Life and Times with a Three Year Old

I have the amazing joy to share my life with a three-year-old boy, my son, Tre. Though at times it is a bit stressful, the stressful times are far outnumbered by my "I'm so glad he's a part of my life" moments.

We take him to restraunts and everyone remarks at his food choices, manners, and how well behaved he is.  It's been fun to explain that the reason he usually prefers the salad bar over pizza at Pizza Hut is because he's never been told that one is better than the other.  He is able to listen to his body and choose what's best for him without any false priority being given. Because we've never tried to make salad more important, or to limit his exposure to sweets, he doesn't think of salad as something that must be endured to get to the "good food" nor does he obsess about sweets. That's not to say he doesn't choose to eat a lot of something when we haven't had it available (or he hasn't been aware of it) for a while, but that something could be peanuts, bread and butter, or tomatoes as easily as cookies.

I am also regularly reminded that he's supposed to have gone through his "terrible" twos and be in his "terrible" threes now. And I think I understand just why they seem so terrible for most parents. At around that age, a child moves from being willing to do whatever you say just because you said it to thinking for himself and wanting explanations for parental requests. Parents who are willing to accept a child's autonomy (as those who choose radical unschooling do), do not find it surprising or a big hardship when the child starts wanting to make decisions for himself on the basis of information, rather than parental authority. But if you are expecting your child to obey everything you say, you'll run into trouble at around age two or three until one of two things happens: you back down and let the child be autonomous or you "break" your child into the understanding that he's not truly autonomous and must instead listen to you, because you're bigger (regardless of the reason you give or think he gets from the "breaking" this is what the understanding consists of).

This "breaking" lasts until the balance of power shifts in the teen years, at which point it beomes a major problem for traditional parents. But parents who have accepted their children's autonomy from the time of their first display at two or three (or earlier) do not have the same issues to battle in the teen years. Instead, they can continue to accept their children as autonomous. Separation from the family, moving into adulthood, becomes just one more step on the path that began at birth or shortly thereafter.

Radical unschooling is NOT easy. It requires much more of a parent in finding ways to meet everyone's needs instead of the child or children obeying "because I said so." But the rewards, it seems to me, greatly outweigh the early costs. And it does becomes easier with practice.

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