I’ve been pondering the idea of education a lot lately. Cultural, social, formal. But two different conversations, with two different neighbors, from this past week have propelled me in a direction that I hadn’t thought of in an educational sense: Practical.
I don’t remember how it got started, but one neighbor and I discovered we have a pet peeve in common – helplessness. Whatever task you are attempting might be difficult, and you might need assistance, but you are NOT helpless, and we both refuse to allow our children to feel helpless. No whining allowed – don’t stand there and be pitiful. Figure out what you CAN do, and DO IT! Chances are, that by DOING, you will discover that you are capable of more than you thought you were. If nothing else, it will propel you into discovering new resources. (Help is a resource, but I’m not going to do 100% of anything for you anymore – you have to at least show me that you tried.)
Fast forward a few days, and another neighbor called to inquire about a slumber party I was hosting for my daughter and several of her friends. “What time,” he wanted to know, “are you going to send them to bed?”
I explained to him that I did not intend to police bedtime. However, if the girls wanted me to put in a movie for them after midnight, then it would be Fantasia, since it is a rather calm and somewhat soothing film that they would be likely to fall asleep during.
It might be worth noting that this particular gentleman has mentioned in the past that bedtime is bedtime, regardless of the circumstances. Not surprisingly, they opted against attending the sleepover.
I will admit, this post is a little bit about what I wish I had said. Because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that both of these conversations are related.
I am an advocate of helping kids learn from their own experiences. Yes, by staying up until almost midnight the kids were all tired the next day (they were determined to stay up later, but just couldn’t do it). And I’m sure that at their next sleepover, they will do exactly the same thing. Eventually, though, the cause and effect will catch up with them, and they will understand that staying up late will result in being tired the next day. This is a lesson that I want them to learn now, rather than at 16, the night before a road trip. Or at 20, the night before a big final exam. Now, at 8, when they won’t be hurt by the consequences of the action.
I am not just raising children. I am raising children to become adults. If I just tell them that not getting enough sleep will make for a bad day tomorrow, they will never fully grasp it. It’s like teaching them not to touch the oven – they didn’t understand what hot meant, until they touched it anyway. But staying up late, and being cranky and tired the next day – now they’ve got it.
I trust my kids, and I believe in them. I trust and believe that they are intelligent beings, who are capable of learning from their decisions, and building on that lesson in the future.
(Please note: we DO have regular bedtimes in our house. Part of the purpose of a slumber party, though, is to break routine. Also, while I believe in allowing the kids to make their own mistakes, I also believe in letting them fail safely – therefore, we do require bedtimes when we know that not having one is trouble.)
I believe that lessons kids teach themselves stick better. Sleep deprivation might not be a huge life lesson, but it’s one example of self-teaching. I want the kids to get into the habit of learning from everyday experiences. To realize that everything is capable of teaching them something. And it’s this habit that will, hopefully, keep them away from helplessness.
Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn. – Benjamin Franklin