DSM: Sudbury in the home

From: Amanda Phillips (amanda42@hotmail.com)
Date: Sat Jun 09 2001 - 15:59:34 EDT


Here's something I wrote in my journal recently about my 5-year old, who
happens to have only one hand and limited visual acuity. Although I wrote
this about parenting, it applies equally well to the Sudbury philosophy.

-Amanda

5/26/01 - How to Raise An Independent One-Handed Kid...

The biggest challenge of parenting is getting out of your kid's way. Really.
Even when Elaine shows interest in doing something for herself, my natural
instinct is to just do it for her. I can do it better, faster, and more
efficiently myself. And I started out doing everything for her the day she
was born, so it is an ingrained habit. And because she only has one hand, I
want to help her even more. But of course, if I go with my natural instinct
and do everything for her, she'll never learn to do anything for herself.

So I temper that instinct, and anytime she asks to do something herself, I
take a step back, give her some pointers where necessary, and watch as she
clumsily accomplishes some task that I could have done for her in a fraction
of the time it took her.

It started when she was little with things like getting dressed. One day she
wanted to put on all her clothes by herself, a task that took me about 5
minutes to do for her. It took Elaine about 30 minutes when she first
started. Imagine what that did to my mornings! But if it took more time to
let her do her own thing, I woke up earlier. She got faster and more
competent, and gained some self-confidence to boot. After a few months of
this, she was dressing herself in 5 minutes.

So it goes with everything else she decides she wants to do. At first they
were all things that were easily accomplished one-handed. (She hasn't asked
me how to play the violin yet...) Lately, they are getting more complicated.

Today, she decided she wanted to open her can of tomato soup herself. (So
far all she has learned to do is pour the soup and water into the pan, turn
the burner on and off, and stir and ladle the soup.) I said, "OK, sure. All
you need to do is put the blade on the edge of the can like this, push the
handles closed so the blade cuts into the edge of the can, and then you..."
Ooh. How the heck do you do this with one hand? You have to grip the handle
of the can opener and hold it closed, and you also need to turn the little
rotating lever around in circles. Both actions require opposable thumbs. Or
do they?

So I explained to Elaine what she needed to do, and she immediately saw a
solution. She gripped the handle with her good right hand. And she (slowly,
painfully) pushed the little rotating lever around with her stump. It was
too amazing to describe; something you had to see. The can opener slipped
off the can about 4 times, but she stuck it back on and kept going. So there
she was, determined to do it herself, not once giving up or asking for help.
When she got all the way around the can after exerting much effort, she
grinned at me proudly and said, "I did it!"

And that's all effective parenting is: getting out of their way and allowing
them as many opportunities as possible to grin at you and say, "I did it!"

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