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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Happy Child: Changing the Heart of Education by Steven Harrison

I recently read a book that truly intrigued me. Now, a disclaimer:

Discussing this title can raise the fur on quite a few backs as it is certainly not the norm. Nor, does it represent my entire way of thinking. I mention this book because I agree with its premise, not its every point. I do not have to be a devout follower of someone else’s belief system to appreciate what I can learn from them.

So, here we go. The book for discussion today is The Happy Child: Changing the Heart of Education by Steven Harrison.

The author definitely has a platform and agenda, but he is straight forward about it. Many would say Steven Harrison is fighting a losing battle. Maybe so, but he made me think about a lot of assumptions I make in a much clearer light. For me, the book seemed to follow a principle that our prophets have been teaching us for years: the catalyst for any change, good or bad, is formed within the family. That makes many things The Happy Child suggests within my power and worthy of my consideration. I simply used the book as a check-up system to see if I’m doing everything I can to give my children a happy childhood.

Essentially, our children are growing up in a world that continually says, “hurry and grow-up” and I don’t think that is what Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness is really about. Every child has a unique and beautiful spirit as well as a unique and beautiful purpose in life, and Satan seems to work very hard to make sure that these same sweet children never figure out what that is because they can’t be the same as Johnny or Sue or even mom or dad.

How many times in the last general conference did you hear a speaker tell us to “become as a little child?” Were they talking about the child who can flawlessly put on her make-up by age eleven, or the child who has reached the highest level in three of the most popular video games, or the child that feels like a failure because he doesn’t seem to fit the mold that every other child does? No. They were talking about children who have joy, peace, an awareness of the Savior and who they are as children of God.

Here are a few of Steven Harrison’s points that caught my eye the most. If they ring true for you, pick up The Happy Child and spend a few moments finding its messages to you and your family stewardship.

  1. We often try to teach kids discipline by forcing them to do something that they don’t want to do, rather than by asking them to see the consequences of their actions and to take responsibility for their words, deeds, and the reaction of those around them. Discipline is not just being able to do the thing that we don’t want to do, but also being able to do the hard things that we do want to do.

  1. Fear is often the measurement of how we are doing relative to each other, not as friends, colleagues, or members of community, but as competitors.

  1. The child is built to be what the child is. This seems like an unnecessary and self-defining statement. But, the common view is that children are to be molded, trained, educated. In this view children do not have an inherent life force that deserves the respect we accord to the adult population . . . For those who see the child as born failed and broken, in need of repair and redirection, education will mean a revamping of the child that is, into the child that should be. For the sophisticated parent, the child, while not broken, needs the enlightenment of implanted values, specifically the parental values.

  1. Is it any surprise that children are blowing up, breaking down, tuning out, withdrawing, measuring their worth by their test scores and designer jeans, and communicating through pagers, cell phones, and instant messaging in order to hook up for drive-by relationships, drive-through food, and driven lives? This is . . . what they learned . . . to be faster and better, or more precisely, that they were not fast enough or good enough. Some learned to run harder, some learned to give up. A very few children, endowed with an unusual measure of common sense and innate trust in themselves, learned that they are just fine, as they are, whatever they are.

  1. This is why you shouldn’t trust anyone over three. Young children are simply curious. Learning something doesn’t fulfill their interest. This thirst cannot be quenched by answers. They want to know more, regardless of what they have found out so far. Their question in life is their life. We can’t answer their question. We can, however, join them in their question. That would require us to abandon all our answers. We might lose track of time. We might not get anything done today. There may be no point to the question at all. The whole thing may be totally pointless, like a game without a score, without a conclusion, without a . . . winner.

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