DSM: Role of parents


Melissa Bradford (mbradford@mediaone.net)
Tue, 12 Dec 2000 11:13:39 -0600


Dear Allan,

I agree with the replies thus far regarding the role of parents. I
especially like what Kristin wrote.

I would like to add something that Daniel Greenberg talked about when he
came to LVS a few years back. (Some of this is probably what he said, and
some of this is what I took from what he said.)

We were talking about the differences between homeschooling (unschooling)
and Sudbury schools. He suggested to the audience that we think about how
we react to something our parents say to us as opposed to anyone else in our
lives saying the exact same thing. When our parents utter a statement, we
are likely to read something into the statement, or pick up on some hidden
meaning, or have a stronger response emotionally than we would to anyone
else. For example, if someone were to criticize my parenting, I can take it
with a grain of salt, consider it but not overreact, etc, but if my parents
were to say something, well, that is another matter entirely! It doesn't
matter that I'm a grown adult with a successful life of my own. One word
from my parents, and the kid inside is ready to leap back out, and it can,
at times, take considerable effort to not go back to being that kid again.

Why is that? We have spent the first 18 - 20 years of our lives
interpreting every nuance of what our parents say and do. We learned what
their hot buttons were, we learned what a certain raised eyebrow meant, what
is important to them and what is not. We have certain patterns of behavior
with them. How we look in their eyes has a different significance to us
than how we look to anyone else on the planet.

I can't tell you how many times people have told me about my own children,
"They behave perfectly when you are not around." In talking to other moms,
I find I am not the only one who has experienced this. Putting aside the
question of why (and how annoying it is to hear that!), the point I am
making is that our very presence as parents impacts our children's behavior.

I staffed part time at LVS, and saw both my children and children of other
parents commonly behave differently when their parents were around. In the
cases of younger children, one thing I saw was a tendency to run to "mommy"
or "daddy" to solve problems. With older children, sometimes I saw very
different behavior when parents were around, both to the positive or to the
negative.

This is not to say that it is a terrible thing to have parents staffing, but
it is to say that it does have a significant impact on the children. This
is all assuming that a parent is in full agreement with the model and does
not have an agenda for his/her children as well. Obviously, such a
situation would have a negative impact. In addition, even if a parent can
be fairly objective/neutral with his/her child, it doesn't mean that other
school members might still have a perception that "he/she is only saying
that because it is his/her child."

Most schools have had to have parents as staff, because it was the only way
it could open. And in some cases it is not such a big problem, and in some
cases it is. I certainly prefer to not be at the school when my children
are there, because I think it is easier on them. As to the type of school
where the parents are part of the "extended community" I would say that
Sudbury schools are already like that, except that some parents choose to be
more involved than others. If you are suggesting that all the parents are
actively involved, I would have the concern that Joe, I think it was,
expressed, about having so many adults around. I think it would overwhelm
the school. I think a model like that makes sense if the adult community
has something to do other than focus on the children, such as a commune type
of model, where the adults are doing the work of the commune, and the
children are free to help the adults, or to do their own thing. Is that
what you have in mind?

Hope this is helpful.

Melissa Bradford, LVS



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