What kids understand

Happy Wednesday!

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“Fortunately the children have no words to define the panic and anger they feel at constant violations of natural order and sequence.”

– Jon Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down

At about 9 years old I discovered the joy of getting change back when you make a cash payment.

I discovered this in the lunch line at school.

One day, I paid with a single dollar bill instead of having the exact change of, if memory serves, 55¢.

I was thrilled when the lunch lady gave me a bunch of change!

The next day I deliberately gave her more than the 55¢. I gave her (again, if memory serves) 70 cents. She counted it, and handed me back my extra 15 cents.

How exciting! Getting money back! (It is a little peculiar, I know. But kids are kids, and this was over-the-moon thrilling for me.)

On the third day I scrounged a little bit of extra change, so I could know the fun of getting back change after paying for my lunch again.

But this time, I got a surprise:

The lunch lady snapped at me.

“Tomorrow you’d better not give me any extra! We’ve got to keep this line moving!”

I felt like she gave me an electrical shock. Here I thought we were having kind of a fun and pleasant exchange.

But now I understood that, instead, I was holding up the line and making people angry.

If I can’t even get through the lunch line without getting yelled at, what else am I doing wrong?
What else, I remember wondering, do I mess up like this?

My budding interest in the exchange of money was squashed that day.
As a kid this was one of the only daily interactions with money that I had – one of the only times that I could participate in the cash economy.

Which just goes to show: things our kids do that seem to make absolutely no sense to us, make perfect sense to them.

We never know what is going to enhance a child’s understanding, or what is going to hinder it.

But is that really true? Maybe there are certain ways we can interact with children, to help enhance (or hinder) their understanding.

Kids understand emotions. They get vibes.

They don’t necessarily understand the thought process behind or underneath those emotions, but you can bet they feel the emotions.

So maybe the best way to enhance their understanding is to remain calm.

Imagine if the lunch lady had, instead of snapping, told me calmly “I know this is fun, but it’s taking a little too much time… Do you think tomorrow you could bring me the exact change?”

In that way the vibe would have been completely different.

She had the opportunity to help me understand something about my world, while still helping me feel supported (and not like a dummy, who dreaded getting into line the next day.)

This week’s podcast episode is all about how to stop kids from being confused.
If you think about it, there was an awful lot of confusion in my interaction with the lunch lady.
What we want is for our kids to understand the context in which they live.

We want to help them make meaning out of their interactions, and out of their lives.

Here are 2 ways that you can help your child make meaning:

1. Help children understand context.
I believe that human beings are working to make meaning, from the moment we arrive in this world. A huge part of that is context.
You’ll have a better-behaved child if you can communicate the context of something that doesn’t make sense to them.
But most importantly that is also helping kids feel secure, and sure of themselves.

2. If something doesn’t make sense to your child, stop and help them figure it out.
This means:
– Answering their questions
– Letting learning and understanding happen at their pace
Connect with your child, bond with her, by creating a shared meaning between the two of you.

As part of this, I talk in today’s episode about Chief Inspector Gamache, a fictional hero of mine from the mind of brilliant author Louise Penny. Gamache shares 4 things his agents can say, to get to the heart of any situation:
I need help.
I don’t know.
I’m sorry.
I was wrong.
Today I ask you to incorporate those into your life with your young child.

To get a more fleshed-out understanding of these, definitely listen to this week’s’s episode of the We Turned Out Okay podcast! You can find links just below my signature.

Thanks for reading!


Keep reading below for What’s up on the podcast/In the Facebook group/in NPC…

Wishing you a wonderful parenting week!

What’s up on the podcast this week:
We discuss context, confusion, and how children make meaning on the show this week. It’s the third in our “How to stop school from screwing up your child” series!
Click the link below to listen!


What’s up in the We Turned Out Okay Facebook group this week:
I share one tip from each of the 7 great parenting resources mentioned at the very tippy top of this newsletter. Click here to check it out!


What’s up in the Ninja Parenting Community:
What to do when your child struggles with sharing or taking turns!
(If you’re not a member yet, but want to become one, click here.)


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