Sunday, December 12, 2010

Let Consequences Do the Talking

As part of our Sonlight curriculum that we're using in our homeschool this year, we're reading a wonderful book of Aesop's fables:  The Aesop for Children, with pictures by Milo Winter.  The boys love it; and even though Josiah has read the whole book himself (several times, I believe), he still eagerly listens each day; and when I finish the page I'm reading, he begs me to read another one.  "But I like this one," he says as he glances at the following page.  "That's what you say every day," I tell him.  "Well, I like them all!" is his response.  True, that.

The only thing that I don't like is that the book uses an old-fashioned word for donkey, a word that has three letters and starts with "a," a word which I won't type here because I don't want this post to attract strange Internet searches.  I don't mind the boys hearing that word in the proper context so I read the fables as written when we're reading them together, but I'd be glad for my sons to remain ignorant of the slang meaning for quite some time.  How long can we preserve their innocence?

One of the fables that we read some weeks ago comes back to my mind repeatedly as a lesson in wise parenting.  Here it is, with my only editorial change being the use of the word "donkey" instead of...well, you know.

The Donkey and the Load of Salt

A Merchant, driving his Donkey homeward from the seashore with a heavy load of salt, came to a river crossed by a shallow ford.  They had crossed this river many times before without accident, but this time the Donkey slipped and fell when halfway over.  And when the Merchant at last got him to his feet, much of the salt had melted away.  Delighted to find how much lighter his burden had become, the Donkey finished the journey very gayly.

Next day the Merchant went for another load of salt.  On the way home the Donkey, remembering what had happened at the ford, purposely let himself fall into the water, and again got rid of most of his burden.

The angry Merchant immediately turned about and drove the Donkey back to the seashore, where he loaded him with two great baskets of sponges.  At the ford the Donkey again tumbled over, but when he had scrambled to his feet, it was a very disconsolate Donkey that dragged himself homeward under a load ten times heavier than before.

The same measures will not suit all circumstances.

What wisdom!  I'm especially impressed by how the merchant dealt with the situation, finding a way for the donkey to learn his lesson without long speeches from the merchant or harsh beatings.  He let consequences do the talking:  a very effective method of teaching.

I long to do better in this area.

I remember when I was in college, I had a certain professor, and the word spoken among students was that his young children were unruly because he tried to reason with them, and everybody knows you can't reason with a two-year-old.  But how many times do I find myself using an overabundance of words with Tobin when, in reality, the wisest approach would be to get my tongue out of the way and let consequences teach him important lessons.  I don't want to suggest that two-year-olds (or older children, or younger, for that matter) are incapable of receiving verbal instruction and so should not be taught in words.  Of course not!  But I do long for clear thinking so that I will be able to quickly discover ways to teach my sons the lessons that will prepare them for success in the future.

And just like the "Donkey" in this fable found out, many times, natural consequences are hands-down the best teacher.  May I have the wisdom to let them speak!

1 comment:

Leah said...

My week of final exams is coming up, and for one of my classes I have to devise a classroom management plan. One of the components that I'm including in my plan is natural consequences. I haven't heard this fable before, so thanks for reinforcing for me what I'm learning in my university classes! ;)