Two particular concepts in his book (which I really am reducing to base level here!) in particular I found interesting. The first I will cover here, the second in the next entry.
1. What are your longterm aims for your child?
Kohn discusses common answers:
Happy, balanced, independent, fulfilled, productive, responsible, functioning, kind, thoughtful, loving, inquisitive and confident.He then asks us to consider whether what we are doing is consistent with these aims. Are our everyday practices likely to help them grow into the kind of people we want them to be. Imagine yourself hearing someone describe your child, what would it give you the most pleasure to hear? Would it be:
"Boy, that child does everything he's told, and you never hear a peep out of him!"Unlikely.
Do we want out kids to obey unquestioning? to do what we tell them without question and not think for themselves?
Kohn discusses how this can impact longterm:
Author Barbara Coloroso remarks that she's often heard parents of teenagers complain, "He was such a good kid, so well behaved, so well mannered, so we dressed. Now look at him!". To this she replies:
"From the time he was young, he dressed the way you told him to dress; he acted the way you told him to act; he said the things you told him to say. He's been listening to somebody else tell him what to do....He hasn't changed. He is still listening to somebody else tell him what to do. The problem is, it isn't you anymore; it's his peers."It was this single thought that kicked off the cogs for me. I want my children to think for themselves, to feel they can refuse or disagree - and teach them the appropriate way to do that. I want them to be confident and to nurture that naturally enquiring mind children have. What I think is the key phrase for me is to parent with respect.
The more we ponder our long-term goals for our kids, the more complicated things become. Any goal might prove to be objectionable if we consider it in isolation: Few qualities are so important that we'd be willing to sacrifice everything else to achieve them. Maybe it's wiser to help children strike a balance between opposing pairs of qualities, so that they can grow up to be self-reliant but also caring, or confident yet still willing to acknowledge their limitations.
The point I want to emphasise is that however we think about these goals, we ought to think about them a lot. They ought to be our touchstone, if only to keep us from being sucked into the quicksand of daily life with it's constant temptation to do whatever it takes to get compliance.