Thursday, September 15, 2016

Can't Fix Sunsets

When it comes to childraising, look no further than Oprah-find Dr. Shefaly Tsabary.
She is all about boundaries and consequences, but with acceptance and celebration of a child's unique nature. On one program, a rather sweet mother was complaining that one child is very happy-go-lucky, while the other is serious. She wants the former to knuckle down and the latter to lighten up. It would be ideal if she could fuse the two of them together, she says wistfully. 

Dr. Tsabary provides a mashal: When gazing upon a magnificent sunset, do we say, "Well, why isn't it like last night's sunset? It's missing pink. It needs more pink over there. And a dash of orange."
Ah, no. We just gaze upon a magnificent sunset. That's all we do. "We don't mess with nature because we know we can't." It's outside of our control and purview. So to with children's inherent natures. For instance, extrovert parents are flummoxed by and attempt to change their introvert offspring, or vice versa.

Often parents drag their own personal baggage into their children's lives. I heard this line once, but can't get it right, that if a parent gives their child everything they didn't have, they won't be giving their children what they did have.  

Judy Batalion ("Should I Make My Daughter Clean Her Room?") grew up with a hoarder mother. Once she could live independently, she made her environment as extremely minimalist as possible. Her husband grew up the same way, and is happy with their stark home. 

Her children, however, are not growing up with hoarding parents. They are being raised by the other extreme. 

Batalion gathered opinions from friends and professionals as the best way to go, and received a jumble bag of responses and advice. One of them was:
Tamar Gordon, a psychologist specializing in anxiety disorders, thought people could be too hung up on cleaning. “What’s important for children is structure,” she said, “not necessarily the same thing as a clean room.” She explained that some kids are naturally neat, freaking out over a spot of paint on their hand, while others barely notice their visual environment. The parents’ job is to assess their child, and teach the opposite: Sticklers needed to learn flexibility, messy kids, regimen.
R2 was a neat freak from birth. I kid you not. Before he could even support his bobble head on his scrawny neck, he could be fascinated by a dust speck—yes, a dust speck—for 15 solid minutes. His idea of entertainment is sweeping the floor. When left in my care, I try to get him to be a little mellower about cleanliness.

As to the other messier ones (R2 is a rare exception), they need clear instructions. "Pack away five things," I tell them, and instead of procrastinating and claiming they will do it later when we both know they won't, they gleefully pounce on the mess, usually picking up more than the required five.   

I haven't even yet read her books, but Dr. Tsabary made me realize the importance of consciousness when interacting with rugrats. Also to embrace and enjoy them as they are.
It's really not a contradiction. 
Making Zelda clean her room might satisfy my organizational needs, but it probably wouldn’t make her a superior person. O.K., I admit that when Zelda dumped a box of musical instruments onto her glitter-strewn floor that evening, I panicked. But as she danced around, banging her drum, I let it go and joined in, saving my energies for the battle of bedtime.


Daniel Saunders said...

I definitely felt there were adults who wanted to 'fix' me when I was a child. But I didn't want to be fixed! It's actually given me more issues than if I was just accepted for who I am. Especially as I now know I have issues that mean there's a limit to how much I can actually be 'fixed' anyway.

Daniel Saunders said...

Although... thinking about it, I wish someone had spotted my growing mental health issues in my teens, so maybe I'm just being difficult. I think sometimes the problem was people trying to fix me, but not handling me very well as a person. I can remember one incident very clearly that really upset me because of the way it was handled, but if it hadn't been handled so badly, it might have done me a lot of good and spared me a LOT of trouble from my teens down to the present day.

Being a parent or a teacher is tough.

Princess Lea said...

It is very tough.