chapter six - "Filtering out the adult world"

Monday, May 14, 2012

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Today is our last chapter, Filtering out the Adult World and Jora from Domestic Reflections is my co-host. Jora actually suggested this book when I posted about Choice a few months ago. So thank you Jora... your recomendation has been life changing for Ross, Henry, Conrad and myself. I am very grateful. Enjoy her beautiful post... there is a lot of greatness here...

All of the topics we have discussed here from Simplicity Parenting have been so helpful and enlightening. For me though, and for my particular family's needs, the chapter on "Filtering Out the Adult World" felt particularly eye-opening. As I read the chapter, I was struck by how easy it would be to have the best intentions with one's children and still be doing something that wasn't helping, or maybe even them. It is probably safe to say none of us here would intentionally show our small children violent movies or discuss scary things with them. In that sense we are all doing a great job of "filtering." (High fives all around!) But I know I can slip into that world of "helicopter parenting" that Payne talks about. I can talk too much to my kids...pulling them out of their play worlds -- those worlds where they do all their work of being kids and leaning about life and growing into the people they are to become. I can monitor them too much and warn about dangers too much or offer too complicated of explanations to their questions.

As Payne says, this type of parenting may "stem from an overbearing love," but it doesn't "fully respect (or sometimes acknowledge) a child's independence. Yet out of love we can also choose to back off from over involvement...We can learn to allow our children their own tasks, decisions, conflicts, relationships, and emotional lives. We can provide the kind of stability and security that they will internalize, as base camp that doesn't move."

My son's teacher from a couple of years ago first told me about Kim John Payne....she continues to be a huge resource for our parenting. She was the one that first taught me (in Payne style) to just say less. This is so hard for someone like me, and it also went against what I thought a mom was supposed to do: explain the world to my kids and teach them everything I know. My son's teacher taught me the magic of this answer when a child starts with the "why why whys": simply try "Hmmmm...I wonder." Now, you might be thinking what I first thought when I heard her say this (yeah, right, that will never work with MY kid), but it is amazing! You should really try it. Kids (at least when they are 3, 4, or 5-ish) usually just want to practice engaging in conversation. They really don't want or need a big explanation. That's the reason the "why" is followed by an answer, which is followed by another "why," which starts the whole cycle over. Overly-intellectualized answers pulls them out of that dreamy child state...which is the state where they grow into the people they are to become.

I also like Payne's suggestion that parents should avoid talking to their kids nine or younger directly about their feelings. Again, this is something that wasn't intuitive to me. I thought asking, "Are you angry at your sister because she hurt your feelings?" and that sort of thing helped. It turns out, younger children mostly have feelings that are unconscious. By pushing them toward an awareness they don't already have, "we transpose our own emotions...and overwhelm them." Instead, giving a child more leeway and privacy with their feelings will allow them to develop their own emotions and awareness of them. According to Payne, when kids are young, they work out their feelings by doing. I had my daughter Juliet very much in mind when I read that. She is prone to tantrums, and she will sometimes, when we leave her alone, grab paints and paper and go hide somewhere and paint (while crying and screaming of course!)....but a little while later, those emotions seem to have moved onto the paper and out of her.

Another point I really appreciated in this chapter is the importance of protecting children from the heavy and scary and bad in the world while they are young. My own parents did not do this very well (although their intentions were good), so I can say first hand that hearing about global warming and child molesters and this sort of thing is scary for a child and doesn't help in the way parents might think they are. A child needs to know the world is a friendly place first and foremost and grow within that secure environment. They can learn about the uglier truths when they are in a more evolved, stable place...and because they have had a chance to develop without all that heaviness, they will be better able to cope and hopefully address the problems in our world. As Payne says, "Too much information does not 'prepare' a child for a complicated world; it paralyzes them."

Finally, I just loved the last couple of paragraphs of the chapter (and book). Payne recommends this simple exercise: Before falling asleep, instead of reviewing what you or the kids did wrong and what needs improvement, remember the ordinary moments of the day.....review the moments that mean something to you and that remind you of who your children are. He calls the exercise a "spiritual corrective lens." I'm totally trying that tonight.


