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Why I Don’t Teach My Kids To Draw

培养孩子从画画开始 : 走进孩子的涂鸦世界

鸟居昭美著 ; 于群译

I read the Chinese translation of this book quite a while ago, and read it again recently after I chanced upon Mrs Kam’s post on the same book. It is one of the books which influence how I teach my kids to draw… or rather, how I don’t teach them to draw. Just like I don’t test my children, it is a conscious and purposeful decision.

The author is a renown early childhood educator in Japan with more than 50 years experience in the field, and an artist himself. According to him, young children’s drawings are a form of expression, just like young babies express themselves by crying. As such, adults should not so much look at their drawings but to ‘listen’ to their drawings. Listen to what the child is trying to express via his drawings. But once the child is taught how/what to draw, he loses the ability to use drawing to express himself.

The progression of children’s drawing is similar to their other developments as they grow – there is no hurrying them! However the parent’s way of ‘listening’ should change according to the child’s age. At 2-3 years old, we ask him ‘what is this’. At 4 years and older, we ask ‘what are they doing’ and listen to the narration. The author reminds us not to be overly zealous and keep questioning the child while he is working on his drawing.

It is not just formal art lessons which the author cautions against – adults drawing for the child, caregivers teaching the child to draw, guiding the child about using colours (‘why is your sky not blue?’), letting the child do colouring books are all included. He explains that instead of being free to explore what her hand movements can create, the child tries to control her hand movements to go a certain way as instructed. She loses the chance to learn new movements and the joy of exploration. In addition, the adult is imposing on the child what he feels, while the child is unable to express her own feelings according to her will.

I can’t find the English version of the book. Anyone knows whether there is one? The Chinese version is available from the library. Other than the points I have translated here, the book has many illustrations of the development of drawings for each age range and explains each point in more detail.

Kor Kor's drawings at 4 years old

Kor Kor’s drawings at 4 years old

These are not as advanced as the 4-year-olds' examples in the book, but given my inability to draw, I think he's already doing very well!

These are not as advanced as the 4-year-olds’ examples in the book, but given my inability to draw, I think he’s already doing very well!

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Learning About Emotions

After reading the Renegade Rules book, I decided to stop proscrasinating my search for books on emotions to read with the boys. This has been a topic often on my mind the past couple of years, but somehow I didn’t do anything about it. Hmm, I guess partly it’s because I don’t know how to talk about emotions with the boys. Not because they are boys, it’s not a gender thingy… More like, out of the blue, how to start talking about it?

As usual, the first thing I did was to google the topic. Got a sense of what other parents were doing for their children on this topic, got a list of recommended books, reserved them from the library.

“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!’ is truly hilarious. It is something the boys could easily relate to, as we had to keep answering ‘no’ when the pigeon kept asking whether he could drive the bus.

Wo Hao Dan Xin (original is Wemberly Worried) is about a little mouse who worries about everything, such as whether there is a snake in the heater and whether there is a monster in the crack in the wall. I like these two books for their simplicity, which allows Kor Kor and Didi to relate to the topic. The stories also provide opportunities for me to discuss similar emotions with the boys, like the things that they are refused, the situations when they are rejected, their fears and worries.

I had previously come across Feelings by Aliki quite a few times in webpages on teaching children about emotions. When I finally got my hands on the book, I wasn’t disappointed. The book touches on many different feelings, each as a separate ‘story’. One ‘story’ could be a poem, another a comics strip, another just one picture with some words, etc. And the way the author chose to present each story is very apt for the emotion and puts it across very well.

Because this book includes so many different feelings, it is not easy to finish going through the book in adequate depth with the boys just within a few weeks. It will be a good book to have around the house for us to refer to as and when the boys experience the feeling(s), thus I am going to buy the book. It’s definitely a keeper!

Frankly speaking, I still feel quite lost. But I do have a slightly better idea how to go about this now. I think the key is to open up channels of communication so that the children know that we can talk about how we feel. As we read books, not necessarily specifically on emotions, we can also discuss how the characters feel about their experiences and how the story makes us feel.

Hmm. I hope I can remember to include this important step in our readings! I have purchased many a few new books about emotions and shall update here as I go through with the boys. How do you teach your children about emotions?

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It’s OK NOT to Share… And Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids

I was just browsing and came across this book on Amazon (you know, ‘Customers who bought this also bought…’ But I usually buy my books from Book Depository). The title looked really interesting, so did the abstract, and the reviews were positive. No regrets reading this!

