Wednesday, 14 September 2016

"Hey EVERYONE, leave those kids alone"

I watched this brilliant TED talk today - How to raise successful kids - without over-parenting - and Julie Lythcott-Haims had some very interesting things to say. It was great being reminded of why I home educate in the way that I do - where my children find their own path to their passions and stretch themselves when they are ready with mine and their Dad's support and love.

"With our overhelp... we deprive our kids of the chance to build self-efficacy which is a really fundamental tenant of the human psyche... Self-efficacy is built when ones sees that one's own actions lead to outcomes." Julie Lythcott-Haims.

This has come at a really interesting time in my family's home education journey as ds has just turned 15 and is starting to consider what he wants to do over the next few years. He has a wonderful extended family where there could be chances to travel and work in Hong Kong; work in a family-run shop down South; travel with a worldly-wise niece; work for exams at a college or just carry on having fun as he does every day. Like every parent I want him to do everything; try everything; experience everything and do it all now whilst he is young. However that might not be what is right for him and it is his live, not mine.

What I do know about him though is that he doesn't base his self-worth on grades (mentioned in the TED talk) because at present he doesn't have any!! What he has had is a childhood "built on things like love and chores." This comment by Julie again made me smile because both my kids have helped with household activities from an early age. In fact, one of my favourite childhood pictures of ds was taken with him when he was helping trim the hedge at 20 months!!

Neither of my children particularly like doing jobs around our home but we have had family meetings where dh and I have explained how the household works, including finances so that they can understand that they are part of a system that works better when everyone is involved, understands the system and helps out accordingly.

My children can go to school if and when they want and as mentioned above ds is considering going to college next year to do some exams. It is so much easier for a child to know their own mind (desires, capability, etc.) when they have always been allowed to make their own choices. Luckily going to school doesn't stop that happening but it definitely makes that harder. As Julie states "If their childhood has not been lived according to a tyrannical checklist then when they get to college...they'll have gone there on their own volition, fuelled by their own desire, capable and ready to thrive there."

I loved Julie's last comment that her children are wildflowers of an unknown genus and species because even though both my children have been born to the same parents and neither has been to school I can tell you that they are not only wildflowers of unknown genus and species but that they are both TOTALLY different wildflowers of unknown genus and species. And as such they need very different things from me as a parent (and from their Dad) to help them feel unconditionally loved and valued. This is one of the many 'lessons' we discuss in our family about how different dd and ds are as well as how different Mum and Dad are (see the 5 Languages of Love results from the 4 of us here as one example of our different needs) I also agree that "it's my job to provide a nourishing environment, to strengthen them through chores and to love them so they can love job is not to make them become what I would have them become, but to support them in becoming their glorious selves."

I love this sentiment and I hope that is what I am doing for my children along with their father. However I do wonder after watching this TED talk whether that is enough?

What I wondered after watching it was by over-parenting do we actually make sure that our children NEVER grow into adults who can make their own decisions. Julie mentions that our children are growing into adults who need a "workplace checklist" because they can't think for themselves and implied in her talk it the need for praise and validation to build their self-esteem. As you may have read in a previous blog post of mine there is a theory out there that rewards are detrimental to everyone (read more here near the bottom of the post.)

Also in the blog post about mental health in children here  I stated that:

Mentally healthy and resilient adults are grown out of children who have such traits as: self-esteem, a healthy body image, positive self-belief, empathy for other people and the planet, a passion for life, an ability to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes, accountability for their actions, etc.

So what happens if these childhood needs don't get met? Do we then have adults who are still acting like children and can't take responsibility for their actions or decisions? Do we have adults who need constant validation and if they don't get it they blame those around them?

I think not over-parenting definitely, helps in this area and teaching our children about love is definitely a must. However, I think that our children also need to learn about not blaming and they need to learn about taking accountability for their actions (revisit Brene Brown here.)

I too often see that low self-esteem and low self-efficacy in adults leads to the blaming of others for things that those adults ALLOWED to happen to them. My children sometimes exhibit this behaviour and it is something that it really hard to teach/explain. I thank goodness that there are people out there like Brene Brown who show that blaming others and not taking accountability is not good (read more here -> blame is basically the discharging of anger)

We need to hold ourselves accountable for what we allow to happen to us.
We need to hold boundaries around what we allow to happen to ourselves.

Hopefully if we are brought up with unconditional love where we have the space and time to build self-efficacy, self-esteem (which I feel includes not blaming but holding others & ourselves accountable), empathy and positive self-belief maybe we can then move forward as an adult in an adult's body and not someone who needs external validation or to blame others when our life doesn't turn out the way we wanted.

A massively tall order I think and one of the reasons I write this blog: to remind myself of the huge task I have taken on being a parent and also the huge responsibility I have in being a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister or just being a human being interacting with others on this planet!!!!

Anyway go and watch the TED talk -How to raise successful kids - without over-parenting - and consider watching Brene Brown about blame here and Natasha Devon about mental health in schools via my blog here.

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