Sixteen years of Treehouse talk

Sixteen years of Treehouse talk

Saturday, September 19, 2020

From the archives: How we're losing "I can, I will"

First posted January 2016

I'm fascinated by Annie Kate's review of Smart but Scattered Teens by Guare, Dawson, and Guare. Books like this say a huge amount about our culture, and the healing that parents may need to initiate if their teenage children have become infected with "do it for me" syndrome.

Check out the list of "executive skills" that the authors feel teenagers may be lacking:
"working memory, planning/prioritization, organization, time management, metacognition, response inhibition, emotional control, sustained attention, task initiation, goal-directed persistence, flexibility."
Do you see a connection between those skills? Every single one is something that Charlotte Mason would say we must not do for children who are capable of taking it on for themselves. And yet, so often, we do...just because we do. We try so hard and worry so much, like Aunt Frances, when we should be  letting them take the reins, like Uncle Henry.

The sad thing is that the teenage years may be almost too late to change some of those lifelong habits, although the point of the book is that there's still time. (I haven't read the book, just the review.) If you have younger children in your care, these are the things you should be doing, or rather, not doing. Letting them begin an activity and encouraging them to stick with it for a reasonable amount of time, to get some "goal-directed persistence" (see Charlotte Mason's "Inconstant Kitty"). Teaching them to be prompt and orderly (organization, time management). Using learning methods such as narration (working memory, sustained attention). Dealing with tantrums and other emotional disruptions (emotional control, response inhibition). I would add, seeing a situation from the other person's point of view and deciding to do what benefits another person, or the larger group or community, rather than yourself; developing empathy. As I've discussed here and elsewhere, I'm with those who believe that one of the best ways to gain empathy and flexibility in thinking is to have a very good store of stories.

That is what we can do for our children: give them that store, train them in habits, and allow them to develop their wills. What we can't or shouldn't do: think for them, remember for them, rob them of their initiative.

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