Breaking the Rules

The sign at the playground equipment in our apartment complex clearly reads: "Children must be supervised by an adult."

I do not supervise my children while they play at those "parks."

I have been the responsible mom who attends the play areas to watch my girls slide down slides and poles, run around, swing, climb trees, you name it. But the thing is this: I don't think they need me watching over them all the time. I know the supervision required by the signs has to do with safety. And I get that. And some kids act all kinds of crazy. My girls are not crazy. I trust that they will always do the right thing. Because we live in a gated community, I treat those play areas like our backyard. Going down to the park is a tiny slice of independence for them. A big slice, actually. I was nervous the first few times I sent them down without me. But I love what that alone time does for them. (Okay, and I love the little bits of alone time I get, too.) I believe kids need space to run around, make their own choices, have fun, be creative, etc., without depending on their parents to provide all of that for them.

Our living situation is one where we are basically on top of one another. I know that's a huge exaggeration for places in the world where dwellings are a quarter of the size of our apartment with twice as many people, but it feels like it. I don't have babies and toddlers who need me every second, I have children who are growing and ready to move into new levels of independence. Letting them go to the playground on their own fulfills part of that. And for that reason, I am unapologetically breaking the rules.

A rule I follow, but don't like:

Reading logs for homework.
Ugh. I hate them. Cora reads all the time. But that's not enough. She has to document something that she's read for at least 20 minutes everyday, and I have to sign it. Every. Day. My personal philosophy of motivation is very intrinsic versus extrinsic. We should do something because we enjoy it, or because it's the right thing to do, not because there's a reward waiting or because someone tells you to. It's like, "Here, let me read because it's something I have to mark off a list," versus "I LOVE TO READ!!!" Or "I'm going to be kind and responsible because it's the right thing to do," versus "I'm going to be nice and responsible because I'll get a reward." The trick is that extrinsic motivation is very effective on the surface, but it doesn't really teach deep-down important values and lessons.

One of my favorite things about Primary school at Westminster, my girls' school in Oklahoma, was that it was all about child-led learning, and more than that, shaping and developing a child's capacity for intrinsic motivation. Being intrinsically motivated is seriously one of the greatest gifts one can give a child. It's a lot more difficult sometimes, especially when so much of what we experience in our society has to do with getting something, being entertained, living on the outside of ourselves, pacification, but it is much more rewarding and fulfilling.


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