Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Evolutionary Parenting

I've been impressed with how respectful Connie Allen is of the child as a developing individual.  So, I followed the link from this post and watched the 50 minute video of Jean Liedloff.  While I found the first 20 minutes or so mildly interesting (I've seen too many contented crib sleepers), I became more fascinated during the second half of the interview.  There are many parallels between both Positive Discipline and Cognitive Therapy that this lady identified through her observations of jungle children.

Some of my notes:
- Her term of "information" parenting seems closely linked to being objective and focusing on natural consequences.
- Her view of human nature as effective and her multiple examples of how certain parenting techniques undermine this nature thus leading children to mistrust their competence is intriguing.
-Her focus on a parents' low expectations of human nature as spuring parenting behaviors that set up conflict with children is also intriguing.
- She agrees with the Montessori focus on kids' exploring as their form of learning and initiative which is natural to them while absorbing classroom teaching is not.
- Her statements that children's efforts at being social lead them to blame themselves when there is a disconnect also made sense to me.
- Finally, she discusses core beliefs and finding the thoughts behind our actions and views.

It's quite the 50 minutes and I'd be interested in any comments / thoughts from readers of this blog.  I actually watched this video about two weeks ago and I've found myself thinking frequently about the comments and potential implications.  

One instance of her parenting advice was particularly tickling my interest last night as I tried to fall asleep.  As I've said, she emphasizes how the jungle children were not expected to misbehave, that it was the norm for parents to expect a positive interaction and the kids expected that of themselves as well.  But then, she gave an example from a modern house hold.  She said that one could imagine a toddler playing underfoot with a cup.  Her advice was to address the child with a completely calm voice telling them to take the toy to the other room. (I don't remember her saying if a reason should be included.)  Then, she advised the parent to continue what they were doing with the clear expectation that the action would be taken.  If, after a given time, the child did not bring the toy to the other room, she advised the parent to bring it there silently (without any other words gentle / angry or any other non-verbal indications of upset).  The key was that the child has missed out on the social interaction and that she had seen this kind of technique work wonders for kids in the jungle.  Her point was that the kids never saw themselves as naughty because they were again and again expected to behave well together and they did so "naturally".  

She gives many more examples which intrigue me, but focusing on this one, I wonder if it would really work here.   I wonder:
• Does the expectation of socially adept behavior accelerate or change how a child learns these skills?  
• Would a child really learn better with these actions where there is no interaction based on consequence emotion?  I don't try to hide from my kiddo that I'm annoyed if step on a lego that hurts my foot.  It is part of the consequence of his action.  It would make most sense to me to say something like this to the toddler before moving the cup, "It's not safe under Mommy's feet."  If I was dealing with an older kid, I would think is appropriate to have some annoyance in my tone.
• Doesn't this miss all the grandeur of other parenting skills like helping them solve a problem, discussing potential solutions, using humor with a huge fake slip and giggle and gently bonking them on the head with the cup?
• The more I think about this, while the techniques may lead a kid to have a positive image of themselves as "naturally" good, they also send a powerful message about being social as key to their success.  That's something that's a whole lot more important in a jungle than a city.  I like the idea of somehow communicating positive expectations though and she is persuasive with her multiple examples that parents frequently communicate the opposite unintentionally.

So, my take away, for now, is that I'm going to try and find ways to communicate positive expectations, but I'm not going to use her technique because I don't think it would be applicable in the context of an older child.  My kiddo is supposed to bring down any wet bedding in the morning and put it in the clothes washer.  He's requested a reminder sign and I can handle that along with a positive word that communicates those positive expectations.  I have no intention though of just taking care of wet blankets if he forgets!  Her technique might bother a toddler, but it would simply enable a 7 y.o. to happily enjoy a mommy maid.  I'll keep thinking on this though and again, I'd be really interested in any thoughts readers have about this video.

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