Contrary to what some might think, based on my previous posting, I am not a perfect parent. If you would ask me in a moment in which I can face myself and my failures, I would say I wasn’t even a good parent. Yet it is my belief that although we cannot fulfill always, or completely, an ideal model it’s not a reason to not strive for that model.
Right after the posting about parenting, a friend of mine pointed on FB this article (http://on.wsj.com/wpkb7J). I found it to be a more articulated version of my beliefs, something that bypasses my harshness (which was not intended). I cannot brag that I followed this “French” (idealized, I am sure) version of parenting. Due to pressure from job, I was aloof for a long time while my son was growing. I tried to impose some rules, create that framework the article talks about, but sometimes, when the framework was rejected by my son and upset him, I felt guilty, gave him speeches (in an absurd attempt to have him accept them of free will). Sometimes I got angry and yelled at him. Then, because I felt horrible inside (although my mind was telling me I am right scolding him), I gave him – like a bad referee – “compensation strikes”, trying to appease my conscience but confusing him (Now Dad scolds me, after 2h he takes me out for an ice-cream? WTF?!) I have a lot of moments when I failed in reference of this model described in the article. But it doesn’t matter so much because every time I fail, I shake all the dust and try to get back in the saddle. I explain to myself and, often, to my son, where I failed, I give a short explanation and an apology when it’s required and then I try to get back with the program.
The article describes everything I was trying to point out (in a harsh way I was told) in my previous article. Here are some of my comments based on the main ideas (no real order).
- Framework. I love the idea of autonomy within a liberal range. It is very similar with adult life: after all nobody tells us what car to drive, what job to choose but at the same time we can’t kill, we need to obey laws and rules, most of them set up for our own good (think about traffic rules). Inside this common-sense framework, children can and should have lots of autonomy.
- Stern voice and behavior. From my observations, most of the children, even the ones who seem uncontrollable, react very well and obedient to a stern voice asking something politely but without hesitation. On the other hand, I saw parents saying repeatedly “no, no, no” in an eternally patient voice and I think that children feel this lack of will and as such they don’t stop because they interpret it as a vague indication, not as a rule.
- Teach them patience and their place in family, society. Far from me exalting the harsh rules of the 50s education but, in my view, adults should not interrupt constantly an adult conversation to pay attention to all the silly things a child needs to communicate. Instant gratification creates the need of instant gratification; too much attention creates a dependency on constant attention.
- Not feeling guilty over imposition of these boundaries that create the framework. If we do it right, we are not harming them (even if they will shed some tears, or have a tantrum, they will not remain scarred for life), we don’t (should not) impose random rules but ones created out of love for them and stemming from the desire of them growing well-adjusted, well-integrated members of society. We can explain them why there is a need for these rules but the desire for them to suddenly see the light and understand is a very unrealistic one. In the end, as unfair it seems “because I said so”, is how most probably the conversations will end (not because we don’t have a clear and solid reason why we impose a rule, but because the children still want to do what they want to do and are not ready to accept that explanation)
- Adult time for us, time alone for them. We have our needs and problems. While parents, we are human and they, unfortunately, can’t really understand the pressure and the responsibilities we are facing. We are not appendixes of our children and we need a little bit (just a little) of time for our problems, for our conversations, for our well-being and this doesn’t mean that we abandon or ignore them. Both extremes are harmful (in my concept) – self-centered adults attending too much to their needs and desires, on one hand; adults turned into simple slaves of their children desires on the other.
I will say it again – there is need for balance in everything. We can improve parenting but not by throwing the common-sense out of the window. Our mission (my mission at least as I see it) is to raise a child who is comfortable in society, who can take on responsibilities as they come without thinking that they are unfair, who I know will be able to live a good life well after I am gone.