Don’t people sometimes need external motivation to accomplish things they do want to accomplish?
A friend gave the example of exercising. Lots of us find that we keep up an exercise program if we have a buddy to do it with. I know it is true for me that there are many days I’ll go for a walk or to the gym because I’ve told someone else I’d meet them there and, if I hadn’t, I’d probably have flaked. So, isn’t it human nature to need some external motivation to get us to do even things we really do want to do?
However, my actual desire to exercise is internal. Nobody is “requiring” me to exercise. It is something that I really want to do for myself, but there is a certain amount of inertia that I have to overcome in getting going to do it. It isn’t
someone else trying to make me do something that “they” think is good for me, against my will.
Some of that inertia may be human nature, but a big chunk of it is because we, ourselves, were so often coerced into doing things that other people thought were “good for us” that we built up resistance. Again, exercise is a good example. How many of us can remember the feeling of sheer joy of moving our bodies, of being truly “in” our bodies, when we were little? When did we lose that? Could it have anything to do with forced physical education?
We don’t always do the things we “want to” do (or think we should do). I have a stack of books I want to read, but I sometimes sit and play games on my computer, and then later wish I’d spent that time reading. Why don’t I do the things that have a higher priority to me? Am I lacking in self-discipline? How will my kids learn not to procrastinate or flake?
Would forcing our kids to do things we think are good for them help them do a better job of making their own choices?
I don’t think so.
Instead, we can provide support for the choices our kids make for themselves.
THAT is a really good description of unschooling, but how do we tell the difference between “providing support” for something our kids do want to do and pushing or coercing them? I think it is something we learn through trial and error and being very sensitive and observant.We may sometimes nudge or even push something a little when we think our kids are a little fearful, for example, of doing what they really do want to do. When we do it, we are very very cautious and we pay close attention to what affect our support is having. We watch to see if it is encouraging our child, are they becoming more eager? Or, are they doing it a bit grudgingly? Are they becoming actually resistant? If we give a little push and they get started and they’re INTO it and obviously it is something they were wanting to do – then we know that we provided “support.” If they keep resisting, they moan and groan, you know that they’re not interested and you’re not providing “support,” you are coercing them into doing something they’re not interested in doing. After a while, you can fine-tune your awareness, and you’ll provide just the right amount of support with confidence that it is just what your children want and need.
Example: I knew, deep in my heart, that Rosie would love martial arts and yet she turned down all offers to sign her up. I thought that what was holding her back was not wanting to be embarrassed in front of a group at not being able to do it well. I finally pushed a bit – I said, “Please just try a class and see how you like it. One class. I think it is very likely you’ll love it, but if you don’t, that is fine.” She LOVED it! She now has a black belt and is an instructor at her studio. That’s support. If she’d not liked it and I’d kept making her go anyway, that would be counterproductive coercion.