Friday, October 20, 2006

Play like a kid

Educator and author will speak on magical parent-child relationships

Express Staff Writer

Michael Mendizza promotes parenting from the zone.

Fun-loving, intelligent adults make great kids. It's true. How else could we possibly think of it. Filmmaker and author Michael Mendizza believes this is true and is presenting a free talk on this subject called "Kids are NOT the problem!" The talk will be held at 6:30 p.m. tonight, Oct. 20, at The Community School theater in Sun Valley.

Among audiences Mendizza presents the talk to are Waldorf and Montessori schools, home school conferences and gatherings for pre and peri-natal care.

Mendizza is founder of Touch The Future, a nonprofit learning design center in California. With Joseph Chilton Pearce, he is the co-author of "Magical Parent-Magical Child: The Optimum Learning Relationship." By studying the lives of peak performers such as athletes, Mendizza discovered that excellence, at any age or in any field, is "state specific," which he explains in his talks.

"He focuses on adults and how this affects the way children are. It's a very broad subject," said organizer Sonia Sommer, of Ketchum. "I took some study with him a couple years ago. I was pretty blown away about what he had to say. I'm very glad he can come here. He just wants to get his research out to as many people as possible."

Mendizza says that by focusing all our intelligence since World War II on the development of children, we've ignored the development of parents.

"Children learn spontaneously from the model they have, the parent, the environment and culture. The focus of my work in child development is based on adult development.

"Children absorb the environment," he continued. "All of human behavior is model-dependent. The focus of my work is to take research on optimum states of optimum performance—or what athletes call (the) zone, research calls the flow and children call play."

It all seems lovely but it also sounds like it's confusing an issue that should be simpler. Is he taking into account how busy today's parents are just trying to maintain their lives.

"The higher the demand and the more stress you're under, the greater the need to be in this optimum state," Mendizza countered. "It allows you the greatest flexibility. You access more of your potential so you can respond in the best way. Otherwise, we're responding to the world in a knee-jerk reaction, or in a prejudicial reflexive way, which lacks intelligence. Most of the problems are because we are not responding to the world with intelligence. I coined the phrase the 'intelligence of play,' which is a state, not an activity, when we are not bound by the limitations and categories, imposed by our conditioning."

Mendizza's points are well taken. Before World War II, most households had multigenerational occupants. Now both parents have to work, kids are in day care, aunts and uncles live in other towns, grandparents are in retirement homes and communities, he said.

"We've destroyed the learning experience. You have to experience the world to be a great a parent, and you do that by being around great parents,"

He referred to The Nurturing Project, (found at an organization whose mission is to revolutionize the way local communities come together to mentor and support parents and the people who care for kids.

"Parents and childcare providers need support, the organization's mission states. "They need mentors. They need to belong to caring, empathic communities. Local businesses need to understand and respond to the needs of developing families. Communities need an efficient system to meet local needs with local resources and to do so on a regular basis."

The talk is free and open to everyone. Chapter One Bookstore in Ketchum has copies in stock of "Magical Parent-Magical Child: The Optimum Learning Relationship," and will also be selling them at the event.

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