Q&A with author, Heather Shumaker, on why it’s OK to go up the slide

Heather Shumaker is an advocate of free play and unstructured learning at home and in school for children. As a mother, she was inspired to conceive a set of “renegade rules” for children to thrive as young individuals. One of our faves? “It’s okay not to kiss grandma.”

Her new book, It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, teaches parents how to use these rules to instill independent thinking and self-confidence in their little ones.

We had a chance to ask Heather a few questions about her new book and her thoughts on why it really is okay for kids to go up the slide.

Sometimes, as parents, we get so caught up in daily life that we forget to implement our well-intentioned parenting philosophy and rules. Do you have any quick tips for incorporating (and remembering) “renegade rules” throughout the day with our little ones?

If we keep the most important renegade rule in mind – “It’s OK if it’s not hurting people or property” – that makes in-the-moment life much easier. 

This rule, the one I call the “Renegade Golden Rule,” is easy to remember and applies to so many daily situations.

The other catch-all rule that helps throughout daily life is this: “All feelings are OK; All behavior isn’t.”

My memory is like a sieve, so I designed the book for busy, somewhat forgetful, well-intentioned folks. There are summaries and phrases to pull out at the end of each chapter just for that reason. Go ahead and post these around the house.

For mamas who are trying to teach kindness and consideration in their young children, the notion of “going up the slide” may seem counter-intuitive. What advice could you offer these mamas for raising confident (but kind) kiddos? Is it ever not okay to go up the slide—literally or metaphorically speaking?

Going up the slide is certainly counter-intuitive for most adults. But, it’s a no-brainer for children.

The child going up and the child coming down are not necessarily being unkind.

They may be starting a game. They may be learning how to set limits and negotiate with a peer.

Learning consideration can mean noticing someone wants to come down—and figuring out how to make that happen.

Adults have a certain view of kindness and consideration, but a child’s view is much broader. As adults, we need to remember that stopping children’s play may actually be the most inconsiderate act of all.

Is it ever not okay to go up a slide? I’ve seen slides that would be frightening to go up. In this case, you could say, “the red slide is OK, but the blue slide is too dangerous for climbing.”

Use common sense.

The same goes metaphorically—pick your battles.

Celebrate the times you can stand up and buck the culture for the good of children, but don’t berate yourself when you can’t.

How might mothers of infants and toddlers incorporate a few renegade rules early in their children’s lives to start raising “creative and confident” kids from the very beginning?

Keep the flashcards away. Value playtime and joy in learning. Don’t quiz your child about the color of her blocks. 

Trust your children – their play ideas, their desire to take healthy risks and gain independence.

Above all, start to get comfortable with uncomfortable feelings. Yours and your child’s.

Children – even babies – have a wide range of human feelings. We need to accept all these feelings, and learn to put calm limits on behavior. “You’re mad, but I won’t let you hit me.”

Your new book discusses the controversial topic of skipping kindergarten. The old adage, “Everything I needed to know, I learned in kindergarten” comes to mind. In what cases might it be a good idea for a child to skip this reputedly crucial year?

Ah, yes. It’s good to remember that All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten was written about the type of kindergarten that existed decades ago.

A kindergarten that included nap time and imaginary play.

That’s exactly the point of my kindergarten chapter in my new book. Children need this “old-fashioned” type of play-based kindergarten to develop the life skills that will carry them through the years ahead.

Most kindergartens today fill the time with other things, like worksheets. If the kindergarten program isn’t worthwhile, it’s a waste of children’s time.

It’s not so much skipping a year, it’s finding an alternative way to spend that year. If you’re lucky, that might mean the local kindergarten. If not, we need to find other ways for 5-year-olds to thrive.

For more refreshing advice on raising your little one, check out It’s OK to Go Up the Slide and It’s OK Not to Share.

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