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Some adult tasks really are more important 

Some adult things really do have to happen and some kid things may seem important to the kid at the moment but really can wait.


I think it's more true to say that some things really can't wait. I think way too often adults feel that since we're doing things for the family that we don't have a choice about (though that often isn't as true as we assume it is) then our things are important and kid things aren't.


A kid playing a game is "just" playing whereas our "need" to go to the supermarket right now in order to make dinner is necessary. Therefore our need is important and theirs can wait.


But their need to play is just as great -- in fact greater since they are doing something that is personally meaningful -- than our need for shopping at the last minute, particularly since we've (usually) created the situation ourselves by not planning ahead.


If a child were to forget he needed something for a class meeting in 20 minutes, we'd be irritated that he inconvenienced us and he might get lectured about planning ahead and so on. And yet if we forget to go to the bank until 15 minutes before it closes and end up inconveniencing the kids, we probably would be upset if the children got upset with us because we'd feel it's just something we "have" to do. When actually an apology to the kids is in order -- if we want to model for the kids how to behave towards others in similar circumstances.


I think it's helpful to look at the things we do for the family not as have tos but as things we want to do for them. We don't have to make dinner every night. We could buy prepared food, or take out, or cook once a month or ??? People will say they "can't" eat out every night (because of the expense or too many calories or whatever) but the truth is we could but we choose not to because the consequences aren't appealing. We do choose the option of cooking most nights because that's the option with the consequences we find least objectionable.


We choose to keep the house to a certain standard not because we have to but because that's what we want to do. As long as it isn't unhealthy, the "home police" won't come in and arrest us if we don't scrub the toilet every week (or every month or every six months) ;-), if our laundry isn't folded and put away neatly, if the toys are left in front of the TV.



My husband's question was "What if you are working in your office and I need to go to Target. The two kids have to come with me because you can't watch them while you are working. So do I give them the choice even though there isn't really a choice?"


I think the sticking point to figuring out how to apply the unschooling philosophy to parenting is that people will take a normal situation where they feel they had to make a child do something and ask how they didn't have to force the child.


But to coerce less, the goal should be avoiding those types of situations. Plan ahead so there are more options.


We treat children's feelings with little respect. We had to put up with being dragged about while our parents did what they "had to" do so we just pass that same treatment along to our kids.


If we treated our spouses with the same disregard for their feelings, they wouldn't be our spouses very long! If we were inconveniencing our spouse several times a week because it was more convenient for us to do it that way, they'd eventually give us a good talking to! And we'd know if we continued we'd be damaging a relationship and they could decide they were better off without us.


But children don't have that same power. They can complain but they can't leave. (Not yet anyway. Unless things are really really bad.) All we need do is tune the kids' complaints out and basically say "Sorry, that's how life is."


If your goal is to be less coercive, it helps to turn things around so you picture a similar situation between you and your husband. If you wouldn't want him treating you that way, should you treat your child like that? So if, for some reason, you couldn't be left at home alone -- pyromaniac tendencies or something ;-) -- would you want him to drag you along to a boring store where you couldn't look at the things you wanted to, had to stick right by his side while he looked at fishing rods and tackle and such (or whatever would bore you out of your gourd) just because he wanted to go right now and didn't want to inconvenience himself by waiting until later?


A better solution that builds relationships rather than tearing them down is to treat our children's lives with the respect we would a spouse or friend. The unschooling philosophy answer is to plan ahead as much as possible to avoid inconveniencing them. Obviously life will throw us curve balls occasionally, but the fewer times we inconvenince them, the more they see us working hard to find solutions that avoid inconveniencing them, the more they see us treating not inconveniencing them as something important to us, the easier it will be for them to understand when we can't figure out a better way.


And as a bonus, we'll be modeling treating others with respect. And when people (kids) feel respected they'll treat others with respect. (When they are developmentally able.)



Joyfully Rejoycing
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