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EU359: Unschooling Stumbling Blocks: Quitting vs Sticking It Out

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Sisällön tarjoaa Pam Laricchia. Pam Laricchia tai sen podcast-alustan kumppani lataa ja toimittaa kaiken podcast-sisällön, mukaan lukien jaksot, grafiikat ja podcast-kuvaukset. Jos uskot jonkun käyttävän tekijänoikeudella suojattua teostasi ilman lupaasi, voit seurata tässä https://fi.player.fm/legal kuvattua prosessia.

In this episode, we are starting a new series called Unschooling Stumbling Blocks, where we talk about common challenges on the unschooling journey.

For this first stumbling block, Pam, Anna, and Erika talk about “quitting” vs “sticking it out.” This idea comes up in parenting regardless of whether you’re unschooling or not. Do we need to teach our children to persevere? If we paid for lessons that aren’t feeling good to our child, is it okay for them to stop? We dig into the cultural beliefs, the sunk cost fallacy, and give some food for thought about all of the choices that we have.

It was really fun to discuss this topic and we hope you find our conversation helpful on your unschooling journey!

THINGS WE MENTION IN THIS EPISODE

The Living Joyfully Shop – books, courses, coaching calls, and more!

In our newest 4-week focus course, we explore Validation, a transformational relationship tool for building understanding and connection in our most important relationships, like the ones with our kids and our partner. Check it out and we hope you’ll share how it helps you in your relationships!

The Living Joyfully Network

Watch the video of our conversation on YouTube.

Follow @pamlaricchia on Instagram and Facebook.

Follow @helloerikaellis on Instagram.

Check out our website, livingjoyfully.ca for more information about navigating relationships and exploring unschooling.

Sign up to our mailing list to receive The Living Joyfully Dispatch, our biweekly email newsletter, and get a free copy of Pam’s intro to unschooling ebook, What is Unschooling?

We invite you to join us in The Living Joyfully Network, a wonderful online community for parents to connect and engage in candid conversations about living and learning through the lens of unschooling. This month, we’re talking about Celebrating Interests. Come and be part of the conversation!

So much of what we talk about on this podcast and in the Living Joyfully Network isn’t actually about unschooling. It’s about life. On The Living Joyfully Podcast, Anna Brown and Pam Laricchia talk about life, relationships, and parenting. You can check out the archive here, or find it in your your favorite podcast player.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

ANNA: Hello! I am Anna Brown with Living Joyfully, and we are so glad you’ve joined us for this episode of the Exploring Unschooling podcast. I’m joined by my co-hosts, Pam Laricchia and Erika Ellis. Welcome to you both.

PAM AND ERIKA: Hello!
ANNA: Hello! Before we get started, I just wanted to remind people to check out the Living Joyfully Shop. We’re adding things all the time, and recently we’ve added a focus course on validation. Validation is a topic near and dear to my heart, and I find it to be quite magical. It transforms any exchange and enhances connection in such a deep and meaningful way. You can find it and other offerings, including coaching, at LivingJoyfullyShop.com.

Today, we are going to be talking about a common stumbling block. While not specific to unschooling, it does come up a lot in unschooling circles, and that is the idea of quitting versus sticking it out.
I am very excited to have this conversation, because it’s such a valuable paradigm shift for all involved, and I remember it for myself and my work there, so I’m excited to talk about that. But, Erika, do you want to get us started?
ERIKA: I do. So, yes, this idea does come up a lot, I think, both in mainstream parenting and in unschooling. And I think I want to start with what we’re referring to when we say quitting versus sticking it out and where those ideas or cultural beliefs might be coming from.

So, when people say quitting, most people are talking about when their children start an activity, a program, a class, taking lessons, doing a project, and then change their minds and want to stop. And then sticking it out is when, even if your child is no longer enjoying it or it feels boring or something inside them is telling them to stop or it’s feeling too hard, they keep going and either finish that project, the course, whatever. They keep attending the lessons that they signed up for.

And this is not just about children, either. We could find ourselves in these situations, too, where it can feel like we’re either “quitting” or we feel like we need to stick it out. And I find myself putting “quitting” in quotes every time I say it, because it just feels like it’s not a helpful word. It does not tell the whole story.

And one of the first things that pops into my mind when I hear these two options is that there are never just two options. Like, are these really the only two options, quitting or sticking it out? But maybe we can talk more about that later.

Anyway, where do these ideas come from? So, I think we have a cultural belief in laziness, which we’ve talked about before, and the idea of quitting feels like laziness. It can invoke a fear of failing or of being left behind, maybe not making enough money to survive in the world, some of these really big core fears. And then on the reverse side, we have the idea of sticking it out, which has really been romanticized in our culture. Grit. Toughness. Perseverance. These are ideals in our culture. And so, regardless of the circumstances or regardless of if it even makes any sense to stick it out, there is this inherent cultural value in staying with something that’s hard.

And so, I think these became loaded ideas and loaded words for people, which makes sense. It feels bad if we’re thinking our child will be judged as being lazy or if we think that these choices mean they won’t find success in life. But I know I’ve talked before about how laziness isn’t really a real thing and it bothers me to even say that word. And I think once we dig deeper into those beliefs and really tune into what is actually going on, then we can get to the root of those fears and rewrite the story for ourselves.

PAM: I want to say what comes to mind, too, as you were talking there, Erika, is I think we can feel like we need to teach our child how to stick it out. Like that that is something that’s teachable. And all those other messages, like you were saying, are more about guilting them into doing it, versus a skill.

One of the big a-ha moments for me was, oh, it’s not about teaching them to stick it out, because, “They committed to this.” We’re going to have a lot of air quotes going in this episode! But it’s more about exploring the world and finding the things that are so interesting to them that they choose to commit to them, they choose to stick it out, even if something’s frustrating for them. There’s a frustrating moment, but they know in the bigger picture this is something they want to do, and they’re so determined.

Sometimes we even get frustrated, because our kids are so determined to finish this game or to build this tower that keeps falling down and they’re getting upset, but we can’t get them to take a break. We can’t get them to stop. They still need to keep trying. That is determination, that internal motivation.

And so, when we’re thinking about interests and the things that our kids are trying out, it was so helpful for me to just frame these as choices and exploring the world for them to find the things that are interesting enough that they want to commit more fully, if that’s the way you want to phrase it.

So, it wasn’t about teaching it as a skill, it was about finding things that were innately something that they were more determined to push through. And the thing about the word “quitting,” Erika, yeah, it is very strong word, because really, for me, and it’s not something I would ever use. Because it’s choice.
For me, it just, my choice is not to go this week or not to do the thing this week. So, we’ll get to that choice piece, but that was the most important thing, because when I go to choice, that reminds me about all the learning that happens. But anyway, I won’t jump too far ahead.

