the network for radical unschooling families
I discovered last night when looking at my iPad after my (8 yr old) son had played with it that he had figured out how to download some games. I didn't go into it much since it was late and I was tired, but I told him he couldn't download games without my permission and changed my password so it wouldn't be possible anymore.
So I'm out at lunch today with my mom (visiting) and my son. And I get an email notification from iTunes about some recent purchases. No big deal, it's the silly kid games he downloaded yesterday. 3 emails later, and the app and in-app purchases total over $250.00!! Money is really tight right now and I'm really lucky this didn't cause some bounced checks.
I ask him how he figured out my iTunes password. He very matter of factly says that Grandma told him. Grandma gets all defensive and says she was tricked into telling him. (Granted, my password is one I've used for years for just about everything - the name of a cat I had in college who's been dead for almost 15 years. And had a tricky-to-spell Cree name.) She says he asked her, very conversationally, if I ever had a cat that died and what was its name? And apparently also asked how to spell it?
Since we got home from lunch, I've filed my unauthorized purchases reports with iTunes. I'm beyond livid and the only thing I could think of doing until I figure out how to calm down and what to do next was take away all electronic toys and send kiddo to his room. He's completely unremorseful - almost oblivious - to what he has done. So I know I'm going to have to have a conversation to explain it all somehow.
But beyond that...???
I let my son use my iPod. He always asks for my permission before downloading games, and I ALWAYS make sure they're free.. because we are very tight with money!! But, wow! I am blown away by the money that was charged on your CC. How many games did he download?
*** Fortunately, the lack of electronic games for a couple of hours has resulted in him wanting to learn to play Monopoly. ***
-=-Fortunate for who, though? From what you've written you're still locked into seeing how wrong he was to do what he did. So it sounds like you mean fortunate for you that your choice resulted in something good from your point of view. But it will help you communicate better with him to see from his point of view. From his point of view he's making the best of a bad situation. But for the flow of unschooling, for building relationships it's better to avoid making choices that put a child in a bad situation.-=-
Monopoly isn't a very good game, as board games go. There are MUCH, much better games, but they cost sometimes $30-$50.
When parents gloat over their children choosing "old school" over electronic, it's not a pretty sight. If you get really good games and the parents play them whether the kids are playing or not, then those games will become more alluring. Recently I was at a conference where one of the questions put to me was about how and whether to make a child practice a musical instrument. I asked what instrument the parent played these days.
If music is seen as a think parents make kids do, kids will not like music.
If board games or card games are seen as a kid thing, they won't be as attractive.
This is a little old, but links and gaming stores are still good. :-)
My son has always been very into "city management" type things. He regularly plays SimCity and other games like that. The games that got the in-game purchases made were also those types of games. So I had gotten Monopoly (the Mario version - combining city management type things with his favorite video game character) a while back and just it sitting around. He had a good time playing it.
I wasn't gloating so much over him playing an "old school" game was I was happy that he got a chance to try something new that he ended up enjoying, despite it being under less-than-ideal circumstances.
We've had some changes in the last few months - the one most affecting him was that when we packed up our home to move in temporarily with family 13 hours away, the people who helped load up our POD inadvertently loaded up the backpack with his laptop in it! (It also had his favorite stuffty animal in there - MANY tears were shed.) He's had to downgrade considerably this summer. But he can still play Roblox, so that's good. :) He's also started Minecraft at his father's house and I need to figure out all that stuff before we move again to our new permanent home, hopefully in a few weeks.
I don't know about others, but I'd be soooo..... proud of my son if that's how he got out the password out of his grand-mom. It's genius! Now I know it is easy to look at it as deceit or stealing, but for an eight year old it is about getting what he wants, it is about overcoming an obstacle. Later on in life, isn't this something we all struggle with? Getting what we want? How do we pay for that extra out of budget expense which suddenly came up? How do we get a better job? How do we deal with the pesky neighbor or the stubborn boss? This child figured out a smooth way to overcome an obstacle.... I definitely don't think he should be remorseful at all! I am sure he did not realize the consequences ($250 spent and what it would mean) but he did display a very important skill in life. Seriously I'd celebrate if I was in your place...
Of course there remains the fact that he did feel the need to deceive. Bear with me while I share some personal experiences...
Our seven year old is very sensitive when we tell him we can not afford something right now. In fact when his grand-mom asked before visiting us once, what he'd like as gifts, he started rattling off this huge wish list. Then suddenly he paused, and asked "But wait, do you have money for all this? If not, it's ok, you don't have to get any gifts." He was 6 yrs at that time.
The reason I mention this is not to brag about my son, but to share some things we consciously did. Here are a few of the things that I think made him like this:-
Having said all this, our son is still going to school (2nd standard or grade 2), hopefully this is the last year. I just found out that unschooling is also a possibility (had no idea something like this is an option!). Hope we'll be able to learn a lot from you folks...
He never threw a tantrum, because we have been doing this since he was born.
