This is my review of Chapter 4 of ‘How to Talk so kids listen’ about ‘encouraging autonomy’.
This is an interesting chapter for me after Curly Headed Boy asked me a few months ago “when are you ever going to let me out on my own”. As a 13yr old boy was killed on the crossing near school at Christmas my answer was very nearly “never ever ever ever”.
But despite that I’ve always been very keen on not over-helping him so that he can gain confidence in himself and learn from his own mistakes.
I’m very aware that a person who grows up dependent on another ends up feeling helpless, worthless, resentful, frustrated and angry.
Plus that being and overly supportive parent often creates a child who is an easy mark for bullies at school (not the only reason, but one of them).
In the book they recommend:
1) Letting the child make choices (clothes are a good example of that)
2) Showing respect for your child’s struggle (i.e. don’t rescue them, give them tips)
3) Don’t ask too many questions
4) Don’t rush to answer questions (e.g. ask ‘what do you think’)
5) Encourage them to use sources outside the home (i.e. other people/children or the internet)
6) Don’t take away hope
The only one I take issue with is ‘Don’t ask too many questions’. A few more questions from my parents would have shown that I was bullied from 4-17 at school, and that I made decisions based on assumptions that were wrong.
For example I didn’t do French/German for A level because I thought it meant I would HAVE to travel and that my responsibility was to care for my elderly parents (both rubbish ideas).
I think it’s more about asking when they are in the mood e.g. at dinner time or bedtime (CHB becomes a very talkative little boy at bedtime; funny that!).
I’m not sure that answering without taking away hope is wise when CHB makes plans to become a werewolf either; but I did what they suggested and just asked him to talk about it, rather than saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’
Perhaps some reality is important to stop our kids becoming X Factor rejects. But I get what they mean; after all anything is possible.
We have had a REALLY interesting conversation in the last 2 weeks though. CHB asked me “Daddy doesn’t believe in werewolves, does that mean I can’t believe in them?”. I’m so glad he asked, as I was able to explain that there will always be things that our loved ones don’t agree with and THAT IS OK.
Funnily enough we repeated the conversation about Skylanders the other day as he had spent some of his birthday money on one. I explained that Daddy totally understood and agreed with the idea, but that I was worried that he would wish he had saved it for something else as he has a few now. But that just because I wasn’t keen, didn’t mean he shouldn’t spend his OWN money on it.
Other tips they have are:
1) Let them own their own bodies (i.e. stop fussy over them)
2) Stay out of the Minutiae of a Child’s life (i.e. get off their back)
3) Don’t talk about them infront of them
4) Let them answer for themselves
5) Show respect for your child’s eventual readiness (i.e. explain that everything comes with time)
6) Watch out for too many ‘Nos’
Instead of No try:
1) Give information (see previous reviews)
2) Accept feelings (see previous)
3) Describe the problem (see previous)
4) Substitue a ‘yes’ (i.e. when it will be possible)
5) Give yourself time to think
I don’t think that this chapter is as ground breaking as the others, but maybe it’s just much more basic about stuff that we often forget. What do you think?
I wonder how I will do in a few months time when the whole summer conversation happens again, and CHB wants to play outside without us watching.
Here are my reviews of the other chapters: