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Archive for January, 2010

This is a guest post from Harry Cheetham, son of blogger Tracey Cheetham. We so rarely get to hear children’s voices outside of patronising “kids say the funniest things” programmes and articles so I thought Wild Rumpus could provide a place where children could speak without being ridiculed or patronised.

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My Mum asked me to watch Prime Minister’s Questions with her this week. We both had swine flu and were lying in her bed watching TV.  When she saw it was time for PMQs she wanted to put it on but I didn’t.  She asked me if I would watch it with her so she could put what I thought about it on Twitter, she likes Twitter and talks to people on there every day. 

It was funny to see the men shouting at each other. They were rude and kept shouting when someone else was talking. I would get into trouble at school for that.  I didn’t understand what they were on about much and my Mum had to tell me. I asked her lots of questions. She wrote them on Twitter for people on the Internet to read and told me what she thought and what people said.

I want to watch it again but I am at school when it’s on.

This is a transcript of Harry’s comments/questions:

He needs to stick his hair down (Jamie Reed) #harrypmqs #pmqs

I was just told to be quiet, so Harry can hear what’s going on! #harrypmqs #pmqs

How does the Speaker choose who speaks? If he’s got a list, what if someone else comes up with a good idea? #harrypmqs #pmqs

Why do they always shout? #harrypmqs #pmqs

It’s a bit rude isn’t it? #harrypmqs #pmqs

What’s point in all those ppl being there if only a few get to talk? [To hear answers] Why so they can go & tell their wives? #harrypmqs #pmqs

They might be being careful what they say because the cameras are there. #harrypmqs #pmqs

I bet they all go home & tell their kids not to be rude! #harrypmqs #pmqs

Say please!!! #harrypmqs #pmqs

[You’re sounding like the manners Police!] Well, they’re being rude, shouting! [This is quite good] *That* is good? #harrypmqs #pmqs

Why do they move onto another subject before the question has been answered? #harrypmqs #pmqs

Does he just answer the questions or does he actually do what they ask as well? #harrypmqs #pmqs

Is that where tax goes – to paying them? #harrypmqs #pmqs

I hope Tracey was able to answer Harry’s questions; I know I would not have been able to answer all of them.

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This is a guest post* by Sarah Brykczynski who writes at Moonbeam Disco.

I’ve been told I have far too many rules in my family, and I’ve also been told that I don’t have anywhere near enough.

In my family there are lots of rules but they can basically be broken down into two categories, rules that keep us safe, and rules that keep us functioning as a family. The first category would include not leaving things in high traffic areas of the house where someone could trip and fall. The second category would include not ever hitting each other. When we are angry we might sometimes yell at each other, but we always choose words over hands.

Some of the safety rules that we have just apply to our son, because he is after all not even four yet.

For example, a safety rule we have is that preschoolers only use dangerous tools, like sharp knives, with an adult. These tools are only ever used with hand over hand supervision. They are used often and thus far he’s not cut himself while helping me slice cucumbers, nor burned himself while helping assembling his police station made from plastic bottles and containers.

My child wants to be able to do everything I can do, and I’m teaching him how to do it safely, to the best of my ability. I’ve not meet very many parents that share my perspective on how important it is to teach children how to do things safely and properly.

In my opinion this world is filled with dangerous things; this doesn’t mean you must avoid these dangerous things (like stoves and sewing machines and power tools) you just respect the heck out of them and follow all the safety rules.

This doesn’t mean my child has free access to these things, but he has used them, and he is learning how to use them properly. There are also some safety rules that apply just to the adults. For example, dangerous tools are always put away safely after use, so after using the hot glue gun unplug it and put it back in the arts and crafts drawers.

There some rules I thought only applied to my son that it turns out apply to me too.

One our most important safety rules is the “STOP” rule, and it’s just what it sounds like; if someone screams “STOP!” at you then you stop whatever you are doing immediately. The stop rule is a very, very serious rule that only ever applies to incredibly serious situations.

