Thursday, May 07, 2009

Define Your Terms

Anyone who has ever participated in a philosophical or political debate or discussion understands that you won't get very far in explaining yourself if you and your discussion-buddy are defining your terms differently. Even the slightest difference can lead to fruitless misunderstanding. Always best to make sure everyone starts off on the same page.

After this amusing exchange with my daughter this morning, I've realized just how important defining your terms is outside of formal debate:

Me, making coffee in the kitchen: "Morgan, I noticed you didn't put on the underpants I laid out for you upstairs. Go put them on." (I put them in the hallway outside the bathroom where she was brushing her teeth and asked her several times to put them on before she came downstairs.)

She begins to wander aimlessly toward the family room.

Me: "Morgan, go upstairs. Your underwear is in the hallway by the bathroom."

She makes it upstairs and then calls down a few seconds later: "Where? Where? I don't see it!"

Me: "In the hallway by the bathroom!"

She, whining: "I can't find it!"

Me, feeling irritated: "In the HALLWAY by the BATHROOM!"

She: "What's a hallway?"

Alrighty then. So we all began our day with a little definition about the Parts of a House.

I really REALLY need to remember this the next time we're having one of those repetitive irritating discussions (predicting half a dozen more by the end of this day alone). Maybe I can save us all a little bit of frustration by saying something like "Are you confused about what I'm asking?" or "Is there something I'm asking you that you don't know how to do?" Hmmm....yes. Those might be useful parenting tools right there.

As an aside--it absolutely floors me that this child can read pretty well and count to 100 and use words like evidently correctly--and still didn't know what a hallway was. Funny how all that larnin' works, huh?


Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I think you have another gifted kid on your hands. She picks up on the words she hears you use, but is still little enough to be confused. Luckily, you caught it.

About defining terms: I think the most frustrating part of having a political discussion with someone from the left is that their terms seem to defy a static definition, even for the length of a conversation.

Rational Jenn said...

Elisheva: Agreed and agreed. I have little time (or fortitude) for in-depth political/philosophical debates, especially with people who refuse to stick to a definition. It's so tiresome. I find a "well, here's my point and now I've said what I need to say" strategy works well. Hmmm....just realized I use that strategy with my kids all the time! :o)

I bet you have an interesting perspective on "giftedness," with your research and as the mom of two gifted kids. Both of my kids are certainly bright, and the baby seems to be on track. Since we're homeschooling, we seem to be meeting their intellectual needs for now--and dealing with asynchronous development to a degree, too. I'd be interested in reading your thoughts about the whole gifted label/phenomenon sometime on your blog if you're ever inclined to write about it. Or maybe you have?

By the way--I'm terribly behind in my commenting, but I very much enjoyed your post about Progressives and the Tea Parties and shared it with many of my friends.

John Drake said...

That's too funny. One of my favorite discussions is the..."What's that over there?" pointing from the back seat of the car where I can't see his finger so I have no idea at what he is pointing.

I respond "What's what over where?"


"Can you describe it to me?"


Either he doesn't understand the question, or he doesn't have the words yet to describe it. Either way, its a fun exercise in frustration.

Kelly Elmore said...

I'm interested in hearing more about giftedness too. What does that mean exactly? Does it mean intelligence? I have some problems knowing exactly what that means too.

brendan said...

Kelly, that just means you're not gifted :-)

OK. I'm sorry. You know I really think you're very smart. But I just couldn't resist.

Kelly Elmore said...

Brendan, I have totally got you trained. You are worried I am going to burst into tears and get my feelings hurt, so you insult me and apologize in the same post!! :)))

Kelly Elmore said...

I guess it is easy to see specific talents in people, but it's hard for me to figure out a larger label. I can see that Livy is athletic. Morgan deals with letters and number with ease. Ryan has the talent of an unusual imagination. I can see that Jenn's memory is amazing. Brendan has an ear for music that is unusual. I have a way with spoken language. But I would think I could find one of those specific talents in anyone. So what exactly does gifted mean? Does it mean what Morgan has, and I think Jenn and I too, the specific set of talents that makes one good at school? Since we aren't doing school, I like the idea of getting away from that, in honoring the talents of each person and helping them to hone them and eventually find productive work that makes us of them. Thoughts on this?

Kelly Elmore said...

Makes USE of them.