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Parenting Lessons from Alice in Wonderland

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By Charlene Giannetti

The wonderful thing about children’s literature is that the books oftentimes have lessons for adults as well as for children. While Alice in Wonderland can be enjoyed for the fantasy and adventure, looking more closely we can see that Lewis Carroll’s creation also has a great deal to say to parents. Here are some thoughts:

The White Rabbit: I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. No time to say hello-goodbye, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.
Message to parents: Slow down! Your children often don’t understand that they are causing you to be late for your important date. If your child takes longer to get ready in the morning, get him going a few minutes earlier so you can be on time without rushing. And when you can, ignore your time constraints and take time to smell the flowers.

Queen of Hearts: I warn you dear child, if I lose my temper, you lose your head. Understand?
Like the Queen of Hearts, parents are often on the verge of losing their tempers. Threatening to cut off your child’s head is, hopefully, something you never threaten. But you may have found yourself issuing other threats—no TV, no dessert, no allowance, or something much more serious, particularly if you are dealing with an out-of-control adolescent. Threats rarely work. They merely raise everyone’s stress level and do little to build a relationship with your child. So don’t be a queen. Have a heart.

Monarch with caterpillar

Caterpillar: Who… are… you?
Alice: Why, I hardly know, sir. I’ve changed so much since this morning, you see…
Caterpillar: No, I do not C, explain yourself.
Alice: I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, you see, because I’m not myself, you know.
Caterpillar: I do not know.
Alice: I can’t put it any more clearly, sir, because it isn’t clear to me.

This exchange goes right to the heart of being a young adolescent. How many parents have looked at the stranger their child has turned into and wanted to ask: “Who…are…you?” That sweet little girl who once looked like Alice now looks like Alice in grunge. And that adorable boy who used to shower you with kisses? Now he locks his door and keeps you at a distance. Don’t worry. Adolescence is a time when children try to answer that “Who am I?”question, often finding themselves just as confused as Alice. Given time and space, your caterpillar will soon morph into a butterfly, or at least a moth.

Alice: If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense.
Lighten up! Yes, these are serious times but children are still children and enjoy having fun and occasionally being silly. Put away the BlackBerry, go to the park and have fun! These are the times your child will remember. Make them special.

Alice: It would be so nice if something would make sense for a change.
Children, from toddlers through teens, live in the moment. That’s why they often get into trouble when they don’t think about future consequences. Parents oftentimes fall short when they try to explain that concept to a child. For a young child, simple is best. “If you jump off that jungle gym, you will get hurt.” For a young adolescent or teen, a parent’s advice may seem to be going in one ear and out the other. Kids do listen, however, even when they look like they are ignoring you. So keep talking. Soon, it will all make sense.

Charlene Giannetti is the co-author with Margaret Sagarese of seven books for parents of young adolescents including The Roller-Coaster Years: Raising Your Child Through the Maddening Yet Magical Middle School Years.

One Response to Parenting Lessons from Alice in Wonderland

  1. Merry Sheils says:

    Charlene: where were you when my son was young? great advice, and I’ll remember it in my next life!

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