Thursday, December 15, 2011

Raising Funny Kids 3

Just as scientists engage in self-questioning and revision, parents continue to examine, test, deconstruct, and reconstruct strategies to become better at a very important job entrusted to us from day one. 

Parenting is not meant to be a practice in perfection. It's an opportunity to grow, learn, ask questions, be confused, and overcome challenges. 

Overcoming challenges and supporting continuous growth is what I hope to encourage with these posts. Laughing and having fun while raising with my own kids is why I sit down and think of ways to apply what I'm learning in humor studies to my own life. 

When it comes to applying humorous activities with my kids, I continually search for those that provide meaning and understanding. The specifics of what we do aren't as important as the high in the experience they feel while we're doing it. 

In the academic life of a child, the high should be experienced in the process of learning, exploring, and integrating, not in receiving the grade. Grades actually divide kids from the content. I equate grades to being like a bookie, rather than focusing on the big event you bought the ticket for in the first place, the focus is on the bet. With respect to our present educational system, there's a surefire bet that your kids will forever be chasing grades rather than absorbing what they need to grow into happy, healthy, productive global citizens. 

That can't be good... 

With all the pressures we put on kids, it's important to slow down with them and allow your whole family to just "be".  

We don't have to worry that our kids won't get what they need to survive in the world of knowledge. The world has changed. By necessity, our outdated post-industrialized views on education are expanding. 

Einstein reportedly didn't know his own phone number at the university. When asked how the smartest man on the planet wouldn't know something as simple as his phone number, he replied, "I don't have to know it, I can look it up." 

Given that most kids in industrialized nations now integrate more from Googling, Wikipedia, and YouTube than they learn from textbooks at school, it's only a matter of time when our traditional brick and mortar, government influenced, educational facilities will be a thing of the past. 

When kids are actively engaged and motivated, they naturally devour knowledge like it's going out of style. They'll devote more effort when presented with a meaningful goal. And they'll learn easier when it's self-directed. This isn't to say that learning shouldn't be crafted with great care, but many of the subjects we're still asking our children to study are fast becoming obsolete and antiquated.

The byzantine questions and answers that those in their ivory towers think are good for children have nothing to do with true education as it is needed in today's fast-paced world. Learning and growing should promote thinking and problem solving, rather than rote memorization and an overly-pendantic focus on memorization and regurgitation of minutia, that will be forgotten within days or weeks.

I'm not raising "Lefty" Rosenthal, I'm raising conscientious thinkers. I'm raising happy doers. I'm raising cheerful team players. I'm giving my kids and opportunity question, to lead, and to grow toward their greatest potential rather than allow a world in great transition to predefine that for them. 

I present my children with my thoughts about the big picture. Even when I am uncertain of all the future details associated with a specific trajectory, I admit to them that I'm uncertain. When this happens, I simply walk them through my thinking process, sharing stories of related experiences, books I've read, or people I've heard speak on the topic at hand. I remind them that for any given choice in life, my perspectives are influenced by my own lifestage, the fact that I'm a parent and a professional. My choices in life must naturally accomodate their interests, and as far as I'm concerned, it's their interests and future that is greatly expanding my own awareness. They enhance my thinking. I have a mommy brain.

Because of these reasons and more, we read books like The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet to expand our awareness of eastern thought, which quite frankly, feels very close to the internal thoughts I think most of us westerners have, even if they're not expressed.  

When my kids were very young, I fell in love with show, The Wild Thornberrys, an animated television series that aired on Nickelodeon. It followed the many adventures of the Thornberry family, as they traveled the world in their Communications Vehicle ("Commvee") looking for rare animals to film for their father's nature show. 

Their travels took them to exotic locations filled with new challenges to overcome. The second youngest daughter, Eliza, had the power to speak to animals because of her encounter with an African shaman, Lopsugne Sjoungboun Qeisha.

Just as the Thornberry kids were home schooled in numerous non-traditional places, my children have long since been freely exploring the planet while their counterparts were stuck sitting behind a hard wooden or metal desk. This is not to say that an outside school environment is bad, but when you pack kids in like sardines they close down mentally and emotionally. They push rather than pull in information. In my mind, that's not true learning. 

Sure, we still study advanced mathematics, explore the sciences, and learn about world cultures. We just do it a little lighter. Two pieces of checked-in luggage and two carry-ons. 

Exploring other cultures gives everyone a much-needed global worldview. That is the educational goal of today. 

Early on in the lives of my children, I set a conscious goal to travel the world and explore the world WITH them. I reconstructed my entire career and lifestyle to accomodate our travels, which has afforded us the opportunity to explore more than 25 countries for cultural enhancement. Variety and novelty open more windows for learning, exploring, and self-awareness. It's by exploring multiple perspectives on the world that allows kids to learn and laugh easier. 

L&L (Learning and Laughter) = LGL (Life-Giving Laughter)

Whether you're 8 months old and exploring the insides of a dryer (in a safe, supervised environment); whether you're traversing the roads of Europe, Asia, or South America; or whether you simply buy a guide book for your home town, take the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a child, they're naturally born tourists. 

Raising funny kids is mostly about discovery and implementation. It's about playing games and having fun while learning. It's about creating an environment that fosters encouragement rather than relying on the archaic reward/punishment theories of days long since forgotten. 

You don't have to be Einstein or a neuroscientist to know that having fun is good for the brain, that exploring is good for the mind, and that laughter is good for the heart. 

Tell a kid a joke! 

Their happiness, laughter, and joy will be their gift back to you.


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