YES!! Don't you love it when parenting advise is actually the easier route? This chapter was that for me. Henry asks me a lot of questions {like most children}. Some days we even have "question breaks" and during those breaks I usually reflect on the answers that I give and think, "what was I thinking!!!, I hope he doesn't remember that." I don't think well on my feet and most the time an hour later I think of a better answer. Saying "Hmmmm I wonder" gives Henry time to dream and me time to think of a good answer if it seems appropriate to revisit his question.

I also really identified with the part about feelings. When talking about tantrums my pediatrician has told me too just leave the room or if I can't leave pick up a book and pretend to read... basically just ignore. This has worked for us. It has allowed Henry to get through it on his own and move forward. I imagine that "feelings" are the same. It is almost like having big "feelings" is a more mature tantrum.

Okay one last thought. And I know that this is a hard one... TV/ Screen time. Have any of you tried to completely eliminate TV? I feel like I am a bit hypocritical on this one. We have a 24" TV without cable and my wish is to "kill" the TV but in a bind or in the need of a "break" I turn in on. After reading I realize that the times I turn it on are perfect opportunities for Henry to be "bored" or "pause." I think I just need to be brave. I have a friend who "broke" all of her TV's and she reports that life is actually much easier.

Thank you ALL so much for your contributions to this discussion over the last week. I would not have spent this time if I didn't really think this book was important. I feel like the more people who read it the more acceptable CHILDHOOD will be. In a time where women carry around business cards that say "MOM" I want to take a step back and make sure I am doing the right thing for my family. This book has been amazing. Thank you Kim John Payne and all of you who have contributed to a great discussion.

13 comments:

  1. Great post- that "spiritual corrective lens" is dead-on. What a better way to end a day than dwelling on what went wrong or what we didn't do.

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    1. Right?! Parenting is so much better (and more effective) for me when I dwell on the good. Duh. ;-)

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    2. I did this last night and loved it... it is another way for us to "pause"... also to start our days I love the prayer that Graces shared with us on the first day in her comment... so good and beautiful.

      http://www.fernandfeather.com/2012/05/chapter-one-why-simplify.html#comment-form

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  2. Jora: I like the "spiritual corrective lens" too. Before bedtime we always say our prayers and go over what we're thankful for and the kids definitely remember the little things from the day. Our 3 y/o will add things like "ooh, what about when grandma came over?" I will have forgotten by then because she came over for just a few minutes to drop something off, but it obviously left an impact on him and was a memorable part of his day. Thanks for your insight Jora!

    Alexis: Yes, TV is always something I think about and try to get different perspectives on. We do let our kids watch TV, but very narrow TV if you will. First we limit it to channels with no commercials like Nick Jr. or PBS Kids. And even then, I'll narrow it down to the shows that I notice the kids will interact with like Team Umi Zoomi or Ni Hao Kai-lan (and I admit occasionally Phineas & Ferb;). This happens a bit in the mornings and a bit in the afternoon (no more than two hours in a day spread out). But I've also noticed that Penelope, who's five now, is growing out of these shows so I see myself eliminating TV all together in the near future. I honestly cringe at those sassy, pre-teen shows they have on these days. They seem like the portal to those hideous shows on MTV where teenagers blatantly disrespecting their parents is an accepted form of entertainment. It disgusts me and makes me so determined to help raise a new generation of respectful, solid kids! Let's do this! :)

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    1. I always love finding ways to get in my kids' heads.....right before bed is one of those times for us too. Their perspective is so fresh and innocent and earnest. :)

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    2. TV is a really hard one... we go through times where we watch every day and then times where we don't watch for a couple days... The one thing that I loved was the thought about filling time with TV. I do that a lot. When it maybe a good time to let my kids be "bored" I turn on the TV... maybe missing a little creativity or time to talk... who knows... I do think being aware of it is a step in the right direction ;)