Parenting can be such an overwhelming job that it’s easy to lose track of where you stand on some of the more controversial subjects at the playground. In this inspiring and enlightening book, Heather Shumaker describes her quest to nail down “the rules” to raising smart, sensitive, and self-sufficient kids. Drawing on the work of more than a hundred child psychologists, educators and other experts, as well as her own experiences as the mother of two small children, Shumaker gets to the heart of the matter on a host of important questions.  (from the back cover)

The Rules

  1. Don’t steal play
  2. It’s OK if it’s not hurting people or property
  3. Kids need conflict
  4. All feelings are OK. All behaviour isn’t
  5. Let kids hit and kick
  6. “I hate you” is nothing personal
  7. Take dictation from your tot
  8. Go ahead: let him hate the baby!
  9. It’s OK not to share
  10. Let her hog that toy all day
  11. We’re not all friends here
  12. You can’t play = A-OK
  13. Hang up a “No Girls” sign
  14. Take rejection in stride
  15. Ban chairs – not tag
  16. Give kids power
  17. Only punch friends
  18. Bombs, guns and bad guys allowed
  19. Boys can wear tutus
  20. Pictures don’t have to be pretty
  21. Paint off the paper
  22. Stop saying “Good job!”
  23. Kids don’t have to say “sorry”
  24. Let your kid swear
  25. Love your kid’s lies
  26. Sex ed starts in preschool
  27. Be buddies with dead birds
  28. Make some enemies at the playground
  29. Goof up

Intrigued? I hope so : )

I shall share more on No. 9 here since it’s the title and also because it made a lot of sense to me when I read it. Having two children for the past two and a half years (and three children for the past seven months), I had told the boys to SHARE soooooo many times. I had got upset when they refused to share, when they refused to give up the toy to the brother even though they had played with it for a long time.

The author advocates that the one who had the toy first should get to keep the toy until he is ready to give it up. Instead of ‘teaching’ the first boy to ‘share’, we should teach the second one to wait. Waiting isn’t easy, so the adult should comfort and sympathize with the waiting child, perhaps by giving a hug, and telling him ‘I will hold you while you wait.’ The first child learns assertiveness, and the second child learns delayed gratification.

True story:

Kor Kor was playing with a toy. Didi came over and snatched it from him. Kor Kor tried to retrieve the toy. Didi refused to let go. Both boys were crying and screaming.

Me: Give the toy back to Kor Kor now and ask for the toy.

Didi: NO!!

I would gently (haha) take his hands and return the toy to Kor Kor.

Me: Say ‘Kor Kor, can I have the toy please?’

Didi (still sobbing and whining) reluctantly repeated the words after me after I told him numerous times.

In the past, this was where I got stuck. Didi had already asked Kor Kor nicely, but usually Kor Kor still refused to give up the toy, and he did have the toy first, so what should I do? Now:

Me: Didi, tell Kor Kor ‘When you have finished playing with the toy, please give it to me.’

Didi: Kor Kor, when you have finished playing with the toy, please give it to me.

Then I held Didi in my lap and we waited together. (Nope, no black face or threatening glare from me.)

Nine out of ten times, Kor Kor handed over the toy within one minute! Happily, willingly, with a smile on his face! (The other one time, he might play with the toy a while longer.. or urmm, Didi forgot about the toy and moved on to something else.)

Everybody happy!

Then, of course, within the next minute, DIdi abandoned the toy -.-“

This has also happened with the roles reversed.

Though I have to take a active role in this, and also have to spend some time sitting with the one who’s waiting, it’s no more time than having to referee two fighting boys anyway. The difference is the amount of yelling and crying and punishment and forcing. I would rather spend my time being a nice parent! I have only been doing this for a couple of weeks, hopefully the boys will be able to internalise this soon!

The Other Rules

I have been practicing some of the rules before reading this book, though perhaps not perfectly – Rule 1 (Don’t steal play), Rule 2 (It’s OK if it’s not hurting people or property), Rule 20 (Pictures don’t have to be pretty), Rule 21 (Paint off the paper), Rule 22 (Stop saying “Good job!” and Rule 23 (Kids don’t have to say “Sorry”). Rule 10 (Let her hog that toy all day!) is an extension of Rule 9.

I have also been inspired to start doing a few additional things since reading the book.

Rule 11: I have stopped referring to all other children as ‘your friends’.

Rule 15: I cleared an area in the house (by moving the things into the children’s bedrooms) so that the kids could have more space for crazy dashing about.

Rule 18: Yep, I am going to give them guns. Toys, of course.

Rule 26: I have been sourcing for suitable sex ed books to start off with the boys. The author recommended “Becoming the Parent You Want to Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years” which I am reading now.

Rule 27: Keeping a lookout for children books on death (gonna take it slow and easy cos it’s a heavy topic and I don’t want to scare the boys. But they have to face this sooner or later, so there’s no point avoiding it. Better to introduce them to it before it happens so that I have a chance to explain and assure.)

I like the book because the rules seem sound to me, the author explains why, and she gives advice on how to implement the rules. Now that I have finished this review and that the due date is coming soon, I feel quite sad about returning the book to the library!

We are learning to share better : )

We are learning to share better : )