Monday, May 6, 2013

Unschooling, part 9: How schooling/force/control affected me (and probably other parents)

When, as a parent (or a teacher), I felt like my job was to control or force (as necessary) Maggie (or my students) to comply, it made me feel and act like a freaking jerk. And it made Maggie and I adversaries. I was fighting to get her to do x and she was fighting me basically on principle. No one likes being controlled or forced. And because I had it in my head that's what a good parent does, it made me feel angry at Maggie. I didn't see Maggie as defending herself but as a bad kid trying to screw with me. What a horrible way to think about my daughter.

I don't want to fight with Maggie and when I stop trying to force, manipulate, and control her, she makes better choices. She chooses to help me clean up or to do something nice for me.

When I first heard about unschooling and not forcing or controlling kids, I thought it couldn't possibly work because of course kids won't eat their vegetables or choose books over TV or whatever. But the truth is they will. Or not, that's not even the point. It's this negative opinion of your kids as someone who must be controlled because they aren't capable of thinking or deciding anything. If you have equal access to candy, cookies, veggies and fruit, what does it matter which you pick? If you only see candy twice a year, hell yes, you will binge on the candy.

In the end, for me, I will not be the obstacle my daughter must get around (usually, at any cost) to get what she wants. The more I restrict, the more she will want whatever is restricted.

So what if instead, I model making (what I consider) good choices. I talk about why I make the choices I make. And then I let her make her own choices. If I notice she's complaining about a stomach ache after eating a ton of junk, I could talk to her about how that food tastes yummy but often leaves us feeling like crud. Or if I eat junk, talking about it makes me feel like crud. How much better I feel when I eat good, whole foods.

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