ANNA: But I think the language is important, right? Because I think the language really is setting the stage, because it’s like you said, Erika, I think when we get caught up in those cultural stories of, but the stick-to-it-iveness and the perseverance, and that’s how you get ahead.

And what I think is really interesting that I observed just in being an unschooling parent and having these more organic environments was that there really were lots of times when they were very focused on things that were of interest to them. And then it was like, oh, it’s the same for me.

When I’m really interested in something, I will stick to it. And when I’m not, it’s really hard. And I know, and this is my own personal journey, I did stick with things when I was younger that passed the point of my enjoyment. And what I realize in looking back is it actually didn’t serve me or the class or organization or other thing involved, because I was half checked out.

And so, a sports team is a good example for people, because they’re like, “But you’re there for the team! And you’re this and that.” And it’s like, yeah, they’re not there for the team if they’re already half checked out because this is not the sport for them or they’re uncomfortable with it. If it doesn’t feel good to them, that isn’t serving the team, because there are people on that team who really want to be there and can’t wait to get up in the morning to get to practice.

And so, can we just learn to honor people where they are? Because, like you said, Pam, then it becomes a process of finding, where are these slots? And there might be many, and there might be a particular lane, depending on your personality. It’s like, wow, when we can find those things that really get us excited to push through that frustration to figure it out, because it’s so interesting to us, I believe that’s where we serve the world, more so than this pushing ourselves along the lines of convention, which I don’t think serves anyone.

ERIKA: Yeah. I love that point of looking at it from our own experience. Can someone else make you persevere at something that you don’t want to do? And what are the results of that? Is that really the best decision for you?

And so, I know we have all seen our kids push through tons of discomfort and difficulty when it’s something that they’re really invested in. And so, I think it’s that judgment of their interests that gets in the way. This thing that they really are diving so deep into, we can’t even see it, because we’re looking tunnel vision at the things that are more valuable to us. And so, I really think any parent with children could find an example in their life of their kids not wanting to stop something that’s hard because they just want to keep trying and trying until they get it. And seeing that right there shows you that they have those abilities. It just depends on what activity they’re doing.

PAM: Yeah. It really is a transferable skill, if you want to think about it that way, that perseverance, that grit, all those buzzwords around that. It doesn’t matter. You can see it in whatever they’re doing. And I think you’re totally right there, Erika, that we can judge, like we don’t value it if it’s pushing through on something that we don’t value, but it is as meaningful for perseverance, because it’s meaningful to them and they can bring that energy to whatever is that meaningful to them.

I wanted to jump into one of the bigger areas where people can feel pushed to wanting their kids to stick it out is when they’ve paid for things. So, if they’ve paid for an activity, if they’ve paid for a team.
Oh, and that reminded me. I remember so many times, when the kids that don’t want to be there, they’re out in the field looking up at the sky, they’re in the karate class, chatting with somebody else. In all the places, you can tell they don’t want to be there. And it’s just less fun for the people who really do want to be there and they’re taking up space.

Anyway, when we pay for the karate class or joining the baseball team or whatever it is, I think that is something that can trip us up, as well. And I know you talk a lot about the sunk cost fallacy, so I’m going to turn that over to you, Anna.

But one of the things that I noticed for myself at the beginning of our journey that was a big a-ha moment for me was that I didn’t need to jump to paid activities the moment my child had an interest in something. So, if it’s baseball, we can throw a ball around, we can have a bat. We can set up T-ball, we can explore it.

We can dance around the living room. We can go to public swim time. All these pieces. There are so many ways that we can help our child explore something before we put money on the table, if that’s something that can trip us up, if we find that’s a trigger for us. So, just to open up our creativity at the beginning. I think there’s an expert thing in there too, right? It’s like, oh, well, a coach needs to tell them how to do that. Or, a teacher needs to show them how to do it properly. They’ll get bad habits. All these little pieces.

So, I think it can be challenging if our kid expresses an interest in something and then the first thing we do is send them out to some sort of paid opportunity, and if that doesn’t work out for well for them the first few times, I think they will be less interested in expressing interest to us in things because we’ll just keep sending them out to do the thing and to do the thing.

ANNA: Right. That’s the piece. Okay. So, the two pieces I wanted to touch on, that is a big one, which is this unintended consequence of forcing someone to stick it out. And I think especially with kids, but really with anyone, it’s just people don’t do it to adults as often, is that you just stop being interested. You just stop wanting to try things, because, if I even dabble, they’re going to make me do piano lessons for the next three years. And so, just this unintended consequence of really stopping them from finding the thing that’s their passion and the thing that really speaks to them.

I do want just touch briefly on the sunk cost piece, because I’ve talked about it in a lot of places, but it was a really big shift for me, because I do want to be a good steward of our money. I want to be aware. We wanted our kids to understand that and have a sense of money.

But my husband is in finance and he very much talks to them a lot about money, so it was surprised me in a way when he was like, “It’s a sunk cost.” And I’m like, “Well, what do you mean?” He was like, “We’ve already paid it, so the money is gone. So, you can force them to go to something they don’t want to be in, and this unintended consequence potentially happens, or you can take them out. You’re not going to get the money back either way.”

And so, then it was like, oh. Then the shift for me was, we’re paying for the opportunity. We’re paying for the opportunity to try this. And so, if it was a large financial commitment, we would have conversations about it. Like, this is a large one, this one does have a long time frame. It’s expensive.
Are there ways to try it for free or try something that’s maybe a little lower stakes if you aren’t sure?

So, you can absolutely have those conversations about being a good steward with the money, but realizing that, when we make the decision, we are paying for the opportunity, just really opened up a lot of free-ness for me.
ERIKA: I think, along those lines, children, especially in younger ages, aren’t going to be able to wrap their head around the entire financial picture. And so, to expect that we say, “This course costs this money, do you really want to do it?” That’s not something that they’re going to be able to really understand, the whole depth of what that might mean for us as the keepers of the money. And that feeling of, oh, it’s going to be wasteful. I think so much of the conversations need to happen more in advance and with us as the parents realizing that the financial decisions are ours. We can’t put the decision to enroll them in that class on them, like, “You told me to spend this money on you and now look, you want to quit.” Because kids live in the moment, like you’re always saying. And so, their feelings about the activity are not going to be so tied into the amount of money that we, as the adults, chose to spend on it.

And so, I think that in the beginning, like Pam, you were talking about exploring the interest in ways that are not so expensive, is really important, because that way you are getting more information about what the child is interested in without having added weight for yourself of all this money that I have spent.

PAM: And you’re gaining more experience, too, with the environments as well. So, with the activity itself, for example, like with karate, when Michael was wanting to do that, we could do free trials. I can phone up and ask, can we try out a lesson or two or for a week just to see if it’s a good fit? Even if it’s a payment for a week, but it’s not a commitment for a year or for so many months or whatever.

Because that’s the other piece for our child, right? Again, it’s not about the money, but what is it about? It’s about the interest that they have, but it’s also how they want to engage with the interest. What is that environment? Is it very rigid and rules-based and adult-controlled? Sometimes that fits. Sometimes that’s what kids are excited about, that vibes with them, but sometimes it doesn’t.

So, there are so many other possibilities. You can check out different dojos, you can check out different dance studios, all these pieces lead to or give us more information before we commit any particular amount of money to it. The more information that we can all have just helps us reach a choice in the moment that seems to make more sense. More confidence. More confidence in the choice that we’re making, because we want to be as confident as we can.
And yes, maybe three months from now it is just not working. But we haven’t pulled it out of the air and said, “Oh, here’s the closest studio or dojo and yes, they want you to commit for a year. And you said you wanted to go, here we are.” There’s just so much more information.

I think we kind of want to throw our hands up in the air and say, oh, I’m doing the best for my child. I’m finding the best dojo, or the best place. Again, that’s the external looking in, the external judgments or maybe somebody’s really good at marketing, but to remember that it’s our child, this particular child, and something that they’re interested in. And the goal is to help them learn, not to put a sticker on your car that says, we dance at whatever place.

ANNA: So, that tangentially reminds me of just how much learning is happening in all of these experiences, right? Because, even when someone decides to leave a particular environment, there’s so much that they’re learning about this interest. Like you said, how they want to engage with it. Is it this piece they like and don’t like? And so, what I wanted to be careful was to not put my piece on that by saying, you need to stay. Or even, you need to go. It wasn’t about me. It really needed to be about what they were learning.

And then we could talk about the fine tuning, because it was like, well, maybe I didn’t like this piece, but I really liked this piece. Okay, well that’s interesting. So, then if you look at it, that’s what we paid for. We paid for that fine tuning of knowledge. We didn’t pay necessarily for six weeks of a particular class. We paid for us to get this information about ourselves, how we want to engage with this particular interest.

And so, I think, again, just turning those things around and realizing, like we were talking about earlier, Erika, just turning it back to our own experiences. I do learn a lot from those things, and there are times that I’ve signed up for classes about a particular interest and ended up being like, this is not at all how I wanted to engage with this, but I learned things. Maybe I met someone that then we could do it differently. Or maybe I got just a few tools that I didn’t know about and I could take those and experiment with them myself. And so, it’s letting go of that judgment and just celebrating what we’re learning about ourselves or our kids are learning about themselves.
ERIKA: Right, because self knowledge is such a great goal. To think of that as the end result of all these choices that we’re making and all the interests that we follow. We’re either going to learn more about ourselves, they’re going to learn more about themselves, we’re going to learn more about them. That has so much value.

As we’re talking about it, I’m thinking of a couple of lessons that I’ve learned in this area over the years. One very expensive, unfortunate one was I prepaid for a year of a trampoline location that we had never been to, because I’m like, it’s trampolines. This is fun, you know?

And so, they had a really great deal, but it wasn’t open yet. And so, I was like, you know what? I’ll just sign up for the year, because the kids love these other trampoline places. It’s going to be fine. And then we go on the first day and they have all these placards of rules posted everywhere, and it really triggered Oliver feeling like he might get in trouble. And he’s like, “I don’t like the people who work here. I don’t like the rules. I no longer like the color orange,” because that’s what they were wearing. It was very intense for him. He was like, “The entire place is everything wrong, and I don’t ever want to come back here again.”

And so, that hurt me a bit, just in my pocketbook and just feeling like, oh my gosh, mainly feeling like, why did I make that decision in advance knowing that there was this chance? But what I’m glad I didn’t do is blame him for it and try to guilt him into, “I paid a lot of money and we need to do this.” Because him knowing himself and being able to express that it was not a good fit for him and it did not feel like a safe place for him is so much more important than anything else really. Just that knowledge of himself and being able to make those choices.

And so, that was one that I definitely learned from where I was like, okay, so next time, we’re not going to rush into paying for things. We’ll just see. Take the free next step or the one-time, one-day pass next step and see how it goes.
PAM: Yeah, I think it’s brilliant how much they and we learn in the situation, like you were saying before, that learning, when we can make that flip, all of a sudden, that’s worth it. Even for extraordinary amounts of money, it’s like, oh my gosh, we know each other better. They know themselves better.

And I think it might just be worth talking a little bit about how much we learn with the quitting piece. I think it’s like, okay, they learned they didn’t like this interest. But maybe that’s not what they learned in this moment, right? Oliver didn’t say, I hate trampoline. Now, there were a myriad of reasons why this place was not a good fit, but the fact there was a trampoline on the floor was not one of them.

But that’s exactly it. I remember, over the years, sometimes when an interest was a big thing and was taking up lots of hours and it was like, oh, maybe I want some more hours back. What would I do instead with that time? And to be able to play around with that. It’s like, oh, I wonder if I’m going to miss it. Do I miss it? There’s learning that happens long after the quitting that is just so valuable as well. It’s just so much about the interest. Are there other ways that I can pursue it?
I remember when Lissy took a break from photography for six months and she came back and she’s like, “Oh my gosh. I thought I’d stopped learning and now I’d have to pick up where I left off, but I just learned so much just from the magazines I was looking through, the websites that I was on,” just all this other learning was bubbling around. And when she came back, she was a different person after those six months, after choosing to get back to it. So, we can think they quit, so now they’re not learning about that thing anymore. Oh my gosh. They may not be learning as much about that particular thing, but they are learning an intense amount about themselves.

Okay, Anna, go.

ANNA: But that just reminded me, we saw this several times over my girls’ childhood where an interest that was gangbusters, and this didn’t even have to do with money necessarily, but just this gangbusters interest like go, go, go. Then they would stop. Whoa, okay. That’s gone. And then six months, eight months, even a year or so later, suddenly it’s back.
We’re bringing new things to it. It’s going to a different place. Maybe they took a different aspect of it. Maybe it’s the exact same, but we saw that so much, and so I would really watch myself to not go, oh, you stopped the, whatever it is, piano or the thing, or the whatever. Instead just being that observer of like, okay, this is where we are now. Interesting.

Because you really don’t know what kind of connections are happening. It’s like we talk about with the cocooning times. Things are happening in there. And pieces are being pulled together and things from different areas, and we just saw that over and over again.

So, just watch that judgment about stopping an activity or quitting or whatever, because there’s often just way more to the story. And even if, like you said, they never come back to that particular interest, there’s something in the thread of that that you will see echoed somewhere down the road, and so, it’s very cool to watch.

