Do You Encourage your Kids to Have a Voice?

Giving the kids a voice

The other day we had another friend here (she is 12 and also an unschooler) and it was the kids turn to make lunch. The friend didn’t want to make lunch, so neither did the kids. I was all hooked and triggered and so was Anthony, so he bounded in saying ‘Well, if your friend doesn’t want to make lunch she can go home’ then I bounded in and talk to her and said ‘ I love having you here but if you want to be here, when you come you have to join in or else if you don’t want to you can go home’ It sounds terrible when written down and actually it sounds terrible either way. My point was if other kids are here it would be great if they could help out, it wasn’t necessarily a valid point.

So I was faced head on by my 11 year old daughter, she had her hands on her hips and her face was twitching. She was calmly raging but being very cool and together on the outside and she very clearly stated. ‘Let me just ask you something?’ she said ‘When your friends come here do you ask them to GO HOME when they don’t offer to make lunch?’ And I thought about it and she was waiting for the answer and I squirmed and said ‘Well, in truth most of my friends that come for a while, to stay for a few days for example DO help with cooking and would I ask them to go home…Erm..?’ I knew she was right actually. I went on to say ‘I might talk to them about it…if they were staying for a long time…’ She then said very clearly ‘But would you send them home?’ And I realised she was right, it was rude and aggressive and no of course I wouldn’t act like that and I most definitely would not send them home. So I said ‘Er No’

So, her point was, why should I assume that just because a friend is over they HAVE to help, they don’t. So I went back and asked the friend if she would like to help and that it would be great but it is also fine if she doesn’t and I really meant it. So in that moment it was about me and Anthony and our expectations.

So to me it is about being democratic and talking things through and giving the kids a voice. There is a downside, which is ultimately an upside, in as much as we have taught them to be strong and questioning and so sometimes when I just want them to do what I say it isn’t that simple. Teaching your kids to have a voice means that THEY HAVE A VOICE. The old scripting doesn’t work. When I am tired there are times when I want to just dictate from high and tell them how it is. But I have to catch myself and I stop. The truth is if I find that I am talking to them in such a way that I wouldn’t talk to a friend or another adult then generally something is out of kilter. It makes it tricky when we are with the older generation some of whom are used to children being in a certain way, it must be blooming frustrating for them, but barking at our kids and giving them orders does not work.

Although we are by no means perfect in this regard, not at all… the other day I found myself barking at my son and said I would fine him a Euro if he did that high pitched scream again. He tends to do it when he sees a grass hopper, because in his opinion they are so random. It is a very loud.

I am trying to do the best as I can, it can be bumpy. What  I want more than anything is that when they are adults they will remember strongly that they have a voice, it is valid and that they have the right to be listened to.

 

 

A snippet from UNSCHOOLING THE KIDS.

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About the Author

Lehla is an illustrator and an author of books, she has written for The Guardian. She trained as an actress at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She wrote The South African Illustrated Cookbook, The Lovely Book for Wonderful Women and she illustrated a kid’s book by M.J. Amani called ‘Excuse Me, I’m Trying to Read’ and also ‘I am Me, You, Us and We’ by Caroline Trowbridge. Above all she is a mother to three fast growing kids, she juggles her time between them and working on new books and projects. She has recently co authored with Anthony ‘Jump’, Fall, Fly – from schooling, to homeschooling, to unschooling’ Her art work can be seen at http://lehlaeldridge.wix.com/lehla-

6 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Ros Barber says:

    It’s a interesting life for those of us who have taught our kids that they will be listened to. Although it doesn’t always make for easy parenting, what it *does* mean is that we are sometimes forced to face our own wrong-headed thinking – as in your example – and as uncomfortable as that can be, it’s a very good thing all round. (I’ve had many of these occasions myself.) Parents are no more “always right” than any human being is “always right”, and that’s good for both sides to know. Especially as we were generally given our model of parenting by less-than-perfect parents and will sometimes unconsciously parent in the same style.

    And what empowered beings we are raising who will go into the world able to stand up for themselves, with the ability to reason and petition for justice like your daughter did. I knew my voice didn’t count as a child: I was raised disempowered, and on some levels (not necessarily obvious to others) remain disempowered. I find it hard to stand up for myself in certain situations – with authority figures particularly. How brilliant to know that our daughters (in particular) will be able to speak up for themselves. It is a gift they will be benefit from for the rest of their lives.

  2. Yes Ros, I think that having a voice as a child is such an important thing. And as you say it is not always comfortable for the parent. But yes I love it that our kids stand up for themselves and they speak thier minds. I do feel we are instilling something deep in them. Especially for the girls but also for our son. When my daughter had her hands on her hips and was cross with me, I had a huge moment of pride, even though I was thoroughly busted as I had a glimpse of her as a strong woman speaking her truth. Yes I think it is a gift, helping your kids have a voice and like you say it doesn’t always make for easy parenting but it is worth it.

  3. VegGal says:

    I just found your site today, and love that this is what I read. I’ve been too terrified to homeschool, let alone in school thus far, but this idea of teaching my kids to have a voice has been important to me. I’ve only been a mom for 5 years, but right away I notice how so many people didn’t have sympothy for my tough days because they feel that it’s my fault I don’t just demand my kids listen to my orders.

  4. Hi VegGal,
    I think it sounds like you are a lovely Mum and great that you teach your kids to have a voice! Keep on doing it. And I am sending you strength for your tough days!

  5. creekrose says:

    just wanted to say i love this!! especially the hands on the hips, head on with your daughter 🙂 my 12 year old (layla) gets hand -on -hippy with me when she feels like i’ve been unjust (usually i have been!) and has no qualms in taking me on with that stance . . . .even though it’s a bit of a flabbergasting moment being in the actual experience, i rejoice that she is comfortable in owning the experience like that, tells me she is the author of her moments, her voice is as yet her own, that she’s freely fearlessly being herself if you know what i mean, free to sing her disquiet (or as it was to get red in the face and roar it) . . . and reading your piece informs me that yes, yes, there are others who do like we do, somewhat, less or more, more or less, call it unschooling or free learning or what you will 🙂

  6. Hi,

    Wow, you have a daughter called ‘Layla’ it sounds like she has a voice! Great! I love your blog, I want to know more about you guys and what you are up to…

    Love
    Lehla

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