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It's OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids

Helping Children Move Beyond Empty Words

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Every parent wants their children to be the best. They want them to shine, succeed and get the accolades. They worry their children may be too wild, uncaring, not sharing or lose out in the race for better jobs, a good life and so on. So relatively early when children are as young as two we want them to start play school where they can read and write, paint, say full sentences; we pay less attention that they roll in the sandpit, play on the swing, play with sticks or hang from the monkey bars. The unstructured free play is fundamental to a child's growth. Just as we loathe being disturbed if we are in the middle of doing something, so do kids. As they play, they learn and grow.

Heather Shumaker's wonderful book It's OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids was born out of the philosophy of School For Young Children, Ohio which follows a play-based philosophy and a deep trust in children.

Overburdened kids who don't encounter the joys and conflicts of a playground are becoming a norm rather than the exception.

Shumaker's renegade rights for kids include:

A child has a right to unstructured free play.

A child has the right to choose his own playmates.

A child has the right to feel safe.

A child has the right to not have objects taken from her (forced sharing)

A child has the right to experience and express the full range of her emotions


Naturally, one might ask -What about parent's right to sanity? It is here the author comes up with specific techniques they can use to set reasonable limits, so that children may understand and abide by them. For instance, if a child hurts another while playing, say bumps into them, they can enquire if the other child is alright, needs a drink of water or help to sit. The hurt child may respond in the affirmative or say they are alright. In this way, children realise they need to go beyond saying sorry and when they do start using it, they will do so with empathy.


Similarly, Shumaker emphasises children who don't share are not being mean but are taking comfort in repetitions. They may choose to repeat an activity for time frames extending up to a day. Over time, they learn to trust to give other children turns and play with them.


A truly worthwhile book that turns 'the prim and proper child philosophy' on its head.


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