Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Eight-year-old me had a BMX bike named Herby. We were best friends and I talked to Herby non-stop. My family thought I was a bit strange.
Now-a-days, I love to ask P-2 kids if they have a friend only they can see. The younger the group, the more hands that go up. Kids have excellent imaginations!
I remember feeling silly for using my imagination too much. “Davy, you need to stop day dreaming and pay attention!” I never really grew out of it. On the drive home after work, in the shower, or while I’m sitting at my desk – I often ‘wake-up’ and realise I was just in some far off place or lost in conversation with someone who wasn’t there.
Brain scientists are telling us how important it is to keep our imagination alive. They say our brains grow stronger when we use them in new ways – and there is no way to use your brain in a new way without creativity.
Imagination is, simply, the repetition of known thoughts or actions. And invention – the product of imagination – happens when old knowledge and relationships interact in new ways. Imagine me riding my bike Herby over the same muddy path each day. The first day the track is fresh, the second day I try to ride along yesterday’s track, the third day there is a deepening grove for me to follow. Until, after a few repetitions, I am almost forced to ride in the rut because riding outside of it takes effort. Then comes invention – creativity in the rut – I lift up the front wheel while my back wheel is guided by the rut, holding the wheelie, showing off for friends – real or imaginary – my creativity and riding skills on show.
Repetition provides us with skills and experience – even if that repetition was ‘just in our head.’ That’s how the brain works. Every trip down a familiar path – playing a guitar chord, swimming a lap, writing our name, opening a lock, smiling at a friend – causes us to become better at doing that thing – even when we are just imagining it! That’s what the brain doctors say.
An activity in your brain is like a crease in a piece of paper. Every time you fold it on that crease the paper folds easier and easier until just a gentle breath can cause the page to fold along the crease. Practice becomes skill. People begin to call you ‘a natural’ because your talent looks effortless.
Learning is the process of coupling imaginary play with reality – that’s what kids do all day long. A stick becomes a horse, a doll becomes a baby, a playground at recess becomes a world of adventure – pirates, jungle-explorers and superheroes abound. By trying reality on for size, we make sense of the world. And this requires imagination!
At home, children try out the things they see and hear. Their play workshop, kitchen, house or car is them becoming something new. It’s been said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery but with children it’s more. Imitation is life in the making.
Encourage your children when they engage in imaginary play. Let them know you love it when they imagine, invent and create things. Set aside space and time for them to be creative. ‘Free time’ for the brain is like meal time for the body – it’s that important. Take joy (pride even!) in the things they make believe into reality. And protect their ‘free time’ like a lioness protects her cubs.
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For more parenting pondering,
see the "Parently" section of this blog.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Have you ever had a problem, that no matter how you worded it in the search bar, Google just kept bringing back the same – almost useful - answers? At first you think it’s because you are not wording the question right. Then you decide you need googling skills. Surely, it can’t be that more than a million other earthlings using a Surface Pro have never had this issue. There MUST be someone else out there having the same issue! Maybe, but as far as I could find, they haven’t discovered blogging…
“Snapping in Windows 10”
“Snapping more than two windows in Windows 10”
“Snapping more than two windows in Windows 10 on my Surface Pro 4”
Those are just a few of the many queries I entered into Google that kept coming up with the same sites, all of which provided great answers that made it so obvious that everyone else was happily carving their Window 10 screen real-estate in as many useful partitions as they wished. And yet, I was stuck with two.
Two measly windows. And I wanted more. But everything I tried failed.
And, according to Google, Bing and Yahoo! none of the other gazillion Windows 10 users were having my problem. I finally decided that maybe this was just a problem with the Surface Pro and so I started putting that in my searches. To.. no… avail!
Then, I had an idea.
AND IT WORKED!!!!!
Turn off Tablet Mode.
Yup, that’s it.
I loved tablet mode so much that I told my Surface Pro to leave it on all the time. It looks nicer. Less like a computer and more like a tablet – which I prefer. Turning tablet mode off allowed me to snap to all four corners, drag the windows into whatever shape I wished and use apps together in ways that boost my productivity (or at least allow me to believe that my productivity is boosted enough to deserve another coffee, lol).