ERIKA: Right. I mean, that’s kind of what I was wanting to get to with that, there’s not just quitting and sticking it out. There’s a world of things that are in between those, and so, I think it’s really important to not write the story for them about what their, their conclusions are about this. So, maybe these piano lessons aren’t working right now, but if we start telling them, “I guess you’re not interested in piano anymore,” that’s not fair, because it probably is not that.

And then I just think it’s pretty common for us to write stories for children, culturally and try to pigeonhole them into their interests and things. And so, quitting can be a sign to us of like, oh, I guess that’s over. But like you were saying, that’s not what we see with real humans, and it’s not what we see with ourselves.

Just because we stop something at one point does not mean it’s not going to come back later. And so, just leaving so much space for that to happen and leaving the judgment behind when it comes to these choices that they’re making so that then they can decide for themselves. They can really have the space to think about, “But I did really like that part of it.” And then they can make another choice where that’s still part of their lives.

ANNA: Love that.

PAM: It is so worth our work to peel our way through those expectations that we have and to peel our way through what kind of conclusions we’re jumping to. Because yeah, when they quit something, as you’re saying, it’s not maybe that they are no longer interested in that. “I don’t want anything to do with it.” And when we can come and realize, oh, they’re not interested in that particular aspect or situation, way of exploring that interest at the time, but it doesn’t mean now they don’t like dance or whatever, just pulling something out of the air. Because after they quit lessons at a school, maybe they still like to watch musicals. Maybe they still want to dance around the living room.

There are just so many ways that we can still bring this into their lives. And if we’ve done the work so that we aren’t doing it with any expectations, that we fully support their choice to quit the thing, and we’re fully excited about the thing that we’re sharing and curious if they’re interested. And we don’t have expectations and energy around that, it’s just more exploration for them.

ERIKA: Yeah. I had one other thought when you were talking. When we are bringing too strong of opinions about their interests, then it’s hard for them to have the space to make their own decisions and choices about it.
And so, I find that the less I label, the lighter my energy is, the less attached I am to what they’re doing, all of those parts, which are all just internal work that I have to do for myself, the more that they can make their own choice. Whereas if I’m trying to convince them to continue and I’m saying, we put all this money into this thing, or, oh, I thought you really liked that, just trying to convince and convince, then they are going to have to get stronger and stronger in their storytelling to themselves of, I don’t like this, I don’t want to do this.

And so, it’s always going to help for me to have a lighter energy about it and less attachment to outcome for them, because then there is that space for them to really be listening to themselves and making a decision rather than just reacting to my energy.
ANNA: I think that’s right. Exactly. Then it becomes a reaction and it’s kind of confusing. And I think I want to go back to personalities that we talk about so often, because you can have the rebel personality who, the minute you start pushing them towards it, they’re going to back off even if they like it. You’re going to have the people-pleaser personality who is more like, mommy really loves it when I play piano, you know? And so, and it doesn’t even have to just be money or this, it could be like, you’re such a great pianist, you’re going to do this for the rest of your life. It can add this pressure.

And so. I think it becomes tricky, because I know sometimes then we have to back off. But for me that nuance is celebrating, letting them lead the way of what those conversations look like and celebrating when they’re celebrating, commiserating when they’re commiserating.

Just really let them be the guide of the energy. And so, I love that coming in with lighter energy, because I think we’re more apt to sense their energy when we’re not bringing in a lot of strong energy into the situation. I think it is a nuance. I think kids that do have a particular passion do like to be celebrated for it. They do like to know that we know how important it is to them. So, this isn’t necessarily a hands-off, don’t react, be a robot. It’s like you said, it’s just bringing more of a generous, kind, light energy and really picking up on what they’re putting out about it. I think it makes such a difference.
PAM: Yeah, I think taking their lead on that. It’s not about being hands off and having them figure it out. Again, personality wise, how much processing they want to do externally with you. Celebrating the moments that are important to them, even if it’s like, yeah, I’ve heard that a hundred times on the piano, or whatever it is. When they’re excited about it, it’s something new for them, something has struck them and if I don’t know in particular what that thing is, it doesn’t matter. I can still match their energy. And if I don’t know why they’re frustrated, I can still commiserate with them, all those pieces. I can meet them where they are emotionally versus having some sort of fixed target or reward. It’s not about rewards, consequences, that kind of stuff.

I wanted to go back to outside voices. Like, “Oh, you’re going to be a photographer,” was the one I remember, because Lissy was into photography at a pretty early age. And I still remember my sister-in-law and I was telling her, oh yeah, she’s been taking pictures every day this week that she said, what’s going on? What’s Lissy doing? She’s like, oh, she’s going to be a photographer. That is conventionally the message. People just like to latch on and tell a story. Okay, here’s the story. She’s 13 years old and very into photography. She’s going to be a photographer. And those messages can be really challenging for kids.
So, even having those kinds of conversations with them and holding that lightness around it. Just having a smile and a giggle and I just said, well, maybe, and changed the subject. Because maybe, but the expectations around it, there’s just so much more life in their interests and the staying with something or choosing not to do something in a particular moment is all just a rich part of life.
I feel it’s just another learning thing, and maybe six months they come back to it. Maybe three years from now you’re looking back and you didn’t realize, but this thing they’re doing now, actually, it is related to that thing that they stopped doing, but they picked up on that aspect and that’s what they kept moving forward with, versus the way it looked through that particular interest.
Maybe they found the root of it and now they’re doing it in another way, or learning more about it in other ways. It’s just so much richer than, in this moment, there’s an expectation that you stick it out because we make commitments and we follow through with our commitments. And worried that we have to teach them that, that that’s some skill, because look, the only time we need to make them stick it out is when it’s something they don’t like. It’s just so fascinating to think about, isn’t it?

ANNA: It really is. And I just think that language is so important. I think watching for our own triggers about this, like how we were treated as kids, what it’s bringing up for us. Are we thinking that the grandparents aren’t going to like that they’ve quit piano? As always, we talk about it’s doing our own work so that we can separate that to really tune into the person in front of us, whether it’s our spouse or friend or child, because it really is very similar, the way that we just show up to celebrate people.

Because that judgment is just so damaging for relationships. And so, it’s just, what is the work that I need to do to let that go? Because that is always about me. It’s not at all about the other person or what they’re doing. It’s always about something in me. And so, just taking that time to recognize that just gives us so much more information and just keeps those connections where we want them to be.

Well, this was really fun. So, I’m glad we talked about this topic and I just really appreciate you both being here and I thank all the listeners, too. And I hope that this conversation has been helpful on your unschooling journey and just in life in general, because a lot of times we can look at ourselves and say like, oh yeah, I can quit this thing that I don’t want to be doing anymore.

Do remember to check out The Living Joyfully Shop. There are links in the show notes, and just comment on social media and let us know what you’re thinking about this topic, and have a great week, and we will see you next time.