I want to comment on this because to some extent it's a misconception. While it certainly Does help to say Yes whenever you can (without overly impinging on others needs, I mean) that's no guarantee that a child will never have a meltdown. There are personality/temperament issues involved - some kids experience very strong emotions and struggle to deal with them. Some kids find childhood very, very hard.
From the description, your son is pretty easy-going. That's nice in a way, but in another it sets you up to disregard his needs more easily than if he raged at you over the slightest injustice. It will be more of a challenge to you to question your own motives and "what works" and it may seem pointless to you. After all, he's doing what you want, so what's the problem? Sometimes I think unschoolers with strong-willed, high-spirited kids have an advantage in that regard ;)
Here's an example of what I mean - something that "works" from the point of view of being convenient to parents but isn't as thoughtful of the child's perspective:
When we'd ask him to stop watching tv and he'd plead "a little more daddy?" instead of saying "No right now!!!" I'd ask him to commit a time.
Why is that? Why are you asking him to stop watching tv in the first place? If you're trying to get out the door to go somewhere, it would be better to pay attention to what he's doing - is the show in the middle or near an end? - and plan to go when the show is over. It doesn't make sense to say "five minutes" in the middle - it's rude and dismissive of his interests to imply that he can just shut off what he's enjoying at a randomly selected time. It might help to compare to something like reading a book - would you say "five minutes" or something more like "at the end of this chapter"? See tv the same way.
Something like watching tv or playing a video game or reading a book is actually pretty easy in that regard - there tend to be obvious places to stop. It can be harder to plan around other kinds of projects - building or artwork or dramatic play - which don't have clear starts and stops. Over time, I've learned to guage the rhythms of my daughter's day so I know when to expect her to be really focused on a project and when she's likely to be sanguine about leaving it to do something else.
Having said all this, our son is still going to school...
School is rich with situations that expect kids to shut off their interests at a moment's notice, and giving your son "five more minutes" isn't much better. Have you read Gatto's Seven Lesson Schoolteacher? He does a good job of describing how schools set children up to disregard their own interersts and shut down their enthusiasm on cue.
Even if you can't find a way to bring him home now, you don't have to bring that kind of thinking home. You can value what your child is choosing to do in the moment, honor his interests as being just as real and important as your own.
Here's that essay by Gatto:
and the pertinent quote:
The third lesson I teach kids is indifference. I teach children
not to care about anything too much, even though they want to make it
appear that they do. How I do this is very subtle. I do it by
demanding that they become totally involved in my lessons, jumping up
and down in their seats with anticipation, competing vigorously with
each other for my favor. It's heartwarming when they do that, it
impresses everyone, even me. When I'm at my best I plan lessons very
carefully in order to produce this show of enthusiasm. But when the
bell rings I insist that they stop whatever it is that we've been
working on and proceed quickly to the next work station. They must turn
on and off like a light switch. Nothing important is ever finished in
my class, nor in any other class I know of. Students never have a
complete experience except on the installment plan.
Indeed, the lesson of the bells is that no work is worth
finishing, so why care too deeply about anything? Years of bells will
condition all but the strongest to a world that can no longer offer
important work to do. Bells are the secret logic of schooltime; their
argument is inexorable. Bells destroy the past and future, converting
every interval into a sameness, as an abstract map makes every living
mountain and river the same even though they are not. Bells inoculate
each undertaking with indifference.
Apparently, Itunes lists some games as free to download but there is a charge to play the games. I had $45 dollars charged to my itunes account because my daughter clicked on games that had a FREE icon next to them. I realize that your son figured out your password in a "sneaky" way (your words) but is it possible that he really did believe the games were free? My daughter had no idea that our account was being charged. My older daughters' also explained that the FREE icon gives the impression that it is free when that isn't exactly the case. Personally, I think Itunes is kind of sneaky.
Also, I agree with a prior post about being open about money matters. Our kids see us buying things all the time, so if we say, "we don't have the money for that," they get confused and sometimes think we aren't being completely honest. They see us buying groceries, or a gift for cousin Johnny, or 'hey didn't you and daddy just rent a movie the other night?'...In other words, the family money is given a priority based on the adults priorities. Is there any money that can be set aside for your son? Can he decide on any purchases?
With regard to him being unremorseful...I read your post and thought that your son got curious, figured out your password and then mistakenly clicked on the FREE icon and played video games. And initially, I think that's what you thought too. No big deal, right? But then, changes started occurring within your mind and emotions based on the events of the week and before you knew it you felt violated and stressed. Is it possible that your initial reaction was a calm response that escalated into a reaction that confused your son?
Meredith thanks for your response...
There are personality/temperament issues involved - some kids experience very strong emotions and struggle to deal with them. Some kids find childhood very, very hard.
Tell me about it... I was such a kid! I hated home, everything about home, and am still dealing with those issues which affect me to this day. The reason children experience strong emotions and struggle to deal with them (I think) has a lot to do with how attentive and empathetic their parents have been to their needs at an early age.
