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The Hood Magazine

The Power of Thinking Caps

11/25/2014 06:57PM ● By Hood Magazine
By Anne Dilenschneider, PhD, Sioux Falls Psychological Services   


I used to worry about working at home when my children were young until I took time one summer to write a novel. A dear friend, wanting to encourage me, gave me a copy of Brenda Euland’s classic book, If You Want to Write. My friend told me it was the poet Carl Sandburg’s favorite book. In that book, I found some of the wisest advice I have ever received.

Euland wrote, “If you want your children to be musicians, then work at music yourself, seriously and with all your intelligence. If you want them to be scholars, study hard yourself.” She continued, “If you would shut your door against the children for an hour a day and say, ‘Mother is working on her five-act tragedy in blank verse!’ you would be surprised how they would respect you. They would probably all become playwrights.” (p. 100).

In other words, by working at home, we are showing our children, first-hand, the importance and value of work. This is something they cannot see when we are working away from home in an office. And, by seeing us take time to work at home, they are encouraged to engage in their own projects and interests. By protecting our space and our time to work, we teach our children the power of saying “no” to distractions and focusing on something that matters.

The primary challenge in our home was how to let my children know when I needed to focus, and when I could be interrupted. After all, my desk and computer were stationed in the middle of our version of Grand Central Station – our dining room. “Just wait ten minutes” had little or no meaning for my small children. But they did know what a “thinking cap” was. So we developed a code. My baseball camp was my “thinking cap.” If I was seated at my computer and I was wearing my baseball cap, my “thinking cap” was on. If my “thinking cap” was on, my children could only interrupt me if it was an emergency. If I wasn’t wearing the baseball cap, they could ask me anything they wanted, any time. I was interruptable.

I did finish the novel during those summer weeks and the writing has won awards. When my children returned to school in the fall, I continued using my “thinking cap” during after school hours. And so did they!