PAM: Bye everyone!

ANNA: Bye.

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Sisällön tarjoaa Pam Laricchia. Pam Laricchia tai sen podcast-alustan kumppani lataa ja toimittaa kaiken podcast-sisällön, mukaan lukien jaksot, grafiikat ja podcast-kuvaukset. Jos uskot jonkun käyttävän tekijänoikeudella suojattua teostasi ilman lupaasi, voit seurata tässä https://fi.player.fm/legal kuvattua prosessia.

In this episode, we are starting a new series called Unschooling Stumbling Blocks, where we talk about common challenges on the unschooling journey.

For this first stumbling block, Pam, Anna, and Erika talk about “quitting” vs “sticking it out.” This idea comes up in parenting regardless of whether you’re unschooling or not. Do we need to teach our children to persevere? If we paid for lessons that aren’t feeling good to our child, is it okay for them to stop? We dig into the cultural beliefs, the sunk cost fallacy, and give some food for thought about all of the choices that we have.

It was really fun to discuss this topic and we hope you find our conversation helpful on your unschooling journey!

THINGS WE MENTION IN THIS EPISODE

The Living Joyfully Shop – books, courses, coaching calls, and more!

In our newest 4-week focus course, we explore Validation, a transformational relationship tool for building understanding and connection in our most important relationships, like the ones with our kids and our partner. Check it out and we hope you’ll share how it helps you in your relationships!

The Living Joyfully Network

Watch the video of our conversation on YouTube.

Follow @pamlaricchia on Instagram and Facebook.

Follow @helloerikaellis on Instagram.

Check out our website, livingjoyfully.ca for more information about navigating relationships and exploring unschooling.

Sign up to our mailing list to receive The Living Joyfully Dispatch, our biweekly email newsletter, and get a free copy of Pam’s intro to unschooling ebook, What is Unschooling?

We invite you to join us in The Living Joyfully Network, a wonderful online community for parents to connect and engage in candid conversations about living and learning through the lens of unschooling. This month, we’re talking about Celebrating Interests. Come and be part of the conversation!

So much of what we talk about on this podcast and in the Living Joyfully Network isn’t actually about unschooling. It’s about life. On The Living Joyfully Podcast, Anna Brown and Pam Laricchia talk about life, relationships, and parenting. You can check out the archive here, or find it in your your favorite podcast player.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

ANNA: Hello! I am Anna Brown with Living Joyfully, and we are so glad you’ve joined us for this episode of the Exploring Unschooling podcast. I’m joined by my co-hosts, Pam Laricchia and Erika Ellis. Welcome to you both.

PAM AND ERIKA: Hello!
ANNA: Hello! Before we get started, I just wanted to remind people to check out the Living Joyfully Shop. We’re adding things all the time, and recently we’ve added a focus course on validation. Validation is a topic near and dear to my heart, and I find it to be quite magical. It transforms any exchange and enhances connection in such a deep and meaningful way. You can find it and other offerings, including coaching, at LivingJoyfullyShop.com.

Today, we are going to be talking about a common stumbling block. While not specific to unschooling, it does come up a lot in unschooling circles, and that is the idea of quitting versus sticking it out.
I am very excited to have this conversation, because it’s such a valuable paradigm shift for all involved, and I remember it for myself and my work there, so I’m excited to talk about that. But, Erika, do you want to get us started?
ERIKA: I do. So, yes, this idea does come up a lot, I think, both in mainstream parenting and in unschooling. And I think I want to start with what we’re referring to when we say quitting versus sticking it out and where those ideas or cultural beliefs might be coming from.

So, when people say quitting, most people are talking about when their children start an activity, a program, a class, taking lessons, doing a project, and then change their minds and want to stop. And then sticking it out is when, even if your child is no longer enjoying it or it feels boring or something inside them is telling them to stop or it’s feeling too hard, they keep going and either finish that project, the course, whatever. They keep attending the lessons that they signed up for.

And this is not just about children, either. We could find ourselves in these situations, too, where it can feel like we’re either “quitting” or we feel like we need to stick it out. And I find myself putting “quitting” in quotes every time I say it, because it just feels like it’s not a helpful word. It does not tell the whole story.

And one of the first things that pops into my mind when I hear these two options is that there are never just two options. Like, are these really the only two options, quitting or sticking it out? But maybe we can talk more about that later.

Anyway, where do these ideas come from? So, I think we have a cultural belief in laziness, which we’ve talked about before, and the idea of quitting feels like laziness. It can invoke a fear of failing or of being left behind, maybe not making enough money to survive in the world, some of these really big core fears. And then on the reverse side, we have the idea of sticking it out, which has really been romanticized in our culture. Grit. Toughness. Perseverance. These are ideals in our culture. And so, regardless of the circumstances or regardless of if it even makes any sense to stick it out, there is this inherent cultural value in staying with something that’s hard.

And so, I think these became loaded ideas and loaded words for people, which makes sense. It feels bad if we’re thinking our child will be judged as being lazy or if we think that these choices mean they won’t find success in life. But I know I’ve talked before about how laziness isn’t really a real thing and it bothers me to even say that word. And I think once we dig deeper into those beliefs and really tune into what is actually going on, then we can get to the root of those fears and rewrite the story for ourselves.

PAM: I want to say what comes to mind, too, as you were talking there, Erika, is I think we can feel like we need to teach our child how to stick it out. Like that that is something that’s teachable. And all those other messages, like you were saying, are more about guilting them into doing it, versus a skill.

One of the big a-ha moments for me was, oh, it’s not about teaching them to stick it out, because, “They committed to this.” We’re going to have a lot of air quotes going in this episode! But it’s more about exploring the world and finding the things that are so interesting to them that they choose to commit to them, they choose to stick it out, even if something’s frustrating for them. There’s a frustrating moment, but they know in the bigger picture this is something they want to do, and they’re so determined.

Sometimes we even get frustrated, because our kids are so determined to finish this game or to build this tower that keeps falling down and they’re getting upset, but we can’t get them to take a break. We can’t get them to stop. They still need to keep trying. That is determination, that internal motivation.

And so, when we’re thinking about interests and the things that our kids are trying out, it was so helpful for me to just frame these as choices and exploring the world for them to find the things that are interesting enough that they want to commit more fully, if that’s the way you want to phrase it.

So, it wasn’t about teaching it as a skill, it was about finding things that were innately something that they were more determined to push through. And the thing about the word “quitting,” Erika, yeah, it is very strong word, because really, for me, and it’s not something I would ever use. Because it’s choice.
For me, it just, my choice is not to go this week or not to do the thing this week. So, we’ll get to that choice piece, but that was the most important thing, because when I go to choice, that reminds me about all the learning that happens. But anyway, I won’t jump too far ahead.

