Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cheerleader and coach, not referee or teammate

Hi –

I, Randy Rolfe, am currently reading a fine book just now called In Defense of Childhood by Chris Mercogliano. I have a library of over 3,000 books on parenting, anthropology, natural health, political and social theory, history and theology. And this one belongs there too.

Chris Mercogliano addresses what he calls the progressive domestication of children, suppressing their inner wildness and as a result stunting their ability to be happy productive people in adulthood. Get this book!

In Defense of Childhood was recommended to me by my dear friend and colleague Dr. Robert E. Kay, a psychiatrist who has long been an advocate of letting the natural developmental processes of children govern their raising and education. Mercogliano brings you up-to-date on what’s happening to our children by identifying the most recent of many deadening influences on them, whether it is parental efforts to prevent any pain, schools’ efforts to control, or media’s efforts to sell. It seems the more parents try to avoid problems in today’s society the more deeply their children are disempowered.

For example, more parents than ever are interceding for their children in school, defending them from school criticism and preventing them from taking responsibility for their actions. As co-director of the Albany Free School and a parent himself, Mercogliano has seen how letting children face age-appropriate choices and risks breeds not only sounder judgment but more confidence and also more empathy for the freedom and feelings of others.

Here’s a take-home tip for today: When your child wants you to go to bat for them at school, here's a good script: “I can understand that you want me to handle this for you, but I believe you can do it for yourself. How about you spend a bit of time to think about how you got into this situation in the first place and figure out if you want it to be different next time and how you can make that happen. Then I suggest you be respectful and truthful - with yourself and with the school authorities. I’m sure you can do it. I’m your cheerleader and coach, but I’m not your referee or teammate.” Just try it!

This way you are empowering rather than disempowering. Parenting is a subtle but relentless progression from coddling an infant to pushing the grown kid out of the nest. The delicate judgments you make at each step make the difference. And it’s okay for your child to see you weighing that delicate judgment. After all, they learn primarily from imitating your model. Modeling is one of The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents.

Come back for another tip! Thanks for reading!

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