Posts Tagged ‘Teachable moment’

the ones who don’t win

August 5th, 2012    -    17 Comments

Last week a friend told me the story of how her daughter learned to swim. She refused at first, terrified that she would sink to the bottom and drown.

The fear of drowning is such an intelligent fear.

The instructor asked her how old she was.

“Five,” the girl answered.

“Five-year-olds don’t drown,” the instructor told her. And thus she learned to swim.

The story struck me for the brute genius with which it obliterated fear. But, of course, it was a lie.

Sometimes we lie a little. Sometimes we lie a lot.

We tell our children little lies for most of their young lives, because the lies are in service of a greater good. We tell our children lies because we tell ourselves lies. They make us feel safe and capable. Confident in the face of staggering uncertainty. We tell lies about effort, desire and glory, about time, dreams and possibilities, success and achievement. Then we come together and celebrate rituals of competition and prowess, pageants of pride and invincibility. You can do it! You can do anything! You can win! You deserve it! The excitement over, spectators leave the stands, plumped on inspiration and daring. Maybe they’ll jog the block in the morning. read more

freedom

July 4th, 2012    -    5 Comments

Every now and then I talk to groups of nervous parents. All parents are nervous. Under the surface of relative calm and confidence, we worry ourselves sick. I try to take some of the doubt and turn it into trust.

Remember when you taught your child to eat, I ask. Some people nod. Yes, yes, I remember that ordeal.

Remember when you taught them to walk? Hands shoot up. Frankly, I wasn’t sure he’d ever get the hang of it!

How about when you taught your kid to talk: to move their jaw, lift the tongue, purse the lips and push the breath past the teeth? By now, some are beginning to get the drift.

We don’t teach our children any of this. We show them. They follow. Whether they follow our lead or the impulse of their own intrinsic genius is anyone’s guess. The grass grows by itself.

Those things we don’t teach are the greatest teachings of all. I hope your children have that kind of teacher; I hope mine does, too.

True freedom is freedom from fear.

13 things venus taught me

June 6th, 2012    -    4 Comments

1. That planet is a speck.

2. That speck is the same size as Earth.

3. That means, as my daughter used to say, “I am so yittle.”

4. When you’re yittle, you can see big.

5. That yittle speck made me see the bigger picture.

6. The incomparably brilliant and blazing omnipotence of the sun.

7. The sun, the sun, the sun!

8. Venus takes 105 years.

9. The sun comes around every day.

10. Every day is a spectacle beyond comprehension.

11. Totally new and without repetition.

12. With no hurry, no fanfare, no wait.

13. Attracting no one’s attention.

Except, perhaps—and this is the real teaching—yours.

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optical illusion

March 22nd, 2012    -    7 Comments

“The moon follows us wherever we go.” My daughter said this when she was about three, gazing up out of a car window. And she was right. The moon has not yet and never will leave her sky. I’ve heard others tell of their little ones, usually no more than three or four, seeing the same intimate companionship in the sun and stars. Little children still experience themselves — correctly, I might add — as the axis in a spectacular universe, not apart from, but immersed in its shining seas. They haven’t been taught to know more, as we have; they haven’t been instructed to think less of what and where they are.

“That’s an optical illusion,” a well-meaning someone will soon insert into this teachable moment. “It only looks that way because the moon is so big, 3,476 kilometers across, and you are so small, 384,400 kilometers away.” The child sinks back inside the stiff straps of her car seat, which isn’t in the front seat, she notices, but in the safest, smallest notch in the back, where all the wonders are explained away.

the child is not the child

February 27th, 2012    -    29 Comments

If you ever wondered what you are supposed to teach your child, please read this and learn from me.

It was Thursday afternoon about four-thirty. Georgia was racing through her mound of homework before we left for gym practice at five. (Do math, do science, write a poem.) The minutes were ticking.

This is where it gets sticky.

She’s finishing gluing drawings into her “Silk Road Journal” (16 pages, front and back, history project due the next day) when she lets out a high shriek. The glue has exploded out the cap from a hard squeeze and blanketed two whole pages. The booklet is a soppy mess. Her artwork is doused. She sobs. I stiffen. She collapses. I look at the clock. And what I think I see is no more time.

I really think that time is up.

How is it that a girl and her mother can get stuck between two pages of the Silk Road Journal? Wedged between the pitiless hours of four and five on a Thursday? Strung between almost-done and starting over? Knotted, tangled and ripped in two?

I don’t want to tell you.

I don’t want to tell you what I told her. About what she didn’t do, didn’t plan, and didn’t finish soon enough. About how little and how late. The cause and the fault. How I couldn’t and wouldn’t and didn’t know how to help.  And what did she expect me to do?

Then she turned to me, through her sobs and streaked cheeks, and asked me the one thing that is still so hard for me to do.

Why don’t you just be the mom? Why don’t you encourage me?

Why can’t I just be the mom, and not the taskmaster, the lecturer, the appointments manager, the critic, the cynic, and the know-it-all? What is more important to show her than love? What is there always time for?

All great people, in their profound humility, remember their mothers most. They remember a mother who believed in them. And no matter how late, believed that there was still time. No matter how little, that there was enough. No matter how dismal the prospects, that it was possible. A mother who loved without measure, without schedule and without hurry.

So we blew off the timetable and moved to the dinner table. I gave her all the room she needed. She spread out and started over, using all the time it took. It went slow, but I encouraged her. She might have learned a lesson about glue, but I learned a lesson that I pray will stick.

When we realize that our child is not the child, then we begin to practice parenthood. It’s never too late to for me to grow up and be the mom. In fact, it’s time I did.

If you are a mom like me with a girl like mine, you might want to pore over Wendy Cook’s Mighty Girl Art Spring e-course where you can spend time becoming yourselves. You will never regret it.

how to raise a Buddhist child

July 11th, 2011    -    6 Comments

When someone borrowed my post on teachable moments last week they referred to this as a blog on “Buddhist parenting.” I hadn’t thought about that for awhile, so it seems a good time to share these tips on raising a Buddhist child.

1. Honestly, have no idea.
2. Diligently, make no effort.
3. Faithfully, accept what is.
4. Sincerely, pay attention.
5. Be kind.
6. Otherwise, apologize.
7. Raise a Buddhist parent instead.

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the myth of the teachable moment

July 6th, 2011    -    23 Comments

Teachable moment - a learning opportunity for a child to acquire new information, values, morals, a new behavior or a new skill, or a new way of expressing and coping with an emotion.

I’m a failure at teachable moments. By that I mean I’m a failure at teaching teachable moments. I’m so lousy at teachable moments that I’m declaring myself an official dropout. I don’t know how to teach a moment when the moment is always teaching me. What the moment teaches me is to accept.

In truth, my heart abandoned the endeavor once I got a good whiff of the notion that whatever moment our kids are having isn’t quite enough. Not instructive enough, powerful enough, or motivating enough. The concept that what life needs is a lab assistant – me – someone to add and extract value from the raw materials. Someone to turn the crank, press the button, squeeze the lemon and add sugar. The moment I bailed on teachable moments may well have been my first successful teachable moment.

Don’t get me wrong. If my daughter asks me a question, I answer. If she comes to me to talk, I listen. That’s never a problem.

The problem is only when she acts in a way I don’t like.

Let’s look closely at what it is we’re supposed to be teaching. No one is telling us to teach our way through the easy times. We’re talking about teaching our way around what we don’t like: our kids’ disappointment, sadness, jealousy, and frustration, for starters. We’re trying to teach our kids out of what they are momentarily feeling, thinking and doing, or at least I am, every time I am confronted with what someone tells me is a teachable moment. read more

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