ANNA: But I think the language is important, right? Because I think the language really is setting the stage, because it’s like you said, Erika, I think when we get caught up in those cultural stories of, but the stick-to-it-iveness and the perseverance, and that’s how you get ahead.

And what I think is really interesting that I observed just in being an unschooling parent and having these more organic environments was that there really were lots of times when they were very focused on things that were of interest to them. And then it was like, oh, it’s the same for me.

When I’m really interested in something, I will stick to it. And when I’m not, it’s really hard. And I know, and this is my own personal journey, I did stick with things when I was younger that passed the point of my enjoyment. And what I realize in looking back is it actually didn’t serve me or the class or organization or other thing involved, because I was half checked out.

And so, a sports team is a good example for people, because they’re like, “But you’re there for the team! And you’re this and that.” And it’s like, yeah, they’re not there for the team if they’re already half checked out because this is not the sport for them or they’re uncomfortable with it. If it doesn’t feel good to them, that isn’t serving the team, because there are people on that team who really want to be there and can’t wait to get up in the morning to get to practice.

And so, can we just learn to honor people where they are? Because, like you said, Pam, then it becomes a process of finding, where are these slots? And there might be many, and there might be a particular lane, depending on your personality. It’s like, wow, when we can find those things that really get us excited to push through that frustration to figure it out, because it’s so interesting to us, I believe that’s where we serve the world, more so than this pushing ourselves along the lines of convention, which I don’t think serves anyone.

ERIKA: Yeah. I love that point of looking at it from our own experience. Can someone else make you persevere at something that you don’t want to do? And what are the results of that? Is that really the best decision for you?

And so, I know we have all seen our kids push through tons of discomfort and difficulty when it’s something that they’re really invested in. And so, I think it’s that judgment of their interests that gets in the way. This thing that they really are diving so deep into, we can’t even see it, because we’re looking tunnel vision at the things that are more valuable to us. And so, I really think any parent with children could find an example in their life of their kids not wanting to stop something that’s hard because they just want to keep trying and trying until they get it. And seeing that right there shows you that they have those abilities. It just depends on what activity they’re doing.

PAM: Yeah. It really is a transferable skill, if you want to think about it that way, that perseverance, that grit, all those buzzwords around that. It doesn’t matter. You can see it in whatever they’re doing. And I think you’re totally right there, Erika, that we can judge, like we don’t value it if it’s pushing through on something that we don’t value, but it is as meaningful for perseverance, because it’s meaningful to them and they can bring that energy to whatever is that meaningful to them.

I wanted to jump into one of the bigger areas where people can feel pushed to wanting their kids to stick it out is when they’ve paid for things. So, if they’ve paid for an activity, if they’ve paid for a team.
Oh, and that reminded me. I remember so many times, when the kids that don’t want to be there, they’re out in the field looking up at the sky, they’re in the karate class, chatting with somebody else. In all the places, you can tell they don’t want to be there. And it’s just less fun for the people who really do want to be there and they’re taking up space.

Anyway, when we pay for the karate class or joining the baseball team or whatever it is, I think that is something that can trip us up, as well. And I know you talk a lot about the sunk cost fallacy, so I’m going to turn that over to you, Anna.

But one of the things that I noticed for myself at the beginning of our journey that was a big a-ha moment for me was that I didn’t need to jump to paid activities the moment my child had an interest in something. So, if it’s baseball, we can throw a ball around, we can have a bat. We can set up T-ball, we can explore it.

We can dance around the living room. We can go to public swim time. All these pieces. There are so many ways that we can help our child explore something before we put money on the table, if that’s something that can trip us up, if we find that’s a trigger for us. So, just to open up our creativity at the beginning. I think there’s an expert thing in there too, right? It’s like, oh, well, a coach needs to tell them how to do that. Or, a teacher needs to show them how to do it properly. They’ll get bad habits. All these little pieces.

So, I think it can be challenging if our kid expresses an interest in something and then the first thing we do is send them out to some sort of paid opportunity, and if that doesn’t work out for well for them the first few times, I think they will be less interested in expressing interest to us in things because we’ll just keep sending them out to do the thing and to do the thing.

ANNA: Right. That’s the piece. Okay. So, the two pieces I wanted to touch on, that is a big one, which is this unintended consequence of forcing someone to stick it out. And I think especially with kids, but really with anyone, it’s just people don’t do it to adults as often, is that you just stop being interested. You just stop wanting to try things, because, if I even dabble, they’re going to make me do piano lessons for the next three years. And so, just this unintended consequence of really stopping them from finding the thing that’s their passion and the thing that really speaks to them.

I do want just touch briefly on the sunk cost piece, because I’ve talked about it in a lot of places, but it was a really big shift for me, because I do want to be a good steward of our money. I want to be aware. We wanted our kids to understand that and have a sense of money.

But my husband is in finance and he very much talks to them a lot about money, so it was surprised me in a way when he was like, “It’s a sunk cost.” And I’m like, “Well, what do you mean?” He was like, “We’ve already paid it, so the money is gone. So, you can force them to go to something they don’t want to be in, and this unintended consequence potentially happens, or you can take them out. You’re not going to get the money back either way.”

And so, then it was like, oh. Then the shift for me was, we’re paying for the opportunity. We’re paying for the opportunity to try this. And so, if it was a large financial commitment, we would have conversations about it. Like, this is a large one, this one does have a long time frame. It’s expensive.
Are there ways to try it for free or try something that’s maybe a little lower stakes if you aren’t sure?

So, you can absolutely have those conversations about being a good steward with the money, but realizing that, when we make the decision, we are paying for the opportunity, just really opened up a lot of free-ness for me.
ERIKA: I think, along those lines, children, especially in younger ages, aren’t going to be able to wrap their head around the entire financial picture. And so, to expect that we say, “This course costs this money, do you really want to do it?” That’s not something that they’re going to be able to really understand, the whole depth of what that might mean for us as the keepers of the money. And that feeling of, oh, it’s going to be wasteful. I think so much of the conversations need to happen more in advance and with us as the parents realizing that the financial decisions are ours. We can’t put the decision to enroll them in that class on them, like, “You told me to spend this money on you and now look, you want to quit.” Because kids live in the moment, like you’re always saying. And so, their feelings about the activity are not going to be so tied into the amount of money that we, as the adults, chose to spend on it.

And so, I think that in the beginning, like Pam, you were talking about exploring the interest in ways that are not so expensive, is really important, because that way you are getting more information about what the child is interested in without having added weight for yourself of all this money that I have spent.

PAM: And you’re gaining more experience, too, with the environments as well. So, with the activity itself, for example, like with karate, when Michael was wanting to do that, we could do free trials. I can phone up and ask, can we try out a lesson or two or for a week just to see if it’s a good fit? Even if it’s a payment for a week, but it’s not a commitment for a year or for so many months or whatever.

