Yesterday, I led my weekly “book club,” in my son’s second grade class. We do a program called Junior Great Books in which we read classic tales with themes that are relevant to the kids’ real lives, and discuss them. Yesterday, we read Arap Sang and the Cranes, an African folk tale about a man who learns to think outside his immediate needs, and look at the bigger picture, and the way that even his best intentions can have a cost when executed without enough thought.
If you’re not familiar with the tale, I suggest you read it. Arap Sang is so grateful to a group of cranes for helping him in his moment of need that he bestows golden crowns on them. However, they come back to say he’s harmed their population by making them the targets of hunters who wish to harvest their golden crowns. So, he casts a spell to change the crowns to feathered halos and everyone is happier.
The kids had lots of interesting insights–everything from the ways pushing their own agendas can backfire (like when they beg their parents for a new toy) or how altruism can become self-serving if it’s not done in the correct spirit.
For me, it was enlightening to think about this in terms of my own parenting–how I teach my kids the lessons they need to learn can be more important than the message I want to convey. I’ve bumped up against this before–throwing a fit at my kids by way of reprimanding them for, yep, throwing a fit. It makes me wonder, constantly, what is the crown and what is the halo I can offer them in a situation.
What are your favorite halos? When have you accidentally crowned your child with a burdensome “reward”? Chime in!