“Our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”– M. Scott Peck
Can you relate to that? To coming up against a feeling that accepting the status quo just might not work any longer? That some of the “should’s” and “have-to’s” are rooted in misconceptions and “that’s-just-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it”?
Peck’s words form one of the guiding quotes in Heather Shumaker’s newest book,It’s OK to Go Up the Slide: Renegade Rules for Raising Confident and Creative Kids (*affiliate link), and explain her drive to question everything in order to give kids what they really need, rather than what we’ve simply assumed they should accept.
For example, “kids should hug and kiss their relatives and be hug and kissed by them, because that shows love and good manners.” Heather Shumaker challenges that notion, saying kids need to be the “boss of their body”.
“Kids today need more homework and at earlier grades to get ahead in this competitive society.” Not so fast, Heather writes, pointing out that research doesn’t show academic benefits for this increased load at an early age.
“When school’s out, young kids need plentiful time to play, sleep and be supported by their families so they can be ready for the next school day. Research consistently shows that homework in elementary school does have an impact, but the impact is negative: homework turns kids off school and learning,” Heather says.
If Heather Shumaker’s name and style seem familiar to you, that’s because her book,It’s OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids (*affiliate link) was our Read-Along book in 2014, during which she graciously offered her time engaging in Google chats after each section (check out the posts and videos here). I loved getting to know her and to hear her expand on her perspectives through that series.
In both books, Heather addresses the chasm between what we know kids need, and what we do, a topic, I obviously love. While her first book was aimed primarily at the preschool crowd, this book grows up right along with the kiddos, addressing topics usually broached as children enter the early school years. As she says, this book “picks up where the first book left off.”
Topics range across the spectrum. There are discussions about real safety over defaulting to “stranger danger”, getting the right dose of technology, giving kids ownership of their learning, and helping kids through social conflict, along with many other thorny issues.
Heather says herself in the introduction, “We are bound to disagree at times. It’s OK if you love one chapter and can’t stand the next. My hope is this book will help you clarify your personal renegade convictions, spark new thinking, and inspire adults to make the world a better fit for children. Sometimes that means going up the slide.”
I love that perspective. This isn’t about telling you what your child needs or should do. Quite the opposite. It’s about helping you recognize that what we simply accept as the “norm” isn’t always what is best for your child. It’s a voice of reason, encouraging you to listen when you get the feeling that something just isn’t right, and showing the data and the rationale behind why you may not be the only one feeling that way.
This isn’t a campaign to turn our kids into “special little snowflakes”. But it is asking us to simply take off the autopilot and ask, “Why do we do it this way?” and “Is this really what’s best for our kids?” I don’t think that constitutes spoiling or coddling our kids. It’s simply being conscientious and intentional as a parent. We owe it to our kids to be awake at the wheel.
As Heather says, “It’s not comfortable to buck the system. As new parents we tend to think, “if everybody’s doing it, it must be right.” That attitude didn’t work back in high school, and it doesn’t work now. We have to think for ourselves and question practices that impact our kids.”
One topic certain to get the attention of parents of young children is Heather’s call to “Reconfigure Kindergarten”, arguing that what modern kindergarten offers and what kindergarten-aged children really need are too often at odds.
“The kids are the same as they’ve always been, but our cultural expectations have dramatically changed.” (I couldn’t agree more.) “Kindergarteners have so much they’re ready to learn. When we impose a suite of academic expectations on young kids before they’re emotionally, socially and cognitively ready, that’s miseducation”, which she describes in the book as “teaching the wrong things at the wrong times”.
If you’ve ever felt a mismatch between what your child needs and what the status quo has to offer, and have wondered what you can do about it, you will love this book. It goes on sale officially tomorrow, March 8th, and is available for presale at this Amazon affiliate link.
Heather is also offering free gifts for anyone who buys It’s OK to Go Up the Slide this week. Just order the book before March 13, 2016 and you’ll receive free gifts of a special edition, one-hour podcast about the book plus a set of inspirational quotes for your fridge. Simply 1) buy the book from any bookstore 2) send an email to email@example.com saying where you bought it.
I was lucky enough to get an advance copy and have been loving the sections I’ve read. I’m excited to dive in and read it more in depth. I’d love to hear what you think about it when you pick it up!