Anna Brown joins me to answer listener questions. Click here to submit your own question to the Q&A Round Table!
Quote of the Week
“I like to peel back the layers, I don’t focus on addressing the behaviour, because it’s just a clue. Look at the clues for the underlying need. It’s typically things like needing food, too much stimulation, not feeling heard, needing space, needing connection etc. There could be things going on in the family, so watch for those. Watch for patterns to see if it’s certain times, places, individuals, activities, etc. Understanding the environmental triggers can help you and your son work to recognize the stress before it becomes an outburst.” ~ Anna Brown
Amanda’s Question (from Michigan, USA) [TIME: 5:59]
I’m single mom to two people: one a 4.75-year-old and one a 17-year-old. They are both boys, the older one in school, the younger not.
I’ve read the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, and the idea in a lot of the studies done by Wansink and his group is that choice about what to eat and how much to eat is subtly denied to us based on things like the location of the food and the size of the portions. Another theme is that companies that profit know how to encourage us to eat more of what they want us to so that they will make more money.
I’d like to encourage opportunities for the kids to choose their activity, without limiting activities by time or number (i.e. we stopped those controls on computer game time a couple years ago). It seems that the results of the Mindless Eating studies could be applied to other activities in which we are offered an endless feed.
So, to apply this to another activity, turning off the “autoplay” function in YouTube is a way to give ourselves the moment to make a choice about the next thing we’d like to do. I’m not judging the value of the activities we are choosing or spending our time on. I love food and YouTube. But I don’t want myself or my kids to be on a constant feed motivated by profit, without regard for our well-being or our actual curiosities.
Another example would be a computer game: choice-maximizing set-up would be that each time you finish a chunk, it would say, “Would you like to continue to the next level or save and quit?” Auto-feed set-up just keeps going until you take the initiative to quit out of it. There’s no problem with playing as many levels as you want, but Mindless Eating studies would seem to show you would CHOOSE to stop sooner if it weren’t on auto-feed.
I am not confusing a “feed” with flow. When I’m in the flow, it’s a special state, but I’m in charge of it. A “feed” is when I look up and think, “I can’t believe I just spent so much time on that: what a time-waster.” It is times like that when I wish Facebook had some red Pringles (Wansink study reference). Wansink has found that this is not a matter of an individual’s self-control or lack of, but of how we set up our surroundings or how they are set up for us.
What are some other things that you see on auto-feed that we could arrange to give the kids and ourselves more choice in how we spend our time?
Alisha’s Question (from California, US) [TIME: 17:24]
I have been listening to your podcast for awhile now (thanks to a friend for the referral :)) and I am so grateful for all of the information and support offered through the talks. I homeschool three children, ages 15, 14 and 9. I consider myself a relaxed homeschooler with the tendency to lean strongly to unschooling. My youngest is the force that steers me toward unschooling.
When I hear Anne O. in her talks in the Q&A episodes, I can really resonate with how she describes her son, Jacob. My youngest, from the get go, would not allow any teacherly stuff to happen. She knows what she wants and what she doesn’t want. It’s because of her that I have found solace in your podcasts. Her and I have shed many tears with my attempts to try and teach her. The moment I back off and let her lead the way, all seems to flow nicely in our household.
She’s highly sensitive and very active yet she refuses to do any outside classes/activities. We have tried to offer her fun classes either through our local community center, such as cooking (she loves to cook, but refuses to be taught or helped), gymnastics, martial arts, etc. I figure since she seems social and active and tends to get bored easily, that outside activities would help fulfill her. She refuses any of it and prefers to stay home. She loves to watch movies, occasionally she dives in and out of video games and she just loves to watch sitcoms/comedy with me. Her interests change daily but can include cooking, Legos, drawing, and playing with her toys.
My question is, should I continue to try to persuade her to take a class or two with the hopes of her finding something that she just might connect to? Or do I let her be. She does attend an indoor swimming lap pool, whenever she feels like it. Other than that, she wants nothing else. I tried to sign her up for an awesome cooking session, in a restaurant in San Francisco with a known chef, but she simply said no and that she doesn’t like classes. I am afraid that she just might miss out on things that she would otherwise not find without me seeking them out for her. I desperately want to fully unschool, and I see a huge difference when I lean into unschooling at home. The connection with all 3 of my children is so much stronger when I try to unschool. I don’t want to hinder any opportunities for her by not possibly encouraging her to try other outside activities. I hope I have made some sense!
Rain’s Question (from New York, US) [TIME: 29:01]
Hello Ladies. Thank you for your time, and answers.
My son, 9-years-old, has extreme anxiety disorder, and anger issues. Sometimes he is physically abusive friends and family and more frequently verbally abusive and disrespectful. We have chosen gentle parenting/radical unschooling. I have handled our issue in 2 ways #1 talking to him with no punishment, #2 Me yelling and sending him to his room and sometimes taking things away.
Nothing is working, I do not know what to do. Today he lost his last friend because of his name calling, this friends mother called me and made me feel like the worst parent with the worst child. I am so sad for my son, I do not know why he feels so negative so often.
Sorry it was long. Thank you for reading.
Sara’s Question (from Israel) [TIME: 39:26]
Hi there, I wanted to ask a question about video games and other so called “screen time.”
Whilst per se, I have no objection with “screens”—obviously they are a big part of my life, I am looking at one as I write this. I do worry about my children being exposed to and violent and sexually explicit things that either don’t need to be part of their life or that they might not need to know about until later when they have tools to process it. Do you/other unschooling parents monitor what is on the inside of the screens? How do you do this without interfering with children’s freedoms and interests?
The reason this is so pressing has more to do with my own experience than with current catastrophising about screens. I have a photographic memory and vivid imagination. I am still haunted by gruesome, violent or sexually violent things I saw in movies and TV I was exposed to as a child. I can recall the scenes in intense detail and it is very unpleasant for me… although it is a low scale irritation at this stage and not the abject terror I used to feel as a child, I still wish my parents had done more to keep these kinds of things away from me.
We don’t have a TV in our house (our choice, we don’t like it) but we do use our laptops a lot for all kinds of things, including watching some shows. As my son gets older, I’d really be interested in hearing about how people do or don’t guide their children’s usage of technologies? Is there a boundary? What is it?
Thanks a lot 🙂
Jana’s Question (South Africa) [TIME: 54:44]
Hi there. I am loving unschooling and my child 5.8 is thriving. We’ve been through the binge phase following our relaxation of TV restriction. My son still watches hours of TV and I try to leave him to it. However, I am concerned about the physiological effects on his developing brain. Medical professionals suggest less is more for young ones. We do try to talk to him about this, but he seldom responds from a kind of “self-care” basis. How do you deal with parental concerns about health without enforcing cut-off times?! Many thanks!
Links to things mentioned in the show
- Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink
- Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Pam’s blog post: “If You’re Bored, I’ll Give You Something To Do”
- on Sandra Dodd’s website: Karen James, on Boredom
- Ross W. Greene’s book, The Explosive Child, and his newest book, Raising Human Beings, can be helpful during the transition to unschooling
- in early May, Anna’s speaking to the Rochester Area Homeschoolers Association
- podcast episodes about parenting mentioned: Diving into Parenting with Anna Brown, Gentle Parenting with Shannon Loucks, and the book chat episode with Emma Marie Forde where we discussed attachment parenting
- a 60 Minutes piece on HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory): Endless Memory
- Anna’s website: choosingconnection.com