It helps unschooling and mindful parenting to be aware of your kids and their unique needs rather than treating them as generic kids with all the worst possible traits.

Joyce Fetteroll
November 29, 2007

Mindful Parenting and unschooling

Joyce Fetteroll's responses to a new reader's complaints on the Unschooling Discussion list once:
What IS the problem, is that I don't know what to replace Traditional Methods with. I wanted some suggestions.
Actually people *are* giving you suggestions! They are showing you how the principles of mindful parenting look when put in action.

Conventional parenting focuses on what children are doing. So you're expecting answers in the vein of "When children do x, then do y."

Mindful parenting looks for the why and then often the answer is "I wasn't mindful enough. I needed to be there *before* it got to this point."

Distraction is a good thing when they're headed in a melt down direction.

Being mindful so their needs can be met before they get to melt down is even better.

Avoiding situations that they've shown you that they aren't ready to handle yet is really really helpful to them and to you.

Tantrums aren't ordinary. They're "MY GOD WHY AREN'T YOU LISTENING TO ME!!!!" They are the breaking point.

Though, if a child has learned with time that their more subtle signals are useless and tantrums get attention, then tantrums can become their first line of communication. And some kids are more easily frustrated by their inability to communicate and their powerlessness that tantrums are more common.

Life *is* frustrating. Being mindful won't prevent kids from getting frustrated but it will be a huge step in the right direction. Seeing the world from kids' point of view will help you understand why they are reacting to the world as they are. Treat your kids as though they're doing the best they can with the knowledge and skills and understanding of the world they have.And often when they're at their worst, what works best is a hug.

I used to give them a time out (with explanation), then talk about what the behavior mistake was, ask for an apology (or request that they give their sister one), and then a hug & forgive & forget.
They're too young for you to expect that to work. Kids do need information but we can't depend on them understanding and then changing their behavior. So the answer is to prevent as much as you can by avoiding those situations, jumping in sooner, whisking them away to do something else. They won't be three forever! Their understanding and needs will grow and change as they get older.

Conventional parenting is not about being present with kids. It's about giving kids rules as a replacement for being there. Same can go for information. Information shouldn't be a substitute for being there and being aware. We should let kids know that cars can hurt them, which is why we steer them clear of the street. But we shouldn't then depend on kids understanding. We need to be there. We need to be aware of our child's tendencies to run to the street when in that type of situation. We need to avoid as much as we can places where they can run into the street until they can understand.

—Joyce Fetteroll

(In 2022 I tried to find a link to this quote, and failed; it might be lost.)