So, I thought I’d put that little measly-easy-squeezy-solution to an irksome-plague-of-a-problem that besought me (alone?) for more than a year – through my Surface Pro 3 days and into my Surface Pro 4 days, just because I like my tablet soooo much that I wanted it to be a tablet in all circumstances.
Turn off Tablet Mode.
Have a nice day.
Monday, November 16, 2015
Yes, they are cold and get sweeter as they melt. But they are also messy.
My theory is this: Kids love icy poles because they last so long. A tiny icy pole can last most of recess, if managed correctly. Other snacks are gone in a couple of seconds.
We all get angry. When we are ignored or disobeyed by our kids, we feel under-appreciated and over-worked and it begins to wear on us. And then we get angry. We become ‘mad as a hornet’, ‘barking mad’, ‘hopping mad’, ‘boiling mad’… Nobody ever says, “I’m as mad as an icy pole.” Why? Because icy poles are cool, long-lasting and sweet.
Before it entered a child’s grasp, every icy pole spent a long time in the freezer. Likewise, if we want to be icy pole parents, we need to spend some time – before the fact – getting ready for the angry times that will inevitably come our way.
Here are some tips for being an icy pole parent.
Get off the Maddercycle – I get mad at my child. That makes me mad at myself. Now I’m madder at my child for making me mad at myself. I hate being mad. So, now I’m madder because I got mad. I don’t want to ride this beast anymore! Break the cycle by recognising it and getting off.
Embrace your Emotions – When you feel something, you can change it. Emotion creates desire. That’s its purpose. Listen to your emotions and ask yourself, “What do I want to change?” Then create a strategy to make the change.
Give ME a Break – Two meanings here: First, stop picking on yourself. We all make mistakes. Leave them in the past and move forward away from them. Second, go do something you love. Go for a walk, meet a friend for coffee, create something. Take a break just for ME.
Heal your Hurts – We all have unresolved anger from our present and past. Parenting will bring these things up and out. When they emerge, don’t push them back under. Face and fix them.
Prepare and Prevent – There are some situations that always make you boil. If you cannot send someone else, plan some strategies. Change the situation by mixing things up: What will you add or subtract? Create an exit strategy: How can you cut it short? Have a support person: Who can you ask for support? If you must go in, go in prepared.
Communicate – We are not meant to do life alone. We are born into community and we get stronger as our communities grow. Without communication there is no community. Using our words to share our emotions builds relationships and resilience. The best way to teach this to our children is to model it. Talk about everything. Talk about feelings. Talk about joys and hardships. Talking makes us human.
So, before you get angry, choose a new metaphor – “I’m as mad as an icy pole.” You might always be a bit messy, but with preparation, you’ll stay cool no matter how hot the day gets and grow sweeter with time.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
One week before, we had achieved the impossible. Since early childhood, he had been listening to stories of dogs I had as a boy and how much I loved them. “A boy and his dog,” I would say, “there is no greater love.” For a decade and a half we had presented this maxim to the boss and she always said, “Cats are fine. Dogs are not.” So we had cats. Still do. Then came the week of the father-son suck-it-up-or-sell drive-time chat.
She had finally said yes! We found the perfect puppy. We brought it home. We arranged my son’s room so he could train and entertain a puppy. And then the week from hell began.
The puppy whined. It bit. It peed. It barked. It pooed. It chewed on things. It attacked pant legs. All the things that had been endearing to me when I was a boy were driving my son insane. His gentle nature would not allow him to be firm with the puppy. He even grimaced when I played with her because of how rough I was. But then he would say, “You’re so good with dogs.” I could see something was up. He needed to toughen up and roughen up or she was going to eat him for breakfast – for the rest of his life.
Five days after getting the puppy, as we drove, he said, “Dad I can’t do it. I need to be more firm with her but I feel mean when I try. You can do it because you are more relaxed. I am stressed around her and I can’t relax and be in charge of her.”