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  3. I'm late to the discussion, as I've just started the book (my hubs is further into than I am!). I really enjoyed this post! So many things stood out to me! I just love the idea of using "hmmm I wonder" with the why why whys! My 3 year old is asking why about everything and somedays I just respond with "because I said so.' Seriously, I can't even believe I even say it when I do, but at a certain point, I don't even have an explanation for why I want him to do the things he's asking why about...eating his fruit etc. It's just exhausting always coming up with an answer so I am really excited to try this approach! I love the idea of the "spiritual corrective lens" too! While we don typically go over the things he needs to work on at night, etc, I do admit that I am exhausted and rush through the bedtime routine: prayers, singing songs, reading, etc. I will definitely be trying this approach with my son and myself as well. As far as TV, this is always on my mind. Since Teddy stopped napping, TV has kind of been his relaxing time (and honestly mine too), watching a show or two and resting on the couch in the afternoons. Some days, he even falls asleep. We don't watch anything that is not on the Disney Channel, PBS or Nick JR and pretty much always On Demand shows...I really like that there aren't commercials. But, some days, like today, in fact, he has been playing all afternoon by himself, using his imagination and has not even asked to watch a show. I can't see myself eliminating TV for him altogether because for me I just sometimes need the break. If my hubs ever gets a job closer to home, I am sure this would probably change a great deal and I wouldn't need the break so much. :) I'm really looking forward to finishing this book and going back through and re-reading all of the posts and comments as I do! xo!

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  4. So glad you are enjoying the book.....there's so much good stuff in there. In some ways it's harder work, but in many ways, I find it simpler and taking less effort than what we were doing before. I'm all about cutting out the extraneous effort in life!

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  5. I am so glad that you like the book Ashley!! there are so many good things in there... Just last night I used the "hmmmm I wonder" when Henry asked me how Conrad got out of my tummy... I was so pumped to pull that one out of my bag of tricks... that conversation is for a different day... although I was tempted to say my belly button... I think someone told me that ;)

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    1. Alexis, be careful with that conversation! I mistakenly thought I should be fully honest with N about how babies are born when she asked me about a year ago (talk about not filtering out the adult world!) and she still tells me a year later she doesn't want kids because "it hurts". Big fail on my part!! I always try to be open and honest with her but I maybe should have waited a bit on that one.

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  6. ohhh... so much good stuff here.

    one thing that really stands out here is not only filtering out the adult world in terms of information that we are sharing with our own children... but also being aware of, and closely monitoring the information that they receive elsewhere (typically from other "well-intended" adults).

    a couple of examples that we've had to deal with- one with jacob & one with hailey. when jacob was young we decided that we wanted to start attending church. he was at the age where he was able/encouraged to join the sunday school lessons. quite a while after he joined, we noticed him acting extremely anxious/nervous- especially when we tucked him in at night. soon after, he started asking us questions about scary & difficult topics, such as "hell", and "sin"... and one night he shared with us that he was told that he should always ask the question (before every decision)- "what would jesus do?" Well, this caused him major stress and worry- and guilt. he started to over-analyze his day... wondering if he told the FULL truth... wondering if he made the RIGHT decisions... so many other examples- but long story short- we learned that it was way, way to much information. too many heavy & scary concepts that his little mind was in no way ready to grasp. a perfect example of "good intentions" gone bad.

    with hailey- we found out that my worrisome grandmother had been sharing all sorts of unnecessary information- very similar to the examples that jora gave. all kinds of cautions, of examples of stories from her past (or news stories) that have no place for a child's mind... unfortunately, we're still (to this day) dealing with the remnants of anxiety and fear that my grandma placed on her. that line of thought- that if children are scared/feared into making the right choices or staying away from "bad" people and things is so off base... causes much more damage than "protection."

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    1. Hoooo boy, can I relate to both of these examples. It is a situation of (I'm sure) well-intentioned adults wanting to "help" kids, but doing no good. I guess we can't expect to protect them from everything, but I sure would like to put off these sorts of topics until they are old enough to handle it. Thanks for sharing Torrie!

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  7. I look forward to reading this book! Not sure I agree with not teaching children to identify their feelings. I think when they are able to verbalize how they are feeling they are a lot less frustrated and it has a calming effect. But, I am eager to see what the author writes on the subject. As for TV....we don't have it. What we do have is Netflix and my kids watch it on the weekends. I don't miss TV and they don't ask for it during the week. We recently went on vacation where there was a lot of TV watching and I am seriously disturbed at Disney and other kids programming. Luckily, my daughter's favorite show is Dirty Jobs and Chopped. Not sure if that is good for her or not!

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