Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Encouragement (was Reading)

From: Jeff Collins <>
Date: Wed Mar 17 09:47:00 2004

Hi Sally,

First I think Mike is absolutely correct that the relationship between
the two parties (encouragee and encourager) is very, very important.
The husband-wife example you describe is very different from a staff
member-student relationship. A staff member-student relationship has
*some* of the same aspects of a parent-child relationship. In my
personal, parental experience my attempts at the type of encouragement
in your example almost always fall flat or have a reverse of the desired
effect. Here are two examples of this:

    * Last year my daughter (age 6 at the time) was still riding her
      bike with training wheels. All of her friends were riding with
      out training. As a parent (or should I say "as a DAD") this
      bothered me (not the most enlightened feeling I know, but the
      feeling was there anyway). As a result, I "encouraged" her at
      least 3 times to learn to ride her bike without training wheels.
      This "encouragement" taking the form of, "Hey, Lily want to try
      your bike without the training wheels?". She would invariably say
      yes (probably because she could tell it would make me happy), and
      we would spend a frustrating half hour trying the
      no-training-wheels thing. Finally, I became somewhat more
      enlightened (okay - only about bikes and training wheels, I still
      have a long way to go on life itself), and stopped "encouraging"
      Lily. Well about two months later, Lily came down to my basement
      office and said, "Jeff (she hasn't called me anything else since
      our short lived Sudbury School started two years ago), can you
      take the training wheels off my bike?" I quickly agreed, took
      them off and within less than 15 minutes she was riding without
      training wheels. Just a couple days ago (5 months after learning
      how to ride without training wheels - 4 of months with massive
      quantities of snow on the ground), she went bike riding with a
      friend, and the friend's dad commented how great a bike rider she was.
    * I know this thread agreed to dispense with the learning-to-read
      arguments, but it is an important argument and with everyone's
      indulgence my next example is about learning-to-read. My daughter
      is now 7. She says she does not know how to read. What she means
      by this, and from my admittedly limited experience what most
      children mean by this statement, is that she does not know how to
      read *everything*. If she wanted to, she could read books aimed
      at today's first graders ("See Bill run. Run, Bill, run", etc.)
      She could even read the very best and most interesting of these,
      /Green Eggs and Ham/, *if she wanted too*. However, she doesn't
      want to. She loves books, but the books she loves are books that
      she can not currently read (e.g. Harry Potter and the whatever,
      Lord of the Rings, All Creatures Great and Small, etc.), so she
      asks her mother and me to read them to her; or we get her an audio
      tape to listen to the book (and give us a chance to do something
      other than read to her). Once again, as a not-totally enlightened
      parent, I have attempted to "encourage" Lily to learn to read. On
      occasion, I have even attempted bribery (if you learn to read, you
      can stay up as late as you like reading in bed). Once again, this
      *does not work*. I have finally given up on "encouraging"
      reading. I have finally decided to trust that someday, Lily will
      - in her own time - learn to read everything.

I have realized that my attempts to "encourage" Lily only serve to point
out to her what she *doesn't do* and to point it out in a way that makes
it wrong that she doesn't do it. In fact, I was just talking to Lily
about this topic. Her comment was something like, "yeah, parents only
encourage kids to do things the parents want them to do, them never
encourage them to play Lord of the Rings".

 From The American Heritage Dictionay:

    *encourage: 1. *To inspire with hope, courage, or confidence;
    hearten. *2. *To give support to: foster. *3. *To stimulate.

    *coerce: 1. *To force to act or think in a given manner by pressure,
    threats, or intimidation; compel.

I think that when a parent attempts to "encourage", it can often come
across as coercion. It can only come across as real encouragement when
the thing being encouraged is something the child is doing on their own


Sally Rosloff wrote:

> So, I'm still wondering about the encouragement thing. I think I
> understand your viewpoint Carol about the lack of fear in Sudbury
> students...I'm working on it and from reading the posts I'm getting
> the idea that the culture/environment that is created with this model
> is very powerful and creates room for alternatives that are hard to
> imagine coming from outside it...thus the kinds of questions those of
> us outside it ask.
> I could use some more comments on the example I gave about hiking to
> help me keep working this through and understanding it.
> Thanks!
> Sally
Received on Wed Mar 17 2004 - 09:46:58 EST

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