“You mean, in control,” I said. “You can’t control her.”
“Exactly!” he said. “She doesn’t do what I say. I know she can’t understand yet and I need to train her but I don’t think I can get that far. I worry about her all the time. When I’m at school, when I’m trying to sleep. Every noise she makes and everything she does – I feel like I need to be there watching and making things safe for her.”
“She’s a dog,” I said. “Not a baby. She can spend hours on her own and be just fine when you get home from school or wake up in the morning.”
“I know,” he said, wiping his eyes. “I just have a lot of work to do on myself before I can work on her.” He often says insightful things like this. 17 years of living with him and I’m still not completely used to it.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You know I like learning things about my character,” he said. “And I like working on it.”
I nodded my head. Everyone in our family knows this well. Never have I heard of another teenager calling a family meeting and saying, “I need your help. I know there are things about my character than I need to work on but I can’t see them because I’m not watching from the outside. What can I work on? What needs to change? Be honest, I can take it.” And so we were.
He’s been that way since he first learned to say, “No.”
And now, he had realised something that only a dog could teach him. He has an overwhelming need to be in control of anyone or anything for which he is responsible.
“Well son, you’ve got a choice to make,” I said. “And I’m not making it for you. Raising this puppy would be one way to work on your control issues. Or recognise, this is not a required relationship. We can find a home for the puppy where she is a better fit.”
He nodded, quietly.
“So, it’s your choice,” I said as we drove up the driveway, “Suck it up or sell the puppy. What’s it gonna be?”
And to his credit, he chose to sell the puppy. Not an easy choice, believe me!
As we watched the puppy and her new family drive down the driveway, my son said, “Dad, I have learned so much about myself. I would never have known how much I struggle with control if I hadn’t had the puppy. Now that I know this about myself, I can think about it, work on it, plan for it and conquer it when it resurfaces.”
And I know he will.
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For more parently pondering,
Wednesday, November 04, 2015
We humans are like concrete.
As adults, set in our ways, change is difficult. A reformation of character takes a near death experience, relationship breakdown or some other personal crisis. Changing solid concrete is possible but it takes a jackhammer.
Children, on the other hand, are like wet concrete. They are being poured and shaped with every conversation, relationship and example. They are open to ideas, practices and new realities – trusting that the adults in their world have it all together and know where they are heading.
In childhood, the spout is spewing wet ready-mix in any direction the adults around us care to direct it. Because children spend the majority of their time with Mum and Dad, character and values formation primarily happens in the home. Until approximately age 10, children receive and replicate what they see and hear.
They, literally, become what surrounds them. Dad laughs at a joke, I laugh. Mum bakes a cake, I bake. They care, I do. The maxim, “Do what I say, not what I do” never really works. I watch, I try, I become.
The four steps of practical teaching – I do, you watch; we do, I teach; you do, I watch; you do, I go – is active in every home on the planet, intentional or not. The great news is that children are very malleable. If we change, they will too. If we become something new, so will they.
But, we don’t like change, do we? Jackhammers are scary.
Between the ages of 10 and 12 the concrete is setting. The core moral and spiritual identity of a child has been established but they are still open to detailing and shaping. The questions asked in this stage combine physical reality with heart stuff. What does honesty have to do with homework? What does respect have to do with playing sport? Why do I have to wear a helmet?
As a child moves through upper primary school, they are ready for more responsibility and authority because they are starting to understand the why at the centre of most of life’s whats. Reasons are important. Friends are becoming barometers of other-worldly realities. My friends’ families are not like mine. He can do whatever he wants – nobody cares. She tells rude jokes – everybody laughs. His Dad is never home. Her Mum yells at her across the carpark. When I visit, they don’t eat together. My friend is scared of his Dad and says mine is weird. I think I know why. I’m different. I’m special. I’m valuable. I am loved.
While emotional fine-tuning and experiential learning is lifelong, most of the values integrated deep in my character and yours were formed in childhood. Wet concrete is easier to pour and shape. Make your parenting intentional and instructional. It’ll save a lot of jackhammering in a few years!
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