Ditching Languge That Invokes Shame
© Beverley Paine, 2005
I made all the usual 'mistakes' as a parent and knew nothing about attachment parenting, or non-coersive parenting and only came across TCC when my eldest was nearly 5 and I was pregnant with my third child... The kids turned out all right though and I thoroughly recommend regularly apologising to your kids and explaining your ignorance and learning process as you go along!
I ditched notions of 'good' and 'bad' altogether and adopted the more sensible approach of considering behaviour and situations as 'appropriate' and 'not appropriate'. I hate the value/moral judgement that comes from using 'good' and 'bad'. I think John Holt once wrote about the uselessness of the word 'good' - just exactly what does it mean? Try defining it... it depends heavily on context, which means that people have to more or less guess what you're getting at. Those two words seem to invoke shame more than any other words in our language! I'm not a fan of shame.
'Appropriate' tends to look at behaviour in a matter of fact way - does this behaviour achieve the desired results? Then we start looking at motivation and goals, and actions in the light of what we need and want, from ourselves, the situation and others. It dampens the emotion by applying rational thought - action instead of reaction.
I even stopped using the terms 'negative' and 'positive', which were buzz words when my childrne were young, and started using 'constructive' and 'destructive' as these words clearly conveyed exactly what I wanted. An action or behaviour is very clearly constructive - it builds - or destructive, or destroys. This could be building friendship, community, happy feelings, desired outcomes, anything that will help us reach our eventual goals; or destroying friendship, producing unhappy or hurt feelings, breaking belongings, moving us further from our goals...
It took a lot of reprogramming for me to change my inner and outer dialogue but the more I persisted in changing the language I used the quicker my behaviour and attitudes changed. I was patient with myself. I see life as a learning journey full of 'learning opportunities' - something I used to call 'mistakes'! Learning is about having a go, making approximations, slowly adjusting our actions to gradually produce the desired outcome. Somewhere along the line this process became fixated on getting it 'right' (whatever that means!) the first time. We were then made to feel ashamed for not learning in a fast and furious manner, or for not being 'perfect' (whatever that means!).
I blame school, of course! But blaming isn't an appropriate (in this case useful or constructive) action...
As a homeschooling parent you have the opportunity to create a positive and constructive atmosphere in your 'classroom' every day of the year. You can chose to not have 'mistakes' and call them 'learning opportunities' instead. You can do away with the need to 'correct' and 'guide' instead. 'Incorrect' becomes 'an estimation' or 'try'. Copying and guessing are allowed as legitimate learning tools.
Changing the way we use language and tweaking our attitudes as teachers can eliminate most of the shame, embarrassment and hence fear from learning.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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