Sunday, January 24, 2010

Parenting Through Literature

The other night, I was driving home from a friend's house in some pretty serious Atlanta Traffic (which is nothing short of disastrous on a typical day). Morgan and Ryan were shrieking and fighting in the back of the minivan, and I was getting stressed out from the Noise and Traffic Combo. I was on the highway with no easy way of pulling the car over (my usual method of dealing with backseat distractions).

Knowing I had a difficult merge ahead of me in a few miles, I reminded them of the scene from Little House on the Prairie, where the family is crossing a creek in the covered wagon. The creek rose suddenly, creating a dangerous situation for Pa, who was leading the horses, and Ma, who was in the seat of the wagon. Ma told the girls to keep quiet and keep their heads down, in that stern Ma Tone of Voice that told them they'd better do what she said.

By the way, I've often yearned to have that Ma Tone of Voice, haven't you? And I can do it on occasion, but I suspect it's impossible for me to truly recreate it, since Ma and I have very different parenting ideas. I'm not trying to slam Ma, but she probably valued obedience a whole lot more than I do. (Also, I tried to find the passage, so I could quote it from the book, but I can't put my hands on our copy of LHOP just at the moment, due to our Floor Project and all of the rearranging of stuff underway. I guess you'll just have to find it yourself!)

But I digress.

So I reminded the kids about this scene in the book, and I compared our situation to theirs. It was a delicate proposition, by the way, because I wanted them to see my point, but also not to freak out and unnecessarily worry.

They were fine with the idea, and quieted right down. Once or twice, they'd forget and start up again, and all I needed to say was "Ma and Pa! Ma and Pa!" And then they'd hush.

The very next night, we were traveling again on the highway, this time in the rainy dark. Again, a somewhat frantic "MA AND PA!" got my message across very nicely.

So there it is--a new tool for your Parenting Toolbox, if you want it. Free of charge. And also, a nice book to share with your kids, if you haven't thought of doing so already!

And if you ever hear me scream "MA AND PA!" you know you'd just better hush. :o)


Daisy said...

Awesome! Text to life connections. Can you think of a story that will stop the whooping like Indians? ;-)

Amy said...

My husband and I were just talking about this exact subject and I was thinking of a post about it. If you think about it, kids need literature for the exact same reason that adults do. They need concretization of essential but abstract human issues.

Hooray for books!

Jennifer Hudock said...

My daughter is an avid reader, and has been since she was very small. This is a great post, as I can think of dozens of scenarios in which literary reference made a great tool--especially when trying to get a difficult concept or point across. The fact that kids don't drive, they can't possibly understand how stressful it can be, how much concentration it takes. Great way to get your point across.

Lady Baker said...

Thanks for the laugh and I agree the literature / art connections are so helpful. I just did it today with something obscure (precision is escaping me) and he looked at me like it was totally logical in his world. I think it was something about... oh, yes, I was explaining suicide. It started with the phantom in Phantom of the Opera because I had been singing and he wanted to know the story. Then we got into how psychologists are doctors that help people when there's a thinking problem because if someone thinks killing themselves is their only choice, they probably need some help with thinking. Then he wanted to know how the doctor helped and we talked about how a psychologist could help them see where their thoughts didn't match what was real, what other choices they could have and... oh, it went on. Just your normal, everyday, breakfast conversation with a six year old :)

de durata said...

yes, i agree jennifer. for kids driving is all abour "how long untill we get there?!!" :)

Heike said...

You are so great at putting things in words! We have been doing a lot of this - referring to parallels in books we read when we have things happening in our daughter's life - but I never thought about putting it in words so clearly. Thanks - and yes, Amy, horray for books!