I recently read a comment from someone asking if our parents were better parents than we are? Which is better, being permissive or being strict?
Her conclusion was that our parents, the strict disciplinarians, were better. Her reasoning had something to do with her five year old son not doing as he was told, he wanted choices. To her this seemed bad, children should not have choices on everything and shouldn’t expect it, or want it. After all who’s the parent? Parent’s make the rules, and children need to obey.
I believe children deserve at the very least the same respect as adults. As such they should have a voice. They might not want to go somewhere they have to (i.e. Agatha really didn’t want to go to the Dr. recently) but it doesn’t mean there is no choice. They can choose to fight tooth and nail, or not. As parents we have to guide them. Give them information, and most importantly listen to their reasoning. If we say, “too bad, you have to see the Dr.” to Agatha she’ll fight even harder. She’ll kick, she’ll cry, maybe worse. But if we hold her, and let her tell us why she doesn’t want to go. If we acknowledge how scary it is, and let it be scary. She’ll still not be happy about it, but she’ll go.
So children should have choice, and when there is no real option for choice, they should be allowed a voice. Allow them to choose a way to make something less of an ordeal. Will it help if Agatha has a sticker after the appt? Sure, so give her one. Will it help if she get’s to roar and scare the Dr? Yep, so before the Dr does anything, pass along the message that he needs to be frightened of her cute little roar (no smiling allowed). Or you could spend thirty minutes holding a kicking screaming, frightened toddler, hating every second, and really not liking your own precious baby. And making it so she doesn’t trust you as much, and so she is less likely to turn to you when she needs help. All so you can be boss.
I know which path I’d rather choose. Which path I try to follow.
From the mainstream perspective there are still more than two methods of parenting. Strict or permissive are only the far extremes. There are still middle ground parenting styles to consider. The parents that have a list of rules, and are consistent in enforcing them. The parents who have a list of rules, but realize situations change and a new list might need to be created. The gentle disciplinarian who teaches their child how to handle emotions and various situations by modeling the behaviours, but not forcing the child to copy.
In fact, of the many parenting books I’ve read, most agreed that a middle ground was the best approach. Being overly strict led children to act out and hide behaviours they thought the parents wouldn’t approve of. Being permissive led children to wild outbursts, and/or destructive behaviour.
What type of a parent am I? An imperfect one. I make mistakes. I’ve yelled at my sweet girls on occasion. When I’ve been at a loss as to how to handle a situation I’ve resorted to threats. Those are things I’m not proud of, and those are things I want to stop doing.
As we journey to gentle discipline and through to radical unschooling we hope to see fewer and fewer of these undesirable behaviours. We hope to find a greater ability to see the best of each situation, of each intent. We hope to step back from our own expectations and allow new possibilities to open before us. We hope to hear ourselves say “Yes!” to our children more often, and change those “no’s” to possibilities.
It’s a long journey. After all we were raised by parents who view(ed) things very differently than we do. We have to overcome our own backgrounds in order to see the future.