I know lots of friends who would disagree with this. They believe that their kids will thank them in the future for pushing them to do music or sports or art or whatever lessons. I WANT to believe Laura. And I do practice what she’s preaching. But I do worry that I’m not doing the right thing. However, since I’m not into coercion in general and for learning in particular I would be hypocritical to take a different path from the one Laura advocates. And how much achievement, how good can a child feel if he/she only succeeds if they’re ‘strongly persuaded’ to do that thing? Maybe they would be happy to do music classes, but not that instrument or voice lessons instead? Maybe they would do a sport but not that sport etc…? The problem is, you don’t know if you did it right, for your particular child, until it’s too late, until they grow up and either say, ‘Thanks so much for not pushing me into doing anything’ or ‘Thanks so much for making me do xyz’. Perhaps it’s evident from the start what kind of child one has. If after pushing the kid says, ‘I really enjoyed that, thanks for making me do it’ (or in so many words), perhaps you know you’re on the right path. But my child has never said anything at all like that so I think perhaps he’s the type who needs to find his own way. I certainly have never been thankful for being pushed to do anything and anyway, rarely was. Who knows? At the moment, I am all for trying to find my kids’s fascinations and helping them pursue them only for as long and as far as they want to do so.
“Young children seem to recognize that knowledge is an essential shared resource, like air or water. They demand a fair share. They actively espouse the right to gain skill and comprehension in a way that’s necessary for them at the time. Often children seem to reject what they aren’t ready to learn, only to return to the same skill or concept later with ease. This is not only an expression of autonomy, it’s a clear indicator that each child is equipped with an learning guidance system of his or her own.”
I wrote these words two years ago in my book Free Range Learning. This concept is now being called the “Goldilocks effect.” According to a study published in the journal PLoS ONE, humans are cued to ignore information that is too simple or too complex. Instead we’re drawn to and best able learn from situations that…
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