Friday, November 12, 2010

Our assumptions, their agenda

I should be working right now, or at least working on the draft of the third in my Revisiting Hyperlexia series. (It's coming, eventually. I promise.)

But I saw this video courtesy of one of my parenting (and life) role models, Shannon, and I felt compelled to drop what I was doing and share it with you.

It reminds me of how easy it is to make assumptions about our kids' behavior without stopping to try to see it from their point of view. Sometimes, what they do makes no sense to us, or looks odd, or even appears manipulative or defiant, maybe, in the case of the video, disturbing.

If we stop to ask them (or try to read their cues if they can't tell us with words), "What are you trying to do?" or "What do you want to happen right now?" we often find out their agenda is rational, even creative or enterprising.

I remember a time several years ago before Ben had very much language when he was eating crackers. I cut him off after what I judged to be enough. He reached and struggled for the box, yowling, "Box! Box! Box!"

"No more crackers." I said holding my limit-setting ground.

Frustration and its attendant trappings ensued, until he finally got the box and started reading the copy on the back.

He just wanted to read the box.

I think of that moment often, usually when I find myself, for example, feeling impatient with his close-up investigations of unusual sidewalk features or his frequent de-contextualized experimentation with Bugs Bunny-inspired 1940's slang, inappropriate for a first grade classroom.

He's a curious boy, with lots of ideas. He absorbs more than he can process. His feelings sometimes overwhelm him. He isn't at all concerned with the idea of "fitting in."

And usually, he's not pushing a limit. He just wants to read the box.