Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Michael had such a good comment on my last Little Thing about Sammy wanting to learn to fly that I decided that his comment and my response warranted a separate post:
When I started reading your explanation to Sammy that even in the future that she will not be able to fly, I got that sinking feeling I get sometimes when listening to my friends "over explain" or "over intellectualize" simple details to their young kids. I do not know if my sinking feeling is valid or not, but I can say that what you said to Sammy does not qualify.

Your line, "[t]hat’s why we build machines like airplanes" is pure gold. Simple, succinct, and one of thousands of nuggets parents can drop that teach the kids how to focus on to think.

I have no idea if I would enjoy having my own kids, but no subject is more fascinating than child raising. Thanks for blogging on your experiences!

Here is my response, which I composed as a comment, but decided to post here:
Michael, yes, I had a quick debate in my head in that moment about whether to say anything about not being able to fly.  I would not have said it without the airplane line.  But I do suffer from over-explaining.  It's a great point you make, and it's something I work on all the time. 

Here's an example: when she said I CAN TRY, I either said, "Yes, you can," or I said nothing - I can't remember.  But there was no way I was going to tell her why trying wouldn't do any good in this case.  And I suppose I could have said, "Yes, you can try by building an airplane or buying a hang-glider," but that is beyond her, and so would have lessened the most important part of her observation: that when you can't seem to do something, you need to try.  We've been working on that with her - getting her to see that you succeed by putting forth effort.  So for her to make this comment on her own was a beautiful thing.  She gets it.  And that was the important part.  Any qualification or correction at that point would only have served to undermine her new understanding about effort.

Children need explanations.  They positively crave explanations and information.  But recognizing how to give the child the right level of explanation for his knowledge and context is a huge challenge.  I actually think I got this one right, but I get it wrong a lot of the time, too.  Still, I agree with Michael - this is what makes child-raising fascinating!

1 comment:

  1. And I agree with you both. I force myself to ask the child periodically, "Do you want to know more?" (And in my head it always sounds like the voiceover from Starship Troopers asking a similar question.)