Homeschool Essentials

Whether unschooled or highly structured, religious or secular, all homeschools encounter the same challenges. All successful homeschools exhibit the same essential qualities. This weblog will help you understand and apply those qualities, minimize frustration, and enjoy more success sooner.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Pushing vs. Encouraging

First, today's recommended resource.

Several years ago, after I had commented on the damage that "pushing" causes in homeschools, I got this question. "But if you don't encourage children to do better, won't they just slide by?"

"Encouragement" is one thing. "Encouraging forward" is another.

Let me share with you a concept that I learned from observing homeschoolers, and which underlies everything important I do and say.

All real love, real nurture, real acceptance, real approval, all of these are unconditional. The minute they become conditional, they become manipulation. Manipulation is always ugly, because it treats others as objects, rather than as living individuals.

Now, the one thing I know for sure is that all of us manipulate. We take no more notice of our own manipulation than we do of the air, or than fishes do the water. We are immersed in it.

All of us need love and nurture. All of us resent manipulation. Some catch it sooner, some later, some react actively, some passively. But it always costs us dearly.

"You're not going as fast as I want you to," "You're not going as fast as the others," "You're too slow," all these send the message, "You're defective. You don't please me. You disappoint me. You're not living up to my expectations." These cannot redound to the benefit of anyone.

Pushing, telling the child to go faster, sends a couple of damaging messages. First, something's wrong, you're too slow. Second, you don't need to take responsibility for speeding up (if that's really necessary), because I'll see to it you keep moving.

Once the parent accepts the responsibility for pacing, for pushing, for "keeping up with," for "having the child ready" at a certain time, they are in danger of keeping it forever.

When I give the talk on pushing, I always walk up to someone on the front row, and have them hold up their hand, palm toward me. I then place my hand on their hand, and begin to push. I've never had anyone simply let me fall! When I push, they push back. I even step back and say, "I didn't tell you to push back!" And then everyone gets it.

The most natural reaction to being pushed is pushing back. If we start it early enough, and keep it up long enough, most children won't appear to resist. Instead, they exhibit what psychologists call "passive aggression." You may have seen demonstrators, who, when arrested, don't fight back. Instead, they go limp, making the police pick them up and carry them physically to the paddy wagon. Where one well-trained policeman may be able to wrestle a struggling protester to the police van, it may take two orthree to carry the "unresisting" limp protester.

I hope you'll forgive me for sharing a couple of paragraphs from my detox booklet.

"Teacher dependent students mentally “go limp,” requiring the teacher to break down every task into its smallest possible parts, and spoon feed them to the student. Some parents and teachers actually desire this state of affairs. In order to feed emotional needs of their own, they encourage students to be dependent.
"But this requires a great deal more energy from the teacher than the student. Over the long haul, it stunts development and increases friction. Trying to propel the mentally limp, passive aggressive student down the path of learning eventually exhausts everyone involved. "

This situation will not rectify itself. When the teacher-dependent student goes to college, where no one herds the students into class, or forces them into study hall, these students flounder.

Encouragement sends the message, "You can do it." Pushing sends the message, "You're not doing-- not good-- not smart-- enough." How can you tell when you've crossed the line?

Students welcome encouragement, and they resist pushing. Once you encounter resistance, it's time to re-evaluate what you're doing.


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