Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning from children
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared the many lessons their children have taught them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
***There are many children in my life that I have learned from. I am a teacher, a stepmother and a mother (consecutive order). As a teacher I have met children from between 8 and 14 years old. My stepdaughters were 10 and 14 when I moved in with their dad. As a mother of mono-zygotic twins I have an interesting perspective because I am an observer of the development of two individuals with the same nuclear DNA.
You start learning from your kids the moment they are born, and it is a life long thing. As with most things, you get a lot more out of it if you pay attention. From the minute of birth, you ask? Absolutely. First impressions: "The Look". It's a thousand year old look. It goes beyond wrinkly and scrunched up from the nine months soaking in a tight space, and the "big squeeze". It has a lot to do with the eyes. A lot of people discount eye contact saying that babies can't focus; they're just seeing blur, etc. I don't think that is true. From the first moment, they show personality, they don't just cry, they cry in a certain way, in a brand new voice; a voice that is unique among the 7 billion or so people on this planet. Body language is also immediate and unique. Fiona was born with her "dukes up". She was ready to fight. The OB's first words when she was born were "she's a feisty one". Fiona still is stubborn and feisty. Sophie was more laid back from the get go and remains so. She is also very sensitive and sweet. They were born with personalities and they continue to develop different personalities and looks. This is an area in which it is so fascinating having twins.
I have "identical" twins, born within eight minutes of each other just over four years ago, and I was struck immediately with how different they are. How can that be? They have identical nuclear DNA, they come from the same environment, shouldn't they be the same? Having twins makes you ask these questions and once asked, these questions lead you to explore many things. These babies are Socratic teachers, posing interesting questions. Some of these questions have led me to research genes, gene expression, nature vs. nurture, etc. I have written in detail about types of twinning and reasons for twinning and I wrote a long, detailed comment on Jen's post where the PPs got into whether one is born homosexual or not.
As a teacher, one of the most important things I have learned is that I am not a behaviourist. I am not enrolled in the Pavlov's dog school of discipline. As a teacher and a parent, I have tried reward and punishment systems. At school I often struggle with this type of classroom management because it is always too complicated for me to keep track of. Does little Johnny have two checkmarks or one? What about Sally, I think I said I would give her another checkmark, but did I? What are the consequences for three checkmarks? There's really nothing except detention during recess and I know the kids really need that time to get fresh air and get some exercise. Of course, the best classroom management program is to keep the students engaged, but I've learned that it is difficult to keep 27 different individuals all engaged, all the time, at the same time. So that doesn't always work. So, I try to form a community in my classroom where we all learn to respect one another's needs and differences. This is very difficult because the education system, and indeed our (western) world, is based on a system of rewards and consequences. When I'm teaching the upper elementary grades the students come to me with years of classroom management systems experience under their belts. It generally takes me most of the year to get to where I want to be and then we all move on. I'm hoping to change that by convincing my school to institute the Tribes program.
With my own kids I sometimes resort to consequences & rewards. I don't want to but I am often stumped. I try to make them "natural" or "logical" consequences, although I'm not sure I really believe in those terms. For example, I will sometimes say that my girls cannot move onto a new activity until they have cleaned up the previous one. Or they can't have a treat if they don't eat their supper. What I've learned from this is that they learn about relating to others through observing and interacting with us. They now "threaten" each other and me. One of them will say, "If you don't give me a candy I will.... (sometimes the consequence is severe) hit you, or even, kill you". I don't know where the hitting/killing comes from, definitely not from me and not from Treehouse either.
I've learned a lot from my step-daughters and their relationships with their parents and with me. There are many positive things I've learned like how to have a positive relationship with a teenager through trying to listen to their perspectives and not just push my own agenda on them. Luckily, it didn't take me long to figure this out so we have had a pretty good relationship. This knowledge helps me with my young twins and with my students. I also learned how to keep my own emotions in check when a teenager (or anyone but it seems to be a rite of passage with many teens) says something hurtful. When I was hurt my first instinct is to lash out and say something mean back, but I learned not to. It would only make the situation worse and damage the relationship. I have learned that the children often repeat the mistakes of the parents. One of them is making many of the same mistakes her mother made, mistakes she is well aware of and is cognizant of the consequences. This is fascinating and disturbing at the same time. I know I have to be extra careful not to make mistakes that can have long- term effects on my children.
I have learned so much more than I can express in this post and I continue to learn from children every day.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon January 11 with all the carnival links.)
- Affection -- Alicia at I Found My Feet has finally become a hugger and kisser, now she has someone sweet and small to snuggle with. (@aliciafagan)
- Learning from Daniel -- Amy at Anktangle hopes that she and her husband will always be open to learning from their son. (@anktangle)
- Kids Cultivate Awareness of Universal Truths -- From forgiveness to joy, Amy Phoenix at Innate Wholeness has become aware of deep truths that come naturally to children. (@InnateWholeness)
- What the Apple Teaches the Tree -- Becky at Future Legacy has learned about imagination, forgiveness, and strength.
- A Lesson in Slowing Time -- Bethy at Bounce Me To the Moon revels in the chance to just be with her baby.
