Monday, August 30, 2010

Well , what do you think ?

'When kids ask whether it's OK to do something , it often makes sense to respond with ' Well, what do you think ?' This lets them know that their viewpoint counts , and also invites them to play an active role in considering the implications of their requests ' - Alfie Kohn Unconditional Parenting

We don't really have to wait for kids to ask us something , we can initiate conversation and connection by sharing something we have read , seen or heard , sharing a personal dilemma and then asking ' What do you think ?. It is important for moral growth that we help children think and take a perspective but also consider what other people could be thinking , their motives , perspectives and their concerns. We don't need to wait for problems in our family or personal lives to engage in problem solving. Problem solving is a process that needs practice. Dr Greene talks about a kid needing between 30-40 problem solving experiences to become skilled and trust the process. When we chat about general stuff, other people's problems, national issues – we talk about concerns, perspectives , problems , brainstorming solutions using sequential and consequential thinking, hindsight and foresight – problem solving skills.

The question – Well , what do you think is very much part of the mentoring relationship. We parents are essentially mentors for our kids , the guides by the side . There can be so much informal learning taking place.

I want to share the words of David Neils , founder of the mentoring organization

One morning, when David was six years old, he walked over to Mr. Clawson's garage to see what he was building. Mr. Clawson was always inventing something. That day, he was working on a contraption to clean up oil spills in the ocean. David was impressed. Mr. Clawson showed David how his device worked, talking to him as an equal. He then asked David to critique his design and offer suggestions for improvement. This genius was asking a six year old for improvements on an invention that would clean up oil spills! That simple gift of encouragement from Mr. Clawson changed David's life forever. David realized that his own thoughts about the world had value. He was on cloud nine for days and felt he could pursue anything and be successful.

So the next time we are with kids , not only our own kids , talk to them as equals and ask them – Well, what do you think ? They are then more likely to ' hear ' what we say – it is great when parents feel being heard and their words count and it is not just mom and dad at it again.


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