Because that’s the other piece for our child, right? Again, it’s not about the money, but what is it about? It’s about the interest that they have, but it’s also how they want to engage with the interest. What is that environment? Is it very rigid and rules-based and adult-controlled? Sometimes that fits. Sometimes that’s what kids are excited about, that vibes with them, but sometimes it doesn’t.

So, there are so many other possibilities. You can check out different dojos, you can check out different dance studios, all these pieces lead to or give us more information before we commit any particular amount of money to it. The more information that we can all have just helps us reach a choice in the moment that seems to make more sense. More confidence. More confidence in the choice that we’re making, because we want to be as confident as we can.
And yes, maybe three months from now it is just not working. But we haven’t pulled it out of the air and said, “Oh, here’s the closest studio or dojo and yes, they want you to commit for a year. And you said you wanted to go, here we are.” There’s just so much more information.

I think we kind of want to throw our hands up in the air and say, oh, I’m doing the best for my child. I’m finding the best dojo, or the best place. Again, that’s the external looking in, the external judgments or maybe somebody’s really good at marketing, but to remember that it’s our child, this particular child, and something that they’re interested in. And the goal is to help them learn, not to put a sticker on your car that says, we dance at whatever place.

ANNA: So, that tangentially reminds me of just how much learning is happening in all of these experiences, right? Because, even when someone decides to leave a particular environment, there’s so much that they’re learning about this interest. Like you said, how they want to engage with it. Is it this piece they like and don’t like? And so, what I wanted to be careful was to not put my piece on that by saying, you need to stay. Or even, you need to go. It wasn’t about me. It really needed to be about what they were learning.

And then we could talk about the fine tuning, because it was like, well, maybe I didn’t like this piece, but I really liked this piece. Okay, well that’s interesting. So, then if you look at it, that’s what we paid for. We paid for that fine tuning of knowledge. We didn’t pay necessarily for six weeks of a particular class. We paid for us to get this information about ourselves, how we want to engage with this particular interest.

And so, I think, again, just turning those things around and realizing, like we were talking about earlier, Erika, just turning it back to our own experiences. I do learn a lot from those things, and there are times that I’ve signed up for classes about a particular interest and ended up being like, this is not at all how I wanted to engage with this, but I learned things. Maybe I met someone that then we could do it differently. Or maybe I got just a few tools that I didn’t know about and I could take those and experiment with them myself. And so, it’s letting go of that judgment and just celebrating what we’re learning about ourselves or our kids are learning about themselves.
ERIKA: Right, because self knowledge is such a great goal. To think of that as the end result of all these choices that we’re making and all the interests that we follow. We’re either going to learn more about ourselves, they’re going to learn more about themselves, we’re going to learn more about them. That has so much value.

As we’re talking about it, I’m thinking of a couple of lessons that I’ve learned in this area over the years. One very expensive, unfortunate one was I prepaid for a year of a trampoline location that we had never been to, because I’m like, it’s trampolines. This is fun, you know?

And so, they had a really great deal, but it wasn’t open yet. And so, I was like, you know what? I’ll just sign up for the year, because the kids love these other trampoline places. It’s going to be fine. And then we go on the first day and they have all these placards of rules posted everywhere, and it really triggered Oliver feeling like he might get in trouble. And he’s like, “I don’t like the people who work here. I don’t like the rules. I no longer like the color orange,” because that’s what they were wearing. It was very intense for him. He was like, “The entire place is everything wrong, and I don’t ever want to come back here again.”

And so, that hurt me a bit, just in my pocketbook and just feeling like, oh my gosh, mainly feeling like, why did I make that decision in advance knowing that there was this chance? But what I’m glad I didn’t do is blame him for it and try to guilt him into, “I paid a lot of money and we need to do this.” Because him knowing himself and being able to express that it was not a good fit for him and it did not feel like a safe place for him is so much more important than anything else really. Just that knowledge of himself and being able to make those choices.

And so, that was one that I definitely learned from where I was like, okay, so next time, we’re not going to rush into paying for things. We’ll just see. Take the free next step or the one-time, one-day pass next step and see how it goes.
PAM: Yeah, I think it’s brilliant how much they and we learn in the situation, like you were saying before, that learning, when we can make that flip, all of a sudden, that’s worth it. Even for extraordinary amounts of money, it’s like, oh my gosh, we know each other better. They know themselves better.

And I think it might just be worth talking a little bit about how much we learn with the quitting piece. I think it’s like, okay, they learned they didn’t like this interest. But maybe that’s not what they learned in this moment, right? Oliver didn’t say, I hate trampoline. Now, there were a myriad of reasons why this place was not a good fit, but the fact there was a trampoline on the floor was not one of them.

But that’s exactly it. I remember, over the years, sometimes when an interest was a big thing and was taking up lots of hours and it was like, oh, maybe I want some more hours back. What would I do instead with that time? And to be able to play around with that. It’s like, oh, I wonder if I’m going to miss it. Do I miss it? There’s learning that happens long after the quitting that is just so valuable as well. It’s just so much about the interest. Are there other ways that I can pursue it?
I remember when Lissy took a break from photography for six months and she came back and she’s like, “Oh my gosh. I thought I’d stopped learning and now I’d have to pick up where I left off, but I just learned so much just from the magazines I was looking through, the websites that I was on,” just all this other learning was bubbling around. And when she came back, she was a different person after those six months, after choosing to get back to it. So, we can think they quit, so now they’re not learning about that thing anymore. Oh my gosh. They may not be learning as much about that particular thing, but they are learning an intense amount about themselves.

Okay, Anna, go.

ANNA: But that just reminded me, we saw this several times over my girls’ childhood where an interest that was gangbusters, and this didn’t even have to do with money necessarily, but just this gangbusters interest like go, go, go. Then they would stop. Whoa, okay. That’s gone. And then six months, eight months, even a year or so later, suddenly it’s back.
We’re bringing new things to it. It’s going to a different place. Maybe they took a different aspect of it. Maybe it’s the exact same, but we saw that so much, and so I would really watch myself to not go, oh, you stopped the, whatever it is, piano or the thing, or the whatever. Instead just being that observer of like, okay, this is where we are now. Interesting.

Because you really don’t know what kind of connections are happening. It’s like we talk about with the cocooning times. Things are happening in there. And pieces are being pulled together and things from different areas, and we just saw that over and over again.

So, just watch that judgment about stopping an activity or quitting or whatever, because there’s often just way more to the story. And even if, like you said, they never come back to that particular interest, there’s something in the thread of that that you will see echoed somewhere down the road, and so, it’s very cool to watch.

