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Something for Everyone

Cheryl Peachey Stoner
Hesston KS USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 5, September-October 2005, p. 209-211

At the Conference, there was a session titled "Parents Have Learning Styles, Too." This truth was evidenced in the wide variety of sessions available. Speakers' topics overlapped and reinforced each other, but each had a unique style. For example, the three sessions "Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids," with Naomi Drew, "Creating a Connected Family Life," with Susan Tracy, and "Adventures in Gentle Discipline," with Hilary Flower, each offered their own flavor and information for different learning styles.

Hilary Flower is the author of the LLLI-published ADVENTURES IN TANDEM NURSING and the new ADVENTURES IN GENTLE DISCIPLINE, released at the Conference. She opened her session by asking the participants to discuss several questions, including, "What keeps you from considering yourself a gentle disciplinarian?" She encouraged parents to think of gentle discipline as a path that needs continual work to stay on, not a method to perfection. She repeated again and again that practicing gentle discipline is not about being a perfect parent!

Most of the things that parents identified as keeping them from being gentle disciplinarians fit into six "detours" from the path:

  • Thinking of gentle discipline in a limited way;
  • Always reacting rather than anticipating children's behavior;
  • Facing parenting issues without support from other parents;
  • Expecting immediate results;
  • Seeking "cookbook" answers: assuming that one technique will work with all children;
  • Ignoring the parental side of the equation.

Flower provided a great deal of information in a short amount of time using discussion, an audio-visual presentation, and lecture to present the material. She also set a wonderful example by wearing her beautiful breastfed baby boy in a sling throughout most of the session. In closing, she reminded parents to trust their instincts and go to each other as the experts.

Susan Tracy, MEd, of the Learning Together Parent Education Center provided lots of time for assimilating the material she presented. The atmosphere was warm (despite the cold temperature of the room!), calm, and nurturing. Tracy smiled often, talked slowly, and repeated sentences for emphasis. She began and ended the session with video of a Montessori preschool in Japan where babies attend with their mothers to master developmentally appropriate skills. Tracy said that the key to connecting with children is to study them. As their growth and accomplishments are studied, parents will be inspired to awe, thankfulness, and a desire to serve them.

According to Tracy, there are key ways to prevent problems and maintain close relationships. Parents should: look at themselves, be an example, observe, connect, listen, give full attention, allow independence, prepare the environment, establish routines, and encourage spiritual and moral development.

As a Montessori teacher, Tracy teaches parents Maria Montessori's Four Stages of Development. Childhood is broken down into four, six-year phases. Ages birth to six is called the "absorbent mind" stage. The first task is attachment, which leads to independence. Learning happens very rapidly, the baby sees the family as the norm, and imitates the adults in her life. Babies are satisfied with the real world and television is not recommended at all for those under two years of age.

Stage two is age six to 12, the "reasoning mind." Their world gets bigger, they take on huge projects, and have a rigid view of right and wrong. They need parents to limit their television time and the content of what they watch.

Stage three, ages 12-18 ("newborn into society"), is much like the first stage. "No" is a popular word again, they may be physically awkward, and they need lots of hands-on experience and the outdoors. And the fourth stage is the "contributor to society," where the child becomes an adult and finds a purpose. Tasks include perhaps finding a mate and realizing that their parents are really pretty smart! They have a strong social concern and work toward finding their place in the universe.

Tracy's warmth and encouragement reminded attendees that by just observing and being in tune with children, parents can foster a connection.

Naomi Drew began her session, "Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids," by having parents take handouts on their way in (six pages of them, covered with print on both sides). This was quite a contrast to Tracy's one-sided handout and no "paper trail" from Flower's session. Drew shared her insights in a very friendly, perky, humor-laced manner. Parents who like having reminders to post around the house, or "key ideas" to remember particularly enjoyed this session. Her handouts included "Eight Keys to Peaceful Parenting," guidelines for family meetings, a worksheet to help children resolve conflict, a worksheet to list ways of cooling off when angry, "The Win/Win Guidelines to Resolving Conflicts," "12 Steps to Help Your Kids Stop Fighting," "Fostering Compassion," and "Managing Anger: Three Step Across the Bridge." She also provided a list of peacemaking resources. All of these concepts are discussed in great detail in her book, Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids.

Regardless of learning style, there was something for everyone at the LLLI Conference!

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