- Learning From My Children: I Am So Honored -- WAHM Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey is learning to choose tea parties over work. (@MyMotheringPath)
- P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E -- Now that she's a mother, Danielle at born.in.japan is finally learning about a personality trait she lacked. (@borninjp)
- Top 5 Homeschool Lessons My Children Taught Me -- Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares what she learned from homeschooling her (now grown) children. (@DebChitwood)
- Learning to Live in the Present By Looking to the Future -- Dionna at Code Name: Mama finds the patience to be a gentle parent, because she knows how fleeting childhood really is. (@CodeNameMama)
- The watchful Buddha boy -- At Dreaming Aloud, they are learning to cherish their thoughtful, sensitive child in a action-driven, noisy world. (@DreamingAloudNt)
- What My Children Taught Me -- Dulce de Leche's children have taught her to value herself for the wonderful person and mother she is.
- Lessons from the First Year -- Having a child made Emily at Crunchy(ish) Mama realize that her decisions affect more than just herself. (@CrunchyishMama)
- Lessons from Loss -- Erica at ChildOrganics learned so much from the love -- and loss -- of her sweet Bella, five years ago. (@ChildOrganics)
- The Socratic Baby -- Erin at Multiple Musings has so-called "identical" twins to serve as a daily lesson in nature vs. nurture. (@ErinLittle)
- Learning to be a Mother -- Farmer's Daughter learned the type of patience that enabled her to calmly eat one-handed for months and change clothes seven times a day, before noon. (@FarmDaughter)
- A Few Things Being a Mom Has Taught Me -- Heather at Musing Mommy shares the curious, hilarious, and sometimes Murphy's Law-like tidbits we learn from our children. (@xakana)
- I Feel You -- Motherhood has taught Jamey from At the Bee Hive empathy, and it extends beyond just her child. (@JameyBly)
- Lessons From My Child... -- Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy shares the inspiring ways she's learned to expect the unexpected -- and have a camera ready! (@imaftmummy)
- My child is my mirror -- Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama has seen herself in her children - and it's not bad. (@crunchychewy)
- There is enough to go around... -- Kellie at Our Mindful Life learned that love doesn't diminish when it's shared.
- Learning From Our Children, Every Day -- Kimberly at Homeschooling in Nova Scotia, Canada is continually inspired by her children. (@UsborneBooksCB)
- Life Lessons From My Children -- Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood has learned that every slug is fascinating, doing the dishes is fun, and sharing a banana is a delight. (@crunchymamato2)
- Things I've Learned From My Children -- Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings uses pictures to share what she has learned from her children. (@sunfrog)
- Beyond the questions lies the answer -- Lauren at Hobo Mama stopped wondering and started knowing -- loving and liking our children comes naturally. (@Hobo_Mama)
- Learning from Children -- Lily, aka Witch Mom, finds out just how enchanting balloons can be. (@LilyShahar)
- Lifelong Learning -- Lindsay at Living in Harmony has learned that what works for one kid might not work for another. (@AttachedMama)
- Walking alongside my daughter -- Lindsey at Mama Cum Laude is learning to give the clock less power over her family's life.
- Things my baby taught me about me -- Luschka at Diary of a First Child is proud of how she has grown as a mother. (@lvano)
- From my children, I have learned -- Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip has a litany of beautiful lessons, from selflessness to sleeplessness.
- The Little Things in Life -- In a simple and lovely prose poem, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shows how adults worry about the wrong things and forget the little, important ones: watching ladybugs, jumping in leaves, cherishing each moment as it comes.
- The Virtues of Motherhood -- Melissa at The New Mommy Files has had opportunities to learn from children as both a teacher and a mother. (@NewMommyFiles)
- My Kids Have Taught Me That It's Time To Stop Blogging -- Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! has learned that childhoods fly by too fast to blog. We'll miss your wonderful online presence, Melodie, and we wish you much peace and happiness. (@bfmom)
- Having Kids Has Taught me a Thing or Two -- Michelle at The Parent Vortex learns all day long -- from fun facts about hedgehogs to tying a complicated wrap with a screaming child and an audience. (@TheParentVortex)
- We Could All Learn from the Children -- Momma Jorje takes time to get on the floor and play so that she can see the world through her child's eyes.
- Teaching Forgiveness -- Mrs Green at Little Green Blog has a daughter who's taught her unconditional love -- even when she feels like she does't deserve it. (@littlegreenblog)
- Parenting as a joint venture -- Olivia at Write About Birth appreciates watching the astonishing way her children learn. (@writeaboutbirth)
- Beginner's Mind -- Rachael at The Variegated Life learns from a child who builds bridges to nowhere, calls letter magnets his numbers, and insists dinnertime is truck time. (@RachaelNevins)
- A baby's present -- RS at A Haircut and a Shave presents a short poem on the differences between a baby's mindfulness and ours.
- Self-Confidence Was Born With My Daughter -- Sara at Halfway Crunchy learned to trust her instincts by responding to her child's needs -- and saw her self-confidence bloom.
- The Importance of Being Less Earnest -- Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante has one list of earnest and one list of silly things she has learned as a parent. (@seonaid_lee)
- Lessons my children have taught me -- Sheryl at Little Snowflakes learned that attachment parenting was the best way to meet the needs of her child and herself. (@Sheryljesin)
- Till the water is clear -- Stacy at Mama-Om learns that being present is the best present. (@mama_om)
- I Hold It -- Stefanie at Very, Very Fine has learned that the ability to communicate is much more important than the number of words a child knows.
- What My Children Taught Me About Letting Go -- Summer at Finding Summer is learning from her kids to laugh in the face of heartache. (@summerminor)
- Finding My Tools -- The Artsymama has applied some of what she's learned as a mama in the classroom, with great results!