Parenting, Argument, Awareness, and Education
I am the proud parent of two almost perfect children. I say almost perfect because who wants the "perfect" title? My children throw temper tantrums perfectly like a text book definition. They read perfectly, play perfectly, and learn from their parents (mostly the bad habits because they are most evident, but they learn them perfectly). My children learn the good and the bad from me. So, do I choose to educate them the same way I was taught or do I educate them the way they learn best?
After a whole day of arguing with our nine-year-old son Elijah, my husband and I assess our own behavior. What are we teaching our children? How can we improve our chances of not having another day of non- stop arguing? What can we learn from our children?
It is complicated. I believe in argument and always have; it is, I am sure, genetic! But to what end do I encourage, discourage, or alter my own behavior?
The other day my two-year-old Priscilla told her Dad, ”Whatever, Daddy!” Jason (Daddy) and I do not say “whatever,” but our nine-year-old does. Jason began to tell the nine-year-old Elijah how the two-year-old learns from him and that he needs to be careful. Jason went on to state (in foul language) that it “pisses” him off that she is learning to say things like “whatever,” and that she is arguing about eating the same exact way the nine-year-old argues. Right after Jason finished his speech, the two-year-old tells her dad that “whatever pisses off her.” What we learned from that was that the learning curve of two-year-olds is faster than the spell check on a Dell computer. So, what do we teach our children and what are they teaching us?
Argument and Education
When we teach our children what is right and wrong, do we teach them that they must follow direction almost blindly or...? What is right and what is wrong? That really depends on the message we are teaching, the student, the political climate, and cultural beliefs. Adora Svitak is a remarkable young lady who talks about adult and child interaction and what adults can learn from children; she talks about creativity and inspiration and limitations older people put on younger people. In a talk on TED.com, she says:
Now, adults seem to have a prevalently restrictive attitude towards kids from every ‘don't do that,’ ‘don't do this’ in the school handbook, to restrictions on school internet use. As history points out, regimes become oppressive when they're fearful about keeping control. And, although adults may not be quite at the level of totalitarian regimes, kids have no, or very little, say in making the rules, when really the attitude should be reciprocal, meaning that the adult population should learn and take into account the wishes of the younger population.
Do we teach our children that it is ok to argue with their adult counterparts? Is it ok to argue? It is ok to argue as long as you can back-up your argument with facts, reasoning and a reasonable solution to the argument. We say "arguing" and it has a bad connotation. What if your argumentative child is just trying to make his/or her point? Is argument a bad thing? It should be looked at as a great thing that you have taught your child to think for him or herself!
I look back at my own life. On my thirteenth birthday my dad gave me a book called How to Argue and Win Every Time written by Gerry Spence. I took this as a strong hint that I argued too much without making a point. My dad always encouraged argument, defiance and the endless pursuit of knowledge. He always wanted a child that could fight for herself and back up her thoughts and actions. I have taught my nine-year-old to argue, but I haven’t figured out yet how to translate good argument and bad argument. I have internal arguments about how much I let my nine-year-old get away with, what I want to encourage and discourage as far as argument and defiance, and how do I do all of that while lighting a spark of enlightenment and the will to learn more? I want my children to think about everything that is expected of them. I do not want to spend a whole day arguing with either of my offspring, but I do want them to think for themselves and voice their opinions.
Yet again I argue with myself: is that defiance or a voice? I need to listen to and respect my children not as a peer but as their educator. Nancy Sommers talks about argument in education in a short YouTube video: “Argument pulls you out of your own way of seeing it, your own limited narrow frame of reference and it shows you that there are other world views, that other people see the world differently and it expands your world “ Sommers is talking about academic writing and not parenting, argument and education; however, the words mean the same thing in or out of context. So I choose to use her idea for a different means.
Argument, Cues, Education and Parenting
Argument between me, my husband, our nine-year-old, and even the two-year-old, is expanding my own way of thinking about how to raise my children and grow with them. Most adults do what they think is right or wrong without any room for argument, other ideas or outside input. Because we are adults and we know what we are doing, are we automatically right? Are we right or should we take time to listen, argue, and leave room in our options for something other than what we already know?
As new parents, we take cues from our babies when they cry, fuss, giggle, move or just breathe. We learn from the child. What needs are being met with food, cuddling, or just a simple diaper change? Did that cry mean she is hungry, or is she sick and we are missing something? As our children grow, we are sure of ourselves and again we don’t leave much room for outside input or argument. Maybe if we listened to our children as they grow, and take cues from them regarding their way of learning, we could change the way we ourselves learn. Maybe we could learn what makes a nurse a nurse or a carpenter a carpenter. What is/are the triggers or actions that set a child in motion toward what they are destined to become?
I am positive that argument is a stepping stone in our education. Argument is one of the many paths we will journey down as parents, children, students and (developing) humans. So maybe “argument” should not have a bad connotation and should be looked at as a good thing. After all, you are thinking about it right now; you are thinking for yourself and you are either disagreeing or leaving room for another option in thought.
Sommers, Nancy. “Argument.” YouTube. 14 Oct. 2009. Web. 25 Sept. 2011.
Svitak, Adora. “What Adults Can Learn From Kids.” TEDTalks In ANGEL. English 101 OL2, Whatcom Community College, 16 Oct. 2011. WEB. 16 Oct. 2011.
copyright 2011, Kaia Matheny