Monday, January 30, 2017

Advocating for Your Child v. Letting Him Have His Way

Advocating for your child doesn't mean you are always rallying for him to have his way.  I am the type of parent who will usually need to hear complaints from my children several times before I begin to investigate.  Recently, LionHeart came home complaining about tennis and being moved to what he considered a "lower group."  I learned there were other children in the "lower group," who were pretty much at the same skill level.  So what was the real issue I wondered?  I asked if his "best friend" was in the group where he wanted to be and the answer was yes.  For some reason many adults believe that wanting to learn alongside a friend is not a good reason to be moved.  But why not if that's what makes him happy?  I believe it is perfectly fine, in fact, I encourage it, as long as it enhances learning and doesn't cause distractions.  I am intentional about finding friends for LionHeart to have new experiences alongside.  Well meaning adults think that a child who wants to learn with a friend will somehow be crippled and not be able to grow and become "independent."  So untrue.  Quite the opposite.  Babies who are securely attached to their parents are the ones that tend to be more confident and willing to explore.  In this video about a homeschooling family of 7, one of the siblings says, "when I am with my whole family I feel stronger." The same could be true for LionHeart when he is with his friends.

I decided to accompany my sons to tennis (usually big brother takes him).  I had a conversation with the coach beforehand and expressed that LionHeart would like to be moved to the group with his friend.  During our conversation, I realized how problematic this concept is for some adults.  We went back and forth and what I learned is that both of the groups were essentially the same, but (and this is the  important part) one coach's teaching style is in line with how LionHeart learns.  Bingo! That was the issue.  LionHeart didn't know how to articulate it so he merely complained about it being an "easier class."  He didn't know how to say, "Mom I am holistic learner and I prefer a big-picture, more hands on approach when I am learning fundamental concepts."  But I did!  When I expressed to the coach that if the groups were the same, just let him be with his friend, that's when he said it.  "Well, he can't always get his way."  There it was.  The fear that if we allow him to have his way, be happy, somehow this would ruin him for life.  Reality - he can't always have his way.  But when he can, let's make it happen.  That's my philosophy.  If I suggest vanilla ice cream as a more practical flavor, but he wants peanut butter and grape, it sounds nasty to me, but it's a battle that is not worth having.  On the other hand, if he wants to wear shorts and it's 20 degrees outside, that is a choice he will not get to make.  It's all about Ma'at - balance.

LionHeart was able to move back to the group with his bestie. As I observed the teaching style of both instructors during class, it became even more clear that moving him was the right choice.  Parents are the first teachers, and we study our children.  I can look into LionHeart's eyes and know when he is about to be sick.  So as I watched these instructors I understood that though moving to be with his friend was a part of it, the pace of the class was an even bigger factor.  While both are great instructors, one focused on the fundamental concepts individually, while the other incorporated the fundamental concepts within a fast-paced game of tennis.  For example, to learn proper form for the backhand, one instructor had the group working exclusively on backhands.  He also discussed form a lot more.  While the other instructor demonstrated and then put them in a game.  When LionHeart's form was not correct, he was immediately able to see the consequence - the ball went out.  Doing it the wrong way, taught him how, but more importantly why he needed to do it the right way.  This teaching method is exactly how he learns best:  demonstrate (instructor), do it (student), correct, commit to memory.  When you have a child who learns differently, it can feel like a constant battle.  Some educators either take it personally and feel you are criticizing their teaching methods or "letting the child have his way."

The Right-Brain processing style doesn't just apply to academics.  I noticed this during his piano lessons that were going horribly wrong because the sole focus was on reading the notes, step 1.  I Googled an article on teaching piano to Right-Brain learners and sent it to his piano teacher who immediately incorporated the concepts into the lesson.  Right Brain dominant processors learn piano best by hearing a song, then learning a song first and learning the notes of the song as a part of the process.  That's the top down, whole (whole song) to part (notes ) learning style.  His piano teacher told me after the change in approach LionHeart's piano lessons were a 100% turnaround.  So instead of thinking of it as him "having his way," I think of it as advocating for my child so that he can be successful. Afterall, isn't that what we all want? If not, then we have to ask ourselves some serious questions.


  1. We have to always advocate for our kids. We know them better than anyone. Good move mom.

  2. This would be an important lesson for me in the sense of not just "hearing" a complaint, but learning to "listen" to true issue. The best point is understanding how how our children learn.