ERIKA: Right. I mean, that’s kind of what I was wanting to get to with that, there’s not just quitting and sticking it out. There’s a world of things that are in between those, and so, I think it’s really important to not write the story for them about what their, their conclusions are about this. So, maybe these piano lessons aren’t working right now, but if we start telling them, “I guess you’re not interested in piano anymore,” that’s not fair, because it probably is not that.

And then I just think it’s pretty common for us to write stories for children, culturally and try to pigeonhole them into their interests and things. And so, quitting can be a sign to us of like, oh, I guess that’s over. But like you were saying, that’s not what we see with real humans, and it’s not what we see with ourselves.

Just because we stop something at one point does not mean it’s not going to come back later. And so, just leaving so much space for that to happen and leaving the judgment behind when it comes to these choices that they’re making so that then they can decide for themselves. They can really have the space to think about, “But I did really like that part of it.” And then they can make another choice where that’s still part of their lives.

ANNA: Love that.

PAM: It is so worth our work to peel our way through those expectations that we have and to peel our way through what kind of conclusions we’re jumping to. Because yeah, when they quit something, as you’re saying, it’s not maybe that they are no longer interested in that. “I don’t want anything to do with it.” And when we can come and realize, oh, they’re not interested in that particular aspect or situation, way of exploring that interest at the time, but it doesn’t mean now they don’t like dance or whatever, just pulling something out of the air. Because after they quit lessons at a school, maybe they still like to watch musicals. Maybe they still want to dance around the living room.

There are just so many ways that we can still bring this into their lives. And if we’ve done the work so that we aren’t doing it with any expectations, that we fully support their choice to quit the thing, and we’re fully excited about the thing that we’re sharing and curious if they’re interested. And we don’t have expectations and energy around that, it’s just more exploration for them.

ERIKA: Yeah. I had one other thought when you were talking. When we are bringing too strong of opinions about their interests, then it’s hard for them to have the space to make their own decisions and choices about it.
And so, I find that the less I label, the lighter my energy is, the less attached I am to what they’re doing, all of those parts, which are all just internal work that I have to do for myself, the more that they can make their own choice. Whereas if I’m trying to convince them to continue and I’m saying, we put all this money into this thing, or, oh, I thought you really liked that, just trying to convince and convince, then they are going to have to get stronger and stronger in their storytelling to themselves of, I don’t like this, I don’t want to do this.

And so, it’s always going to help for me to have a lighter energy about it and less attachment to outcome for them, because then there is that space for them to really be listening to themselves and making a decision rather than just reacting to my energy.
ANNA: I think that’s right. Exactly. Then it becomes a reaction and it’s kind of confusing. And I think I want to go back to personalities that we talk about so often, because you can have the rebel personality who, the minute you start pushing them towards it, they’re going to back off even if they like it. You’re going to have the people-pleaser personality who is more like, mommy really loves it when I play piano, you know? And so, and it doesn’t even have to just be money or this, it could be like, you’re such a great pianist, you’re going to do this for the rest of your life. It can add this pressure.

And so. I think it becomes tricky, because I know sometimes then we have to back off. But for me that nuance is celebrating, letting them lead the way of what those conversations look like and celebrating when they’re celebrating, commiserating when they’re commiserating.

Just really let them be the guide of the energy. And so, I love that coming in with lighter energy, because I think we’re more apt to sense their energy when we’re not bringing in a lot of strong energy into the situation. I think it is a nuance. I think kids that do have a particular passion do like to be celebrated for it. They do like to know that we know how important it is to them. So, this isn’t necessarily a hands-off, don’t react, be a robot. It’s like you said, it’s just bringing more of a generous, kind, light energy and really picking up on what they’re putting out about it. I think it makes such a difference.
PAM: Yeah, I think taking their lead on that. It’s not about being hands off and having them figure it out. Again, personality wise, how much processing they want to do externally with you. Celebrating the moments that are important to them, even if it’s like, yeah, I’ve heard that a hundred times on the piano, or whatever it is. When they’re excited about it, it’s something new for them, something has struck them and if I don’t know in particular what that thing is, it doesn’t matter. I can still match their energy. And if I don’t know why they’re frustrated, I can still commiserate with them, all those pieces. I can meet them where they are emotionally versus having some sort of fixed target or reward. It’s not about rewards, consequences, that kind of stuff.

I wanted to go back to outside voices. Like, “Oh, you’re going to be a photographer,” was the one I remember, because Lissy was into photography at a pretty early age. And I still remember my sister-in-law and I was telling her, oh yeah, she’s been taking pictures every day this week that she said, what’s going on? What’s Lissy doing? She’s like, oh, she’s going to be a photographer. That is conventionally the message. People just like to latch on and tell a story. Okay, here’s the story. She’s 13 years old and very into photography. She’s going to be a photographer. And those messages can be really challenging for kids.
So, even having those kinds of conversations with them and holding that lightness around it. Just having a smile and a giggle and I just said, well, maybe, and changed the subject. Because maybe, but the expectations around it, there’s just so much more life in their interests and the staying with something or choosing not to do something in a particular moment is all just a rich part of life.
I feel it’s just another learning thing, and maybe six months they come back to it. Maybe three years from now you’re looking back and you didn’t realize, but this thing they’re doing now, actually, it is related to that thing that they stopped doing, but they picked up on that aspect and that’s what they kept moving forward with, versus the way it looked through that particular interest.
Maybe they found the root of it and now they’re doing it in another way, or learning more about it in other ways. It’s just so much richer than, in this moment, there’s an expectation that you stick it out because we make commitments and we follow through with our commitments. And worried that we have to teach them that, that that’s some skill, because look, the only time we need to make them stick it out is when it’s something they don’t like. It’s just so fascinating to think about, isn’t it?

ANNA: It really is. And I just think that language is so important. I think watching for our own triggers about this, like how we were treated as kids, what it’s bringing up for us. Are we thinking that the grandparents aren’t going to like that they’ve quit piano? As always, we talk about it’s doing our own work so that we can separate that to really tune into the person in front of us, whether it’s our spouse or friend or child, because it really is very similar, the way that we just show up to celebrate people.

Because that judgment is just so damaging for relationships. And so, it’s just, what is the work that I need to do to let that go? Because that is always about me. It’s not at all about the other person or what they’re doing. It’s always about something in me. And so, just taking that time to recognize that just gives us so much more information and just keeps those connections where we want them to be.

Well, this was really fun. So, I’m glad we talked about this topic and I just really appreciate you both being here and I thank all the listeners, too. And I hope that this conversation has been helpful on your unschooling journey and just in life in general, because a lot of times we can look at ourselves and say like, oh yeah, I can quit this thing that I don’t want to be doing anymore.

Do remember to check out The Living Joyfully Shop. There are links in the show notes, and just comment on social media and let us know what you’re thinking about this topic, and have a great week, and we will see you next time.

PAM: Bye everyone!

ANNA: Bye.

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