parents of homeschooled children complain (or boast?) that their children soon find life dull without lessons and are eager to start up again. I do plan to start lessons one of these days, but if it comes at the cost of my children losing their astounding ability to teach themselves, I doubt they would be worth the trade-off.

Sometimes people talk about the virtues of developing initiative in children, but it usually seems to be defined as "doing what I think they need to do before I get around to telling them to do it." It seems to me that children are born with a huge stock of initiative. Maybe too much initiative. And perhaps that's the trouble. Perhaps parents wind up training or entertaining that drive right out of children, replacing the desire to do things, explore things, try it out with the willingness to sit still and wait for something to happen to them.

I do want my children to obey me; I do sometimes resort to "Everybody sit down with a book and DON'T MOVE." But I hope in the long run that my instructions are always an interruption or at best guidance for a full life, not a relief from the tedium of existence.

Then again, while I was pondering and writing this post, the older ducklings arranged a considerable quantity of toys, blankets, and small items of furniture in my closet, and when I pointed out that it would need to be removed protested that it was their house and they finally had it exactly how they wanted it. So perhaps there's something to say for passivity.

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