Monday, July 15, 2024

Mentoring versus Modeling, [or “Dear, do I like custard?]

August 4, 2010 by  
Filed under Parenting From Balance©

(repost from 2009)

We want the best for our children. As parents, we want them to develop relationships and form connections with others. We want our children to come down from their egocentric mountain and join society as productive, empathetic citizens, (and with their own unique gifts intact.) That’s why we often worry so much about behavior.

And we often hear caregivers talk about the importance of modling to teach appropriate social behaviors.  We then watch them “act out” the behavior they want to see replicated, and then prod their child to duplicate it. Or I see them direct their child to behave a certain way “Say hello!” “Say goodbye!” “Say thank you!” Or our favorites: “You’re Ok!” and “That’s not scary!  Why are you afraid?  There’s nothing to be scared of!” (when clearly there is not anything amiss for the caregiver, but in fact there is something amiss for the child!)

What this does is teach your child to disengage from their own inner compass, and instead focus on YOU for their cues. You become their compass. So the question then becomes, at what point are they expected to wean themselves from you and begin to develop their own compass, and collect their cues organically from the world around them?

Will they be calling you from college?  Or, will they become like the proverbial joke about the henpecked husband, who, when offered a choice of custard for dessert, turns to his wife, asking “Dear, do I like custard?”

Why not, instead, take a step back, and make them reach for the information — like baby birds stretching their necks for a worm. No fear, moms and dads… they WILL reach for your information! Children are HUNGRY for information, and soak up whatever they can. And children naturally want to please their parents, so they will emulate whatever we do. (Hey, guess what? We finally got our wish! We have become queen and king of the mountain!)

I remember when Kian was 2, and he accompanied me for the first time to a friend’s house.  I left my shoes at the edge of the carpet and walked into the livingroom, and when I turned around, saw that Kian had left his, perfectly paired beside mine, and was following quietly, and pensively, waiting for the next clue.  He observed well, at least partly because we were able to give him a lot of opportunity to do so.  The other part may be nature.

Just as children are learning all the time (as John Holt writes)
parents are teaching all the time. We are always mentoring, whether we are conscious of it or not.

Why would anyone want to model, when you can mentor, and BE authentic?

It’s like magic, and so simple: we simply have to “BE what we want our children to become!” (Joseph Chilton Pearce)

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon

Riviera PlaySchool in Redondo Beach, CA
A Mindful program for the ‘Whole Child,’ inspired by the best of Attachment Parenting, Reggio Emilia, Montessori, Waldorf and Compassionate Communication.

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