Tuesday, July 19


Funny how ideas about parenting change after becoming a parent. I thought I would be teaching my children to listen to me... funny. Turns out, one of the most important things I could learn as a parent was how to listen. Sometimes, I still have occasions where I struggle to shut my mouth and listen, but I am always better off when I do.

I am naturally an impulsive person. I struggled long and hard to pause before jumping in with full gusto or speaking without considering my words first. In my eagerness to share my knowledge with people, especially my kids, sometimes I forget myself and jump right in with both feet. Knowledge is often a good stew: something that is better when bits and pieces are added as needed, and stirred and left to simmer and bubble for a long time.

I've learned to not answer a question immediately, to pause and let it hang in the air a bit, sometimes. I've learned to stop launching into an immediate instructional "rant", and offer small bits and wait for them to be incorporated before checking to see if more might be needed. One of the most valuable things I've learned is to ask, "What do you think?"

So often, when my kids ask me a question, it is their way of opening a dialogue, of getting something started so *they* can tell *me* what is on their mind. Questions like, "Do the people who work in the store stay there all day - do they sleep there?" and "Do bunnies brush their teeth", get amazing answers if I ask, "What do you think?", and I often learn a whole lot about the subject and my kids.

Last night, while lying down with Storm, we had the DS on for light. On the hour, it gives a little chime, which Storm really likes (I do, too!). After it chimed for 10:00, he sat up and looked over to it; the face of the DS was turned away from the bed, but the radio alarm clock was facing us. He laid back down and after a pause asked, "Why does the DS have a 12 when the chime happens, but the other one says ten oh oh?" (Storm can tell time on an analog clock, but has difficulty with a digital and Wyl can read a digital but not an analog)

I explained about how the "analog" face on the DS showed the hour by not having "minutes after", and that if we waited a minute and the hand clicked one dot, it would be a minute after, but the hand being straight up at the 12 meant that it was exactly 10, with no minutes after. He immediately chimed in with, "And when it is a minute after on the other clock, it will be ten oh one! -Look! It *is*!!"

So, I thought I'd go a little further with the time thing and said that there were 60 minutes in an hour and he seemed to have known that, but maybe forgotten it. I asked if he knew what half of 60 was. He thought, "Half of 6 is 3... so 30." Pretty good for a 6 year old, I thought. I said, "Some people, when it is 10:30 or 9:30 or 3:30 will say it is 'half past' or 'half past the hour', because 30 minutes is half of the 60 minutes in the hour."

He digested that for a bit and I asked, "Do you know what half of a half is?", trying to figure out how to get to "quarter after" in a way he'd understand. No pause, he *knew* that, "A quarter". Wow. I had no idea he knew that! I find it is way cooler to find out my kids know stuff this way, rather than being "instructional" and rattling off facts and information like an encyclopedia and having them huff at me and say, "I KNOW that, Mama!" and roll their eyes. Way cooler. So, I asked, "Can you figure out a quarter of 60? Half of the half?" while I'm digging around in my head, trying to figure out if I can relate that to him and how...
"Well, half of 3 is one and a half..." What?!! My six year old knows fractions?! Who the heck knew?! So, as one of us mumbled something about 30 and 15, I was trying to jump-start my stunned brain into function again as Storm said excitedly, "I'm going to count as high as I can in math!" And proceeded: "Two plus two is four. Four plus four is eight, eight plus eight..."

That is so often how discovery and learning happens in my own head: main question, supposition, smaller questions, ideas, more questions, "ah-ha!"... so I guess it really isn't that surprising that it works externally as well, and is very much more satisfying to have a back-and-forth dialogue with my kids, rather than me spouting off and them being quiet and *possibly* listening while I get on my soapbox and "generously" hand down my knowledge. I suspect it builds a better relationship, as well.


Sandra Dodd said...

Very cool, De.

I'm going to quote that first paragraph in a talk I'm giving this weekend called "Input." Sometimes parents talk too much, is one of the sections. :-)

De said...

Awesome! Thanks!