Tuesday, May 7, 2013

When Do You Teach Them to Behave?

I've been reading a lot of comments lately on various forums, where people who are either new to unschooling, or not even remotely involved in unschooling, express their opinions on the subject. Having read such things for many years now, I recognize certain patterns that come up over and over and over.

Someone will post a question or concern they are having.
An unschooler will comment about how they approach that particular concept.
Non-unschoolers will jump in and insist that will never work, and state that parents MUST… do whatever it is that person is heavily emotionally invested in. Limit sweets. Limit "screen time." Teach kids how to behave. Be in control. Mete out punishment (usually called "discipline.") Require the learning of… whatever subject most terrifies that person. Usually math.

I've written before about how difficult it is to communicate with someone on the other side of a huge paradigm shift divide.

Today, I want to address one question in particular.

"If you let your kids make their own choices and do whatever they want, how and when do you teach them to behave?"

The answer is simple.

I don't sit down and do things specifically to teach my kids how they should behave, but EVERYTHING I do influences their choices.

The piece that is missing, I think, is this:

Unschoolers don't get to hide behind "Do as I say, not as I do."
Since they don't tell their kids how to be, it all comes down to modeling behavior.
If you want your kids to be kind, courteous, good people, then YOU have to be one- and not just when they are watching.
This requires genuine, ongoing, effort.

Being an adult isn't about growing up and getting to make all the rules for other people.
It's about living your own beliefs, your own principles, and allowing others to do the same.

It only works well when your principles, and your demonstration of them, are strong and positive.

No hiding the candy, eating it in private, and telling your kids they aren't allowed to have any.
No spanking, and then telling your kids not to hit.
No "little white lies" that your kids see right through, and then getting angry when they lie to you.
No threats of punishment, and then surprise when your kids hide things from you, so they "won't get in trouble."
No bribery to get "good behavior" and then surprise when your kids won't do what they are told without getting a reward of some kind.
No talking crap about people behind their backs, and then expecting your kids to be "polite."

Want honest kids? Be honest.
Want responsible kids? Be responsible for your actions, and own your mistakes.
Want respectful kids? Respect them.
Want kind kids? Treat them with love and kindness.
Want kids who consider the effects of their actions on other people? Consider the effects of your actions on them.
Want kids who are active, engaged, fascinating people, and lifelong learners? Be one yourself.

It's that simple.

Will your kids be exactly like you?
But if you spend your life engaging with your kids, and encouraging them, sharing with them what is important to you and what is important to THEM, there's a very good chance that they will grow up wanting to be like you, in many ways. BE the kind of person you want them to want to be.

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