I have read a lot of blogs written by people in many walks of life: childcare providers, early childhood development specialists, psychologists, teachers, mothers, fathers, friends…
As a mother I try very hard to look for resources to help me through any rough patches that I come across with my children. I look to these “professionals” educated or otherwise for ideas and knowledge that I am not alone in my struggles. I am constantly trying to learn new techniques to manage my own personality “defects”.
I have taken a very hard look at myself, my past, who I want my children to remember and have come to some very hard self criticisms. I have flaws, I am not always able to give 100%, I am prone to the occasional emotional breakdown or loss of temper, I don’t always say the right thing and my expectations are not always reasonable. I will not shrink from my weaknesses, but instead, will use them as stepping-stones and tools to become who I want to be.
In all my reading of blogs and articles, as well as talking to my village, I have come across 3 schools of thought:
1.) Nurture, love, respect, patience, kindness, strength, weakness, confidence, communication and natural consequences.
2.) Ignore the inappropriate behavior and reward the appropriate behaviors. Deny that my childs behavior and choices have anything to do with me and how I manage myself.
3.) Anything your child does that is inappropriate should get a smack, verbal ridicule, or be shamed out of them. Intimidation and punishment.
When I read through these descriptions of child rearing practices I have to put myself in my childs shoes and think very hard about how I want to be treated.
Look at description #3. Now, in reading this, many of you will say “Oh my god! I would never hit a child!” But hold on a moment. Have you ever said something or given body language to a small child that made them feel blame, shame or pain? Any words you ever said that made a child feel they were “less”? Ever “piggy-backed” a compliment (good job, but you can do better)? If you have done any of these things (and most of us have) I am not saying that you support child abuse. If I say something I shouldn’t and the person I said it to slapped me in the face, would I learn that the words I said were inappropriate or would I lose respect for the person who hit me and avoid being in their presence because that crazy person hit me for “no reason” that I understand. Many parents raise their children the way they were raised, and in the past, what other resources existed? That is no longer the case, there are support groups, playdate calendars, health professionals, personal growth programs and THE INTERNET!
Look at description #2. Do I learn anything from being rewarded for good behavior? I don’t feel that I do, sure I want to do the good behavior over and over again to receive the prize but I haven’t learned which behaviors are inappropriate. This ideology seems to create a very confusing world of trial and error, setting me up for failure, I have to do the inappropriate behavior several times before I fully understand that it is not on the “treat” list. I can tell you, right now, that much of my children’s’ inappropriate behavior is a mirror image of someone in my village! When my child gets frustrated with something, hits it and yells “damn it!” That is a mirror image of someone in the village. If my child calls another child a name that is not acceptable, someone in the village taught that to my child. These behaviors could have been taught by me, I may not realize it, I may deny it, but the truth remains. Children are trying to learn who they are, and in that process they try on all the hats in the village! (the image that comes to mind when I talk about this is the book “caps for sale”)
Looking at description #1. This is the most important to me and one in which I am reaching towards emulating (which comes with much person growth). Children need to feel safe and secure. The ability to create healthy, happy, productive members of society does not come to everyone. Behavior is learned, mine, yours, theirs. Nurture, love, respect, patience, kindness, strength, weakness, confidence, communication and natural consequences. This is how I want to be interacted with, why would I teach my child any different way of living?
People are not born with the ability to parent. We do not start out with an understanding of how our behavior affects others. We are born with genetic traits that provide us with strengths and weaknesses, beyond that we are formed by our environment, by our village. Please join my village and help me to teach my children to be better than I am!