I wrote the post below in response to a parents asking for perspective about his daughter’s behaviour, who started homeschooling for the past few months, wanting a lot of one-on-one attention, seemingly being okay as long as she has other kids to play with and spending a lot of time watching YouTube on her tablet and going into tantrum-like behaviour. The context of the question is not so much relevant (and personal information has been omitted), as I mostly suggested points to ponder on. Either way, I believe they may be of support to others, and so here is my share:
I don’t really have an answer for you – as with these type of situations there’s so many variables to consider, and since it’s impossible for me to establish exactly all the multi-dimensions of your reality and what may or may not be the cause / contributing factors to your daughter’s behaviour – I can only provide you with points to ponder, points to check from which you can draw your own conclusions. You and your partner know your daughter best, and it will be up to all three of you together to ‘put all the pieces together’ and find ways of directing the situation.
She may simply be transitioning from one phase into another. From going to school where everything you do is dictated from outside of yourself to being at home and being able to do ‘whatever you want’ type of thing, where there may be overindulgence in ‘doing all the things I wasn’t able to do before’ and yet having to find a balance.
It may also be that while she is with friends/other children – that she looks alright because in participation with others, there’s the possibility that she’s distracted from things going on inside herself / points she is processing. So just because things look ‘okay’ in that they don’t cause you to react into any particular point, doesn’t mean that everything is actually okay. Not saying that this is the case, but this can be a point to look at / take into consideration. Often when we become irritable or go into some kind of mood – whatever brought up that experience, was already running in the background before, and so her particular state at ‘home’/’away from kids’ doesn’t have to pertain to only that space where she displays that particular behaviour. Think of having a busy day where you don’t have time to think about anything because you are sooo busy – but then when you get home suddenly all these experiences come to the surface and you feel awful. This doesn’t mean that those experiences are ‘new’, but simply that in being busy and distracted, you didn’t notice they were actually already there.
In terms of her playing or doing things ‘since she was 5’ – if I look at myself, I played with Barbie dolls and other ‘childish things’ till I was like 12 or something and I probably would have done it longer if I didn’t fear other people’s judgments so much. So here, I wouldn’t necessarily look at ‘what’ she plays with and how that fits into say, the mainstream idea of what play is ‘age appropriate’ – but rather look at who she is within it. Is she nervous? Anxious? Does she seem directionless? Or is she simply having fun?
In terms of showing her books and other activities and her not being interested – here you also have to look at: who am I in showing her? In today’s world, we have placed so much emphasis on having to learn, having top grades, being ‘the best’ – in fear that we/our children won’t be able to compete ‘with the rest of the workforce’ for a good living. We fear that they’ll ‘fall behind’ and ‘miss out’ and have a horrible future. We then present our children with material such as reading or other activities, where the movement behind it is fear (but this fear can be dressed up / interpreted by yourself/the mind as ‘this is good for you!!!’ because we manipulate ourselves in believing that a negative fear experience is actually good and in our best interest). So here I would check my starting point. Am I showing her books/materials/activities because I judge what she does otherwise as ‘not good enough’ and ‘lacking educational content’, because I fear that she is going to ‘mess up’ in this world? When we approach our children in this way, they can feel and sense the fear, the judgment – and they are naturally inclined to resist and be repelled by this type of behaviour because they KNOW it’s not their fear, their judgment – it’s yours! But if we keep repeating this behaviour, then they will start to believe that the fear, the judgment is a reality. They will believe they are inadequate, not good enough, not smart enough and only do the proposed activities to alleviate themselves from these self-beliefs for a moment, which actually only integrated and penetrates them deeper. Looking from the outside, you’ll then be happy that she is ‘doing all the right things’ – but on the inside, she’ll be miserable and broken – which is bound to create dysfunction later in her life in one way or another.
Another aspect to look at can be – am I just giving her materials/books/activities because I want her to be more independent? Because I am so occupied with other things that I actually rather give her things that she can do ‘by herself’ – because then I can feel comforted in having my own time and space, and I can be comforted in knowing that ‘she can be independent, and being independent is a critical survival skill in this world! (= FEAR!!)’
I’ve been there, wanting my son to ‘just be on his own already’ so I can get on with things and be comforted in the knowledge that ‘he’s all normal!’. I’d spend time with him, but I wouldn’t be HERE with him, genuinely expressing me – genuinely being HERE – genuinely having FUN. Because sure, I am playing with him, I am spending time with him – I am giving him attention right? Nope. Because the whole time I’m just wondering ‘when is this going to be over already’, ‘when can I get to my own thing’ – and even if I spend hours with him, he’s still not satisfied because our time together is not SUBSTANTIAL, it’s not SUBSTANTIATED by my presence, in truly being here with him. While my body is with him, in my mind I’m with all the other things ‘I could be doing’. Quality vs Quantity.
