Autonomous living yes or no?
Our experiment in autonomous living was extremely difficult, no less because I am a single parent. Kai sat on Youtube for a number of hours during the course of the week, watching his favourite shows. He stayed in jammies(pyjamas) for most of the day, all without a care in the world. As he no longer had a cue when it was bedtime he was up until very late. This made working in the evening difficult and I often found myself working until 1 or 2 am. By Thursday I was absolutely exhausted and realised we could not continue like this.
While there are elements of autonomous living that I would love to embrace, I think that given my own personal circumstances it would be highly impractical as a way of life at present; I have to be mum and dad, and playmate. Removing Kai from school has increased the intensity of all of these roles, and the need for boundaries ( however malleable) is absolutely necessary. Giving Kai complete autonomy would not work; children are often not aware of the range of opportunities around them and even when they are, the more immediate gratifying experience of a computer game can often trump a trip to the park.
Smosh Versus Cubs
Kai said he would like to go to cubs for the first time in months this morning. However, while on Youtube watching Smosh his priorities changed:
“Kai, it’s time to get ready for Cubs.”
“No, I don’t want to go, remember I told you?”
“Okay. Give me the phone back now, please.”
“Fine!” (Kai comes into the front room ten minutes later in his Cubs uniform.)
This gave me the reassurance I needed that Kai should not be given complete autonomy. Smosh gave him immediate gratification. Cubs, having not been a part of our lives for a little a while was becoming a distant memory: the friends, the games and other activities were all too far away. At this point mummy is needed to help prise him away from the immediate pleasure, to the more healthy delayed gratification of spending time having fun with his peers.
There will come a time when it will be inappropriate for me to intervene and Kai will be left to himself. I feel that at the moment it is part of my role to provide him with a variety of opportunities and a parental nudge from time to time. Only then with this rich background of experiences is he then in a position to make informed decisions.
How many times have we made a suggestion to our children, such as,” Would you like to see the play they are showing at the library?” And the child doesn’t want to go and cannot give you a good reason as to why. You manage to encourage them to go, with the option that they can go home if they don’t like it. They get there and love it!
By no means do I feel that children lack intelligence and cannot make their own decisions, but they do lack experiences. And experience comes along with age(generally). In the Stanford marshmallow experiment (conducted in the 1960s) children were given the option of an immediate treat or an additional treat if they could wait a short period. The experiment showed that for the children who were able to wait for the additional treat, age was a contributing factor.
While Kai will not have the freedom to sit on the computer watching Youtube for 3 hours a day, I do aim to give him as much freedom as is reasonable. We are still in the early days of home-education and each day we play by ear. On days which don’t flow as well, I may make a suggestion to do a particular activity and Kai may or may not be interested, and that’s fine.
Smosh Image courtesy of Derian Pihuave