Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lazy Parenting....Smart Parenting???

Sweetie really loves to play games on the computer. At,, and, to name just a few. She knows how to get to these sites, how to navigate around the pages and games, how to read directions, and she is altogether quite self sufficient in her quest for on-line games and educational activities. Even deftly mastering the right-handed mouse when she's a tried and true lefty. Pretty impressive, huh?

(Now, now... don't get all uppity on me. Either myself or Hubby is always in the room with her whenever she's on the computer, she only knows how to get to her sites, she knows to click on only the sites meant for her, and she is very good about asking to go on the computer in the first place, then getting off-line when told to do so).

But, as self sufficient as she is, there are time (many of them, actually) when Sweetie will come upon a game that she doesn't quite understand how to play. Or that requires school-aged knowledge she's not yet had to deal with. More advanced math skills, for instance. 

In those instances, she will undoubtedly ask (uhhh... more like - whine) that she can't do such and such and she needs our help.

My pat (i.e. "lazy") response? More often than not?

Figure it out. You can do it. Keep trying, if you want. Otherwise, stop playing that one and move on to another game you do understand.

Then, in my head and my heart, I die a little. I just told Sweetie to give up if something's too hard. Why did I do that? How could I do that?

But you know what? Sweetie generally listens to the options I've presented and happily - nay, proudly - proceeds playing. Either she works out how to make it through the current game in a way that works and makes sense to her. Sometimes she is actually able read the directions more carefully and figure out how to play the game the "proper" big girl way. Or she moves on to another game she knows and loves, thrilled to be playing something she's a pro at and can enjoy without any further frustrations.

As I've noted here time and time again, Sweetie is a real smarty. At 5 & 3/4's years old, she can read just about anything you put in front of her. She's extremely good at reasoning out problems of all sorts. And she's catching on very quickly to mathematic principles such as groups of numbers (What do three groups of 10 add up to? - 30!), subtraction and addition.

(We were in the car the other night, traveling a distance to have dinner with Hubby's uncle who's current in New England on business. Hubby told Sweetie it would take us about 20 songs on the radio to get to our destination. As song 12 started up, I announced the number we were on. Without even 2 seconds of hesitation, Sweetie piped up from the back seat - Oh. That means 8 more songs 'til we're there!).

Needless to say (again!), Hubby and I are more than impressed and proud of our curious, eager little learner. She amazes us everyday with the questions she comes up with and the answers she's thrilled to discover. But at the same time, we wonder - how in the world did she get so dang smart?

Yes, we've read to her every night since her infancy. Hubby and I are both big readers and we're certainly doing our part to pass that love on to Sweetie (I think we're succeeding). Also, one of us is almost alway on the computer. So of course Sweetie's technical abilities are borne out of her watching us surf around the net, write blog posts, and virtually chat with friends and family around the world. 

But otherwise - I really feel like we've been more or less lazy about intentionally teaching Sweetie much of anything. Which - you know what? - may very well be a very active way to approach a little one's education...

When Sweetie wants me to read a book to her during the day, I insist that she read it to me instead. That, or we share responsibility in reading every other page.

If Sweetie stumbles on a word while she's reading, I tell her to slow down and figure it out. I'll maybe start her on the beginning sounds of the word, letting her do the rest on her own. Or, if it's a longer word, I'll cover each bit with my hand so that she's visually able to break the word into more manageable pieces.

If Sweetie doesn't know what plus 6 equals 13, I encourage her to work it out for herself. Start with an equation you do know (6+6=12) and that will help you know what more needs to be added to reach your answer.

And if she continues to get overly worked up over not knowing how to approach finding answers on her own - yes, I tell her to calm down and move on. Don't worry about it. You can "give up" on it for now. It's not that big of a deal.

I rarely spoon feed Sweetie the answers she's looking for. I easily could. Maybe I should! It would certainly cut down on the number of over-dramatic emotional breakdowns Sweetie puts up in the face of something she's not comfortable or familiar with. Maybe my, and Hubby's, way of helping Sweetie learn looks a lot more like lazy parenting than active teaching. And I definitely won't deny the fact that I allow Sweetie to give up on what she's not ready to handle on her own.

Given all that, this is what I know for sure - learning, especially for a young child, should not be frustrating or discouraging. I cannot express to you the sheer joy I see in Sweetie's eyes when she's finally able to move to a higher level in an educational on-line game. Or when she successfully sounds out a very long word. Sweetie is having a blast while she's learning. And she feels so great, so proud of herself when she works things out on her own. 

Some may call our ways lazy parenting. But I call it smart parenting. Confidence-boosting parenting. Parenting which encourages independence and an ongoing love of learning, truth-finding, and problem solving.

I call it - and Sweetie - great!

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