Chapter One opens with a story about a sweet little eight year old who was entering third grade. His parents were both professionals in education and government, and they lived in the city. The little boy was a picky eater, an intelligent speaker with adults but had trouble connecting to his peers, avoided any risk taking, and was a bit anxious. James was often in the midst of a stream of adult information about political and adult intellectual topics. The parents decided the best way to help James was to work on rhythm, and decrease the amount he overheard regarding world news, politics and topics like global warming. When this was done, the sleep of the little boy improved and his outdoor play expanded. His anxiety decreased.
The authors ask, “Was all of this directly attributable to the changes James’s family made? Was it lack of TV? Less talk of global warming? Can we point to any one thing that made the real difference? My answer to that would be no, and yes. I don’t think there was any one thing, any magic bullet that obliterated James’s nervousness and controlling behaviors. But the steps taken to protect James’s childhood definitely had an effect.”
Simplifying the world of a child often leads to growth and positive change. This can often be so difficult in societies and cultures that pride themselves on fast solutions to everything from parenting to business. It can also be difficult in societies that do not view the protection of children as something that should happen, but rather a “how fast can we move them along” mentality. Kim John Payne points out that many of the children he saw attempted to exert some control through picky eating, sleep, the way they behaved toward their parents, their ordering of their environment, their play toward other children, aggressive behavior toward their parents, nervous behavior.
I agree with this in a sense. I have seen this quite a bit in consulting with homeschooling families, the children I taught at Sunday School, and children I have observed in my hospital work. However, sometimes a picky eater is a child who has sensory challenges or the picky eating is related to physiologic issues of prematurity and has nothing to do the amount of information the child is exposed to or the pace of life. (But this is not to excuse over-scheduling of children of course!). So I do think a list of all possible causes and etiologies has to be discerned before moving forward with any kind of a plan.
Kim John Payne likens the cumulative stress our children are often under to the children he worked with in refugee camps that had PTSD. His point, though, is not that everyday, normal stress should be eliminated. Children need the chance to experience “frustrated desires, illnesses, sorrows and losses. Their lives are not stress free, and childhood is not a series of “rainbow moments”, each lovelier than the next.”
I think we often work far too hard to give our children a day full of “rainbow moments’’, with each day trying to top the previous day. Rhythm, repetition and being home can be an antidote for this problem. When we teach our children from an early age that the best things happen away from home, when we spend money or some variation in order to have those “rainbow moments”, when we show our children that life should be nothing but fun and happiness and new experiences, I think we are setting up a platform that will be hard for the child to sustain themselves once they become a teenager and young adult.
We up to page 10 in Chapter One; I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. What did you gleam from the first part of this chapter?