For example, if I saw my child about to smear chocolate all over the couch I wouldn’t yell “STOP”, but if I saw my child about to run onto a busy street I would yell “STOP!” It is because of this that the stop rule is effective. 

But somehow when I try to explain this the idea does not get across to most people. Yes I let my almost four-year-old walk independently down the street with me (i.e. not holding my hand) next to traffic because I know that if I yell “STOP” he will.

So what happens if he doesn’t stop right? Well, I honestly don’t know because it’s never come up. (Also I know my son very well, and if he’s over tired, over hungry, or just in a kind of mood where I think it’s possible he might not stop then I don’t give him the opportunity, we hold hands instead, and I don’t think he’s ever had a problem with this.)

The way it goes is that he if is about to do something incredibly dangerous I yell “STOP” and he stops, then asks “why?” I explain how what he was about to do would have dire consequences.

I’ve been told “Well that would never work with my child, no matter how many time I tell my child to stop something, my child just won’t stop.”

And I usually have to bite my tongue; because this is not some kind of a control measure used to prevent children for “misbehaving”, but so many families use it this way.

This is a safety rule that ensures a child’s safety and freedom. I mean, if you yell “STOP” and the child asks why and the answer is “because it will make a big mess” (as opposed to “you could end up badly hurt, even in hospital”) then it will not be an effective safety rule.

The whole system is based on trust.

I trust that he will respect this rule and he trusts that I will enforce this rule to keep him safe.

If you can’t trust your child or your child can’t trust you then the whole system falls apart.

I can hear all those skeptics saying “But to trust such a small child especially in matters of his personal safety is negligent because he only needs to not listen once to be seriously injured or even killed.” Well, I agree with the last part one hundred percent and so does my son. He takes our rules very seriously.

As for the other sort of rules, they are important too, and they ensure that we can all live together in harmony. While failure to comply with these rules do not have dire consequences, they nurture the trust and respect we treat each other with. We don’t have any family functioning rules that only apply to preschoolers. I think of these more as social survival rules, rules like we don’t messy with each other’s stuff. So preschoolers wouldn’t crayon on a wall, and adults wouldn’t recycle paperwork without consulting the owner of the paperwork. 

 My son has stuff, and he knows what is his. I have stuff, and he knows what’s mine. I know that if he is using his scissors to cut up his papers, I can be in another room without fearing he will start cutting up things that are not his. If he finds something that he wants to cut, and it’s not his, he will ask me “Can I cut this?” because he understands. Why is it sure a hard concept to grasp that children (and their property) deserve the same respect adults (and their property) do?

 Why is it so hard to see that my rules work really, really well for my family? And why do complete strangers feel they are obliged not only to try to undermine our rules but also question our ability to care for our child because we trust and respect him? 

*This blog was set up to talk specifically about issues in the UK as the conversations on the internet regarding gentle/natural/unconditional parenting do generally seem to be dominated by the US and Canada. However, guest posts from outside the UK are acceped if they are generic in nature rather than discussing issues unique to that country.

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One of my favourite poets is Adrian Mitchell, the late “Shadow Poet Laureate” who died in December 2008.

Mitchell is best known as a political poet, but many of his poems were concerned with family, friendship and love. This includes a number of moving poems about his parents, with whom he clearly had a happy, loving and warm relationship. (He wrote a response to Philip Larkin’s This Be The Verse which begins: “They tuck you up, your mum and dad…”)

Along similar lines, I loved this poem from his final collection (Tell Me Lies: Poems 2005-2008):

Early Daze

I was born on the Moon
On a sunlit night
it was Saint Diablo’s Day
My Egg cracked apart
with a happy heart
I dived into the Milky Way

I was found in that bath
by my Father and Mother
A Unicorn and a Dove
They took me to their home
In an ice-cream Dome
And all they ever taught me was to do with Love
And everything they taught me was to do with Love

I’m not a big one for new year resolutions, but if I had one ambition for the coming year it would be for our children to be able to say at the end of it, of me and E, “all they ever taught us was to do with Love”. Easier said than done, alas…

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