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The Importance of Multiple Perspectives

Writing this title makes me think of Picasso, and how I never liked Cubism, but had a good takeaway anyways. Whether I like the bold jagged lines and mixed up composition, to me this work was about taking the realism off the pedestal, so we could learn what it’s like to analyze the thing we’re looking at in a different kind of totality. Cubism was about showing how our brain constructs thoughts about the subject, instead of just mastering how our eyes take the image in.

Here is what ‘the importance of multiple perspectives’ means to me in parenting. This is a lesson every parent learns whether it’s compromising rules with spoiling grandparents, striking a balance as spouses with good values everyone can enforce, or for our family, accepting that the way things are at dad’s house are different than mom’s house. In some ways these little differences are pains in the butt and can be confusing to a child. In other ways, I feel like as a new parent thoughtfully imprinting our values in every way we can, maybe these little hiccups that we can’t control give us a chance to model how to handle things we don’t agree with. I like the word ‘handle’ (not ‘tolerate’, ‘accept’, ‘debate’, or ‘deal with’), because to me that means engaging with in a genuine, gentle and human way.

As parents, we are always slowing down our viewpoints to be able to take everything in and really decide what we stand for and want to pass on ideologically to our children. When this gets challenged, we find our peers, and we stick with them, so that we can raise our kids in what we think is right culture. There are definitely ideal values I want my son to learn from me and I’m careful about what village I’m raising him in.

That being said, there are some conversations that I enjoy so much with my son when he notices differences in people and comes to his own conclusions based on his observations and thinking. Kids think fast. They make funny associations, and speak their minds, and sometimes it’s ridiculous, but it’s usually present and thoughtful and uninhibited, and there’s a lot of truth there. I cherish hearing his tender critical thinking voice in these instances and I really want to build his confidence in those “only his” judgements. That’s how his interpretation skills grow! Without seeing differences, digesting them, and reconstructing truth from them, he won’t arrive at thoughtful new conclusions.

I hope this will have lasting repercussions. Voting is important to me, so I have always taken him with me to the polls…and I never tell him who I vote for. It’s a game for us now that he’s in elementary. He will probe for my thoughts about candidates and he’ll also give me his opinion (“Bernie is too old!”). This conversation, among others, gives us a chance to talk about what we think and why we think that way. We can talk about where our perspectives are coming from and how they may be impacted by life choices and circumstances. I really hope that some day we’ll both relish in the fact that we have made independent and intelligent decisions, at the polls and otherwise, because we had good conversations without judgement. It’s messy but honest. It’s not directive from parent to child. I’m probably not raising a child who can stand on a side of a fence on the schoolyard knowing where he belongs. He’ll probably stand with his closest peers until he knows better…but I’m hoping there’s going to be a moment someday that he may know better than just associating. I’m hoping that eventually he’ll have patience with his own careful deliberation and be confident in his own judgement.

I think the value in hearing, digesting, and being careful when considering multiple perspectives is deeply important. I hope those skills of handling situations genuinely and humanely are on a pedestal, and developing quality critical thinking is the ideal. Even though the conversations may not be easy, or always turn out with our favorite perfect conclusions, I hope we’re preparing our kids with the skills they need to think for themselves by exposing them to many ideas and embracing their thought processes.

 

Katie Schroeder’s son Cole attends the Co-op and is in the Lower Elementary. Katie is a ceramicist, among other things! Her work can be found at http://kathrynschroederceramics.com/ 

3 comments on “The Importance of Multiple Perspectives

  1. Thanks for your article, Katie. A very thoughtful and balanced approach to parenting in an age of strong and often unyielding opinions.

  2. I love this! When I was growing up, my dad was a republican and my mom was a democrat, so we had many arguments at the dinner table about issues. These were mostly respectful, though I can’t promise I always was in my teen years. It was a great incubator of civil discussion and the power of arguments with respect. In my own family, Nathan and I think similarly about almost everything. As a result, my kids are strong little democrats and progressive Christians who tend toward socialism. We’re obviously going to raise them with our values, but I can’t help but be sorry about what is being lost when they just take on our values without thinking much about it. I have long wondered how to give them part of the experience I had growing up. How do I create opportunities for disagreement when we are surrounded by mostly people who think just like us? Do you have ideas?

  3. Katie, I so appreciate this well-written piece. I especially like the last line…exposing them to as much as we can and choose, but embracing and nurturing their reaction. Thanks!

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