Tuesday 20 September 2022


Children's piano exam certificates
Being a parent is a lesson in humility, of course. This was forcibly brought home to me when Annie, then 7, I think, started piano lessons, and I decided to have some too, as I had always wanted to learn the piano.  I started with an advantage: I had both sung and played other instruments, so knew how to read music. However, she soon overtook me, as did Clare, and then Mike and finally Lizzie, over time.

Fast forward twenty years, and I see Annie and Clare as parents, and doing a better job of it than I did.  It is of course, something to be proud of, as well as humbling. 

And just this weekend, I saw it in action: one of the grandchildren was struggling to climb onto a large boulder on the fells. I was ready to reach out and lend him a hand; but his mother just watched patiently, as he made the effort and got there unaided.

Cover shot of Nancy Kline's book
Perhaps because I had just been running a programme on Nancy Kline's Thinking Environment (qv), I was quick to see how my instinct had been to infantilise - to assume that he needed help and that my helping him to climb would be the best thing I could do. 

But his mother, wiser than her father, recognised that she would better help him by allowing him to develop his skills, courage and confidence by struggling to climb unaided, and have the buzz that comes from success.  That isn't to say she did nothing: she stood there, attentive, encouraging and believing in him - and, of course, ready to help (in terms of intervention) if it truly became necessary.

As with children, so with adults: it is so easy to assume that the best way to help is to... well, help.  But frequently, and particularly if people seem to need help to think, the most valuable thing, as Nancy Kline points out, is to stay with them, attentive, encouraging and believing in them - and, of course, ready to help (in terms of intervention) if it truly becomes necessary - but only then.

No comments:

Post a Comment