So here you have to ask yourself, to what extend am I approaching/offering/suggesting materials/books/activities because I want to honestly/genuinely explore different things with her, which she may or may not take interest in – because she finds value in them, and because it assists and supports her in developing and growing her own expression?
Where you explore and discover together, for the sake of exploring and discovery. Not because “she needs to read more because she needs to get educated in this world” or “because she needs to be able to be alone and not bother us” or … the negatives can go on. Identifying these points can be tricky, because we’ve so conditioned ourselves in believing that these are the ‘right’ and ‘logical’ things to do – and because they ‘sound logical’ we won’t move ourselves to actually investigate the fears and judgments that boil underneath them.
So here you can also investigate and evaluate all the things you’ve labelled as ‘educational’ and all the things you’ve labelled as ‘entertainment’ – where they can only be one or the other. Have a look at all the things you’ve ever done ‘for fun’ and what you actually learned in the process of doing them, even when ‘learning’ in itself wasn’t the purpose or starting point. Learning happens everywhere, all the time. Just because they don’t contain books or exercise sheets – doesn’t mean that learning is not taking place or that it is not valuable.
Sometimes Cesar will want to binge watch things and I’ve found that when he is busy processing particular points or experiences, that he used watching movies or cartoons to go into a sort of ‘hibernation’ where he is more introverted and uses this as a ‘time off’ to process things.
I will also watch things with him on YouTube, from which we source to then play or make things with his toys. In that sense, YouTube, tablets, screen-time – they are not ‘bad things’ in and of themselves. They are merely tools – but how we use them/wield them will determine the effect they create.
If she likes dolls and dressing dolls – that’s great! Watch videos on YouTube on how to make dresses or clothes for the dolls. This takes creativity, math, planning, fine motor skills, perhaps allocate her some monies for buying fabric – now she needs to calculate how to spend her money – there’s learning happening right there! But you don’t want to make these things the focal point. They’re just a natural part of being and engaging in this reality. There’s so many ways you can make things interesting and fun – having all the ‘educational benefits’ without the seriousness of it.
Also realise that children don’t just learn what their interests are ‘all by themselves’. Or that they have to find out RIGHT NOW what they want to do with their life. Some children will know what they want to do, other children will be very versatile and will play and test out many things before they make up their mind, or perhaps will always remain doing multiple things. In terms of homeschooling (and unschooling), it’s up to us the parents to facilitate this discovery process in a unimposing manner, where we expose them to many different things to help them find their way without their being pressure to do so. I’ve found that the key here is to keep things light and joyful – then things such as ‘focus/concentration/passion’ naturally develop and follow. They are not goals on their own, but consequences/outflows of the natural process of exploring and discovering things.
Here you can then also have a look at to which extent you have been stressing/worrying/thinking about her education and future instead of LIVING and being an example of natural flow and discovery, trusting that she will find her way.
Often when Cesar is all over the place and without direction – it’s because I, myself, and/or Gian (my partner) are all over the place, stressed and anxious about things. Again, children can sense and feel this – and when the two people they depend on the most are ‘all over the place’ within themselves, then they will assume that things are ‘terribly wrong’ and get all nervous and twitchy for no reason other than that we are doing it! If we’re feeling like headless chickens, something ‘must be going on’/’going wrong’ because us adults, as examples, are supposed to ‘show them the way’. Then they go into that same energetic signature without really knowing why, only because we’re doing it so it seems ‘the thing to do’.
Have a look at her moods, the energy she is in. Do you recognize this energy within yourself? Within your partner? Your relationship(s)?
Maybe she needs more time with other children, maybe she doesn’t. Test it out. Perhaps she can join some type of extra-curricular activities that school going children would do – so she can be with other children during after school hours.
And lastly – talk to her. Have you asked her why she is in x, y, z mood? Why she watches things so much? Why she needs attention? What she would like to do, what she would like to explore? Children are a lot more aware and adept in seeing what is going on inside themselves than we give them credit for.
So, again – I don’t have any answers for you. There’s a bunch of things you can look at and play with, let us know how it goes!
If you haven’t already – check out these EQAFE interviews:
•Children and Isolation – Perfecting the Human Race – Parenting – Part 79
• Parent and Child Communication – Perfecting the Human Race – Parenting – Part 80
• Emotional Addictions to Technology – Parenting – Perfecting the Human Race – Part 75
• Gaming and Reality (Part 1) – Life Review (here you can look at gaming in terms of say ‘being on a tablet’)
• Gaming and Reality (Part 2) – Life Review
• Tracing the Source of Tantrums – Perfecting the Human Race – Parenting – Part 72
• Timeline of a Tantrum: Parents – Perfecting the Human Race – Parenting – Part 73
• Stop Tantrums by Changing Yourself – Perfecting the Human Race – Part 61
• Raising a Destonian Family – Desteni Farm Discussions
• Raising a Destonian Family Part 2 – Desteni Farm Discussions