On Wednesday evening, Usha Sangam from Hand in Hand Parenting came to give a talk entitled “The Well-Balanced Child – Avoiding Stress and Overscheduling” (login and click to view the pdf of the presentation slides) that addressed helping children with learning and school from an emotional connection standpoint. At one point, she said that if we take nothing else away, it should be the importance of wrestling and pillow fights.
Wrestling and pillow fights were examples she gave of “special time” – one of the tools she recommends for parents to schedule, or at least be sure to include in every day. Special time is a time to do an activity chosen by the child, and often something that induces laughter and fun. In busy, overscheduled lives, we now need to be sure to take the time to play – even if we have to schedule it. It could just be 5 minutes of special time, or 30 minutes of free, unstructured play, but these are the moments in which we make connections and discover ourselves.
A major point Usha made was that listening to children is paramount to their success. Relationships are the foundation of human learning and all learning is based on connections. The more a person feels connected, the more he or she will be able to learn to the best of his or her abilities. Sitting with our children, just listening – not giving advice, but just listening and letting them know we value and understand what they are saying- teaches them to be good problem solvers, and to be resilient. We need to let them know we believe they can solve problems and let them do it, but offer them support through listening.
Another key point was the importance of valuing the process. If we let our children know that we appreciate their process and the progress they make, they will focus more on those, rather than the result achieved. This allows for greater, deeper learning and understanding, again leading to a greater ability to problem solve and to be resilient in the world.
Usha spoke at ISTP a few years ago as well, and at that time, she gave some valuable suggestions about how to schedule in unscheduled time, as well as scheduling in transition time. For instance, for some children, they need to actively play after school, before settling down to homework, so she recommended setting an allotted time for play, but then letting the child know that in 10 min, it would be time to transition to go inside to do homework, and then planning to have that transition time to cool down, get a drink, settle down, etc. Within that, there might be time when the child protests or gets upset, but it’s okay because there is time for it.
Overall, taking the time to be unscheduled – even if it is scheduling the unscheduled time (!) and making time to really, truly listen to our children is far more valuable than a broad assortment of activities and tutors. I hope that you’ll find a few moments to have a pillow fight, giggle, and truly play with your children, and know that you are contributing to their ultimate success by doing so.
If you would like to know more, you can go to handinhandparenting.org
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