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Gus Van Horn blog

Reblogged:Not a Bad Idea

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Over at the Let Grow! parenting blog is a an idea whose effectiveness I can already (accidentally and partially) attest to:

This idea is radical -- and easy. When you're fretting about something, ask your kids for advice.

That's a cool technique Adam Grant, the ubiquitous writer/TED talker/podcaster, espouses in this Atlantic video. The idea is to normalize the idea that life is often confusing or hard. And to normalize asking for someone else's input. And to normalize the fact that kids are not just advice recipients, they can have insights, too. [links omitted]
Without having listened to the Atlantic video, this sounds good in between the extremes of asking questions with obvious answers (at the risk of being patronizing -- or normalizing the idea that you're an idiot) and asking questions that are impossible for them to even understand (and normalizing the idea that everything is boring or complicated).

But how effective is the advice? Potentially very effective: What children might lack in knowledge or life experience, they often make up with connections that your habits or distraction might make less obvious, or with an eagerness to help. My son did this when he was just three:
After observing me brush off the cars while we were outside, he also spoke up to offer me a good idea for the first time. I was showing him how he could loosen show from his boots by kicking at the steps. He said I should just use the brush...

This isn't the first time my son has offered me solid help: He is good enough at remembering where things are that, if I am unsure, I can often ask him where something is and have him come back with it, moments later.
And then, of course, if you pay attention, you can take advantage of their special talents, as in the second example above shows. Here's another example, from right after school:
Things like this don't phase my daughter. (Image by Yathin S. Krishnappa, via Wikipedia, license.)
[My daughter, seven at the time] had often amazed me with her ability to spot things that blend into backgrounds...

I had lost my black-framed eyeglasses earlier in the day, and was afraid that they might get damaged, so I warned the kids: "You don't have to go looking for them, but watch out for my glasses when we get home. I lost them, and I'm worried that someone might sit on them or step on them."

Within minutes of getting home, my daughter piped up, "Daddy, I found your glasses!"

Where were they? On a black step stool in the downstairs bathroom.
If your kids haven't already done something like this, or you haven't noticed, this advice is worth following.

I plan to be alert for more chances to follow it myself.

-- CAV

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