The Lifelong Journey

9 Oct

At Nothing But Genius we are truly passionate about children, learning and teaching. We believe all children have the amazing  ability to make sense out of their experiences with little interference from well-meaning adults. If the environment is interesting and challenging and children are encouraged to explore and find out for themselves, we see the genius abilities emerge. One thing parents do is to love their children so much that they prohibit them from making choices, accepting responsibility for their  choices and the right to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes.

What we do with or for our children always have an implication for the future. And that future is not two or three years away, it is a future till you die. It is a fact that the experiences of children – whether positive or negative – influence their way  of seeing the world and living in the world. As parents we have a frightening influence on our children’s lives. The science of epigenesis says that what we as parents experience, and how we live, may influence and even change the DNA of our children. (A phrase from the Bible about the sins of the fathers seems very apt here.)

Unfortunately none of us are skilled parents at the birth of our children. Only when we freely acknowledge that we need to seek information we learn to trust ourselves and become parents as our children develop into adults. If I must single out one thing that I wish I knew when my children were small, it is to have had knowledge about brain development and how children learn. Young parents of today have this powerful tool available to them. This knowledge is truly liberating for parents and for children.

I recently looked at a TED video talk by Sugata Mitra and his “Hole in the wall project”. The overwhelming impression (and this may be threatening to some parents) is that children have this incredible ability to gather knowledge from experience independently. Marion Diamond in her spellbinding book “Magic trees of the Mind”, says the same thing. This can be summed up with the Latin phrase Experentia docet – experience is the best teacher. The brain develops and creates knowledge by experiencing. As parents we often want to filter experiences for our children. Take out the rough edges, make it easier. Brain development research says it is not bad for children to struggle – it builds resilience and character. It builds the ability to get up and try again. Wow! Do we want to exclude our children from the ability to become people who can succeed by trying again?

Every human being, of all ages has the innate desire to be empowered and be in control of his or her own life. Children are in this respect as human as all of us. To parents this is a frightening thing, to lose control over your child. Thus parents and children are in a way locked in this struggle for control and autonomy. Piaget said many years ago that the attainment of autonomy is an essential aspect to become a truly moral being. The ability to know what you believe and the strength to stand up for those beliefs is the essence of autonomy.

I would love to enter in discussions about these and other issues around raising our children. I would also hope that every parent could find in themselves the ability to make wise choices. Not only wise choices for their children, but also wise choices for themselves. In the growth process of becoming a wise parent we also become more human, more caring and in a certain sense more vulnerable.

To become a parent is not a destination. It is a lifelong journey. We would like in this blog to light some beacons along the way to help you make choices that will enable you to, one day look back and say, “my children are the best part of me”.

TED Video talk: Sugata Mitra. The hole in the wall project.
Sue Grossman Ph. D. Offering Children Choices: Encouraging Autonomy and Learning While Minimizing Conflicts.
Diamond, M & Hopson, J. 1999. Magic trees of the mind: How to nurture your child’s intelligence, creativity, and healthy emotions from birth through adolescence. Penguin Group, Middlesex England.
Image: Steve Burke on Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/14863785@N03/2094610710/

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