Teaching our Children to Make Decisions

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. ‘Pooh?’ he whispered.

‘Yes, Piglet?’

‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. ‘I just wanted to be sure of you.'”

The character of Piglet, in A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Poo, has a very clear idea (as clear an idea as Piglet can have) of who and what Winnie-the-Pooh is and means to him. In this scene, Milne uses their conversation to provoke us to consider that, not all things that look and feel like Winnie-the-Pooh are, for sure, Winnie-the-Pooh.

So, before Piglet begins to assume Pooh is Pooh; before he begins to depend on Pooh to do Poohish things; before he sets his expectations upon Pooh, he needs to make sure it really is Pooh.

Recently a friend and I attended a talk given by Swami Parthasarathy. At one point the Swami said, “All disappointment and grumbling is tantamount to, ‘Oh, why is the lily not an oak.'” According to my notes (I apologize to the Swami if I am misquoting or misrepresenting him here), he went on to say that “honest and true assessment of ‘the thing’ or ‘the person’ or the ‘moment’ is the foundation of satisfaction (he might have said ‘happiness’).” I tend to agree.

  • Imagine the depth of disappointment one would have in ‘what you think is an oak’ if you discovered it was really a ‘lily.’
  • Imagine the heartbreak Piglet would have, during the day’s adventure, if ‘who he thinks is Pooh’ is ‘not really Pooh.’
  • Imagine the potential frustration we might have with our ‘second child’ if we think they are a ‘second version of our first’ or perhaps a ‘mini-version of us’.
  • Imagine the disappointment our children might have in us if ‘what we say’ is different and contradictory to ‘what we do’.
  • Imagine the grumbling that might arise within a community if what the ‘school believes it is doing’ is not what the ‘parents or students believe’ is happening.

One of ASB’s nine core values is that people are responsible for the choices they make. I am a champion of this value – a true crusader. I always have been. But, the Swami got me thinking about my position on this value. I found myself wondering if there is something that might have to happen before we have the right to hold people responsible for their choices.

What if we (or more importantly, our children) make a choice without really studying the nature of the choice, without truly understanding the implications? Can we hold our children responsible for choices they make without enough of the right information? In fact, do our children have the skills to know what information they need in order to make choices? And even if they have access to the information, do they have the skills to process it?

I hope you have faith (and a sense of comfort) that your children are living their school’s mission. That their teachers are “empowering” them with the skills necessary to make the best decisions.

Another one of our school’s core values is: Practice, perseverance, and reflection are integral to a culture of excellence. As parents and teachers, it is our responsibility to work really¬†hard with our children; to practice, perceive, and reflect on decision-making skills and systems. Our children need to know it’s Winnie-the-Pooh they are with, before they enter the forest with him. Because, life is full of choices, and as Pooh says (somewhere else in one of the books),¬†

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