Saturday, December 15, 2007

ECFE Winter Session, Day No. 1: "I'm taking the class to learn how to get my kids to listen!"

We started the winter session of our ECFE (early childhood and family education) class today.

It is the fourth consecutive ECFE class we've had and the first one with a significantly different mix of parents. Our first class, nearly a year ago, was a GLBT parent class.

I'll never forget that first day last year. Only Big and I went at first. I had hoped to get into a class during the week, but only got into the Saturday morning one. We went, and I was unprepared for it to be a course in which half was spent with the children, and half was spent separated into an adult-only room in which the group of adults talked about parenting issues with a facilitator.

That time marked the end of an eight month period in which I had not been working, spending my days with Big, watching him turn one. I was to return to school (albeit only two days per week) the following week, so this was my first taste of separation and it was unanticipated and I was uncomfortable.

The first day was great though. The facilitator, it turns out, was (and is) incredible. She has this great ability to weave themes of parenting through the 10 week trimesters without having a detailed linear curriculum.

The parents, too, have become invaluable members of a community in our lives and we followed and became close with several families in that class and then we all continued to sign up together. This session, however, we lost a couple of couples (I think they didn't sign up in time) and the course is filled with new people.

We went around the room, introducing ourselves, giving a little personal background, had we taken an ECFE course before? and what we expected out of the course, etc. etc.

We got around the table to a very friendly couple with whom I had connected during the child play-time. They seemed very interesting and interested in parenting generally, and in creating a community. When it came to the husband's turn, he joked that he was here because "the boss told him to come" (it was really a joke) and that he wanted to learn how to "get his kids to listen."

The teacher (ala parenting guru) responded by saying that, in fact, we'd probably be learning how to listen to our kids, or, exactly the REVERSE of the man's goal.

When at least two other occasions, the man repeated his goal for the class, those of us who had had this particular instructor before chuckled amiably. Although the instructor is incredibly gentle in her techniques, it is, I believe, her sincere belief and obvious intention for our evolution as parents to become more intuitive with our kids. To grow in relationship to them, to increase our connection, to respect their beings and to foster their inner selves and gently support their self-esteem along the way. The two books that have been recommended during the course (one of which I first heard about on Lesbian Dad) perfectly reflect her philosophy are Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn and Kids are Worth It: Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline by Barbara Coloroso.

This, clearly, does not boil down to 'getting them to listen'.

We'll see how this class evolves. I'd be lying if I didn't hope Seven and Big listened a bit more!


hw said...

Wow! These sound like pretty interesting classes. I'm gonna check out those books you listed.

As adoptive parents, we haven't done any new parenting education since becoming parents...well, anything other than the "learning on the job" kind.

MaMaMia said...

Personally, I have struggled with UP. When I first read the book, I felt like crap. I put it down, not feeling like I could take any more how-totally-wrong-our-techniques-have-been-forever feeling. But it kept eating at me. Every time I would use a technique I would think back to the book and the "damage" I was causing. I started reading it again, and again, felt terrible. I had to skip ahead, because, let's face it, I could only read about 6 paragraphs a night, and the suspense was killing me! The problem was, I didn't glean a whole lot of alternatives to deal with situations.
I can really see this guys point and his reasons seem quite plausible. I just wish there were more "how to's."
All that said, after my last reading, I did come away with the feeling that this book might not be meant for toddler/early preschool children. Maybe/maybe not, but it's made me feel a lot better!!!

giddings said...

I agree. It is definitely a hard read. In one of our ECFE classes, one of the instructors said that we should consider three factors in any interaction (esp. discipline I suppose) with our kids. Unfortunately, in my haze, I only remember two of the three:
1. what will enhance your connection/relationship
2. what will keep their self-esteem in-tact.

Anyone know the third???