Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 22, Respect (last chat for a while)

Wednesday, May 22, will be the last chat before my "Lisbon, London, Leiden" tour. I'll be gone until Learn Nothing Day.

The topic this week will be Respect. There are several page on the site you might want to read here:, and here's what's in the book (page 220). It follows on "freedom."

Respect was discussed in the section on "being," earlier in the book, but in light of "freedom," respect can take another whirl. If I "give my children freedom" in a situation, it's because I had some leeway or rights myself. I cannot "give them freedom" that I don't have.

Some unschoolers become confused on that, and they begin to frolic in the "freedom" that they are pretty sure some stranger online granted them, and that unschoolers have inalienably from God, bypassing all forms of government and the limitations of wallboard. And so if an unschooling family is up at 3:00 a.m. playing Guitar Hero, they seem mystified that the neighbors have called the landlord.

I'm exaggerating. I hope I'm exaggerating.

If a storeowner says not to touch the crystal figures, a parent cannot "give her child the freedom" to touch them anyway. She could buy one and take it out of the store and let her kid touch the heck out of it, but she can't tell a store owner, "You don't understand; we're unschoolers."

So although I might seem to be wandering aimlessly here, freedom should involve a respect for others, and a respect for logic. And a family might not feel they "respect the law," but the laws still do apply to them, no matter how twinkly-eyed they have become in their newfound "freedom."

So if someone is selling you "True Freedom" (or snake oil, or the elixir of the fountain of life), have respect for yourself and your family and take a pass on it.

Meanwhile, parents with a realistic and considered awareness of what their own freedoms are within the laws of the apartment building, housing development, city, county/parish/township, state/province or nation are free to share some of those with their children. We let Holly choose carpet once, but we couldn't have legally required her to pay for it, as she was only eight or nine at the time. We have surprised waiters in many restaurants by turning to our children questioningly when the waiter asks the adults "Would you like to see the dessert menu?" They're even more surprised when the kids say, "No thanks," or "I'm full," while making friendly eye contact with the waiter.

And the "being" mention refers to this passage, from page 220:

Being respectful

"Modeling respect" is misunderstood by some parents. It seems they think that if they are courteous to other adults in public and their children see it, their children will be courteous to adults, including the parents. That's useful and important, but it has to do with etiquette and courtesy, generally, more than with a depth of respect.

Probably a better way to explain it then, is to be a model of respectfulness and of respectability. That's confusing too, I know, but parents need to find ways to respect their children–their interests and ideas and preferences of color and texture and temperature and their tastes in music and humor and their need for privacy and for attention.

When a child feels what respect feels like, he will know what others mean when they say "You should respect [whatever]."

"Respect" is not a light thing. It's not easy to respect your child, when it's new to you. There will be people encouraging you to see your child as "just a kid," and "only a child." Think of adults you respect, and think of them as ten years old, four years old, two, newborn. They were those people from birth. There was a newborn Mohandas Gandhi; a four-year-old Abraham Lincoln; an eight-year-old Oprah Winfrey, a twelve-year-old Winston Churchill.

Would my mother have treated me differently if she knew I would grow up to write this book? How should I treat my children?

If you're reading this by e-mail and you need a path to the chatroom, click on the title to get to the blog, which has a tab up to the left with the link and password.

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