My daughter, Rhiana is an example. She is one year now, and over the last few months she'd become violent and cry uncontrollably. She'd even bite or scratch or pinch people if they did something to annoy her. At night, before sleeping, she'd cry uncontrollably while her mom would prepare her milk and she would not stop crying till the time the bottle was actually given to her. Both of us as parents have been very attentive and conscious about how we deal with such situations. Now of course her crying has stopped to a large extent. She has finally figured out that the milk is coming. Even to the extent Rhiana would never sit on my laptop or even touch it (although she does sit on her mom's). This is because I get to spend more time with her since I work from home and she has figured a way of communicating with me and I with her. With a little more time I am sure the same will happen with her mom.
The fact that Ronit (son) doesn't throw tantrums is because he never feels the need to. Ronit being easy going and Rhiana showing visible reduction in her frequent violent swings, I don't think are coincidences. We pay very careful attention to them and they sense it.
But don't misunderstand me, my goal is not to reduce tantrums, or display of emotions. It is to be sensitive to their needs.
From the description, your son is pretty easy-going. ...Sometimes I think unschoolers with strong-willed, high-spirited kids have an advantage in that regard ;)
It is true he is easy going. But he is also very strong willed. It is also true he has figured out blackmail doesn't work and he never felt the need to throw tantrums. But he never gives up on things he wants just to please others. Once my mom told him "Aren't you a good boy? Go and take a shower now, ok?" He very politely replied "I am not a good boy." You can imagine her reaction (or inability to react rather)!
He has more subtle and persuasive methods. He uses reason! He keeps asking questions and gives counter arguments because he knows we'll always listen to reason and never turn down a question no matter how long the discussion stretches. There has been many times when we saw his position and changed our point of view. Just like there have been times when he saw ours.
But I do see what you mean. It is very easy to slip into a comfort zone and stop being sensitive to a child's needs.
Why is that? Why are you asking him to stop watching tv in the first place?
Because he still goes to school, we were completely unaware about unschooling. And school means timings, homework and all kinds of other torture :-) I am soo... looking forward to getting him out of that system.
The reason children experience strong emotions and struggle to deal with them (I think) has a lot to do with how attentive and empathetic their parents have been to their needs at an early age.
That's not entirely so. Some kids have intense emotions from birth - but at the same time they don't have the ability to deal with them and won't for a good 7 years (on average that's when kids with intense emotions typically settle down a bit). Parents can make things easier or harder, but you can't make an intense child into a mellow one with the "right" kind of care.
Both of us as parents have been very attentive and conscious about how we deal with such situations. Now of course her crying has stopped to a large extent.
I don't want to diminish what you're trying to express - I absolutely think its important to be engaged and responsive to children's needs and it Does help. At the same time, it's perfectly natural for an infant or young child to go through a stage where they respond more intensely than usual. Many kids go in and out of stages like that in response to developmental shifts - and intense kids go through cycles of greater and lesser intensity.
That being said, I think you may be missing something when it comes to being conscious of your child's needs when you say:
she'd cry uncontrollably while her mom would prepare her milk and she would not stop crying till the time the bottle was actually given to her
One of the skills that many parents don't realize is helpful is learning to be proactive. Your description sounds very re-active - you reacted to her cries, but didn't anticipate them adequately. Maybe she gives very subtle cues or has a very random apetite, I don't know, but generally it's possible to guage when a baby is starting to get hungry and meet that need before it blows up into a cry of desperation.
I'm not saying that to put you down, but because its a great example of something most parents miss out on - being proactive, I mean, as well as learning to respond to your child's non-verbal communication. Both of those will help reduce meltdowns overall and set you up to have a more peaceful home regardless of whether or not you're unschooling. A child who's falling apart - crying uncontrollably or throwing things or hitting or whatever - is telling you that you've fallen down on the job a bit. You've missed some earlier cues and now your child is left with a last-ditch attempt to get your attention so that you can fix the problem. Don't beat yourself up over that, but do use those kinds of meltdowns as a chance to learn something new or think about how you attend to your child from another perspective so that you can do better next time 'round.
- being proactive, I mean, as well as learning to respond to your child's non-verbal communication. Both of those will help reduce meltdowns overall and set you up to have a more peaceful home regardless of whether or not you're unschooling.
Couldn't agree more. The fact that she now patiently waits for her milk is because we have been not only 'proactive' about her cues of hunger but also about her other needs. She is still figuring out how to express and we are still learning to understand her way of communication.
Parents can make things easier or harder, but you can't make an intense child into a mellow one with the "right" kind of care.
The idea is not to make kids mellow. Why would anyone want to make a kid mellow anyway? Except of course, to selfishly make it easier for them to 'manage' the kids at the cost of the kids development. How parents deal with situations do however, influence how that intensity is expressed.
but do use those kinds of meltdowns as a chance to learn something new or think about how you attend to your child from another perspective so that you can do better next time 'round.
This is what I have been trying to say right from the beginning. Perhaps it did not come out right. You worded it beautifully. So thank you.