Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Test of Our Parenting Methods Is....

About two or three years ago on a local homeschool chat list with about 150 members a heated debate broke out.

It started off with someone posting a link to an essay by a newspaper columnist who writes about parenting topics. That columnist is not a doctor/pediatrician and he is a father who did not do the main parenting of his children. He has strong opinions on how other people should parent their children. Most people either love the guy's opinions or hate them.

So a link was posted and it was a not controversial topic that was in that piece. Phew.

But soon a parent wrote that although she loved that piece she hated everything else he ever said. Someone said who was he to give parenting advice anyway as he was not the at-home parent and had no idea what it was like to raise children as the primary caregiver. How could he dole out so much advice?

All of a sudden people jumped out of the woodwork to join in on the discussion of the parenting opinions of the columnist. It got to a point where it was implied that if you used all his tactics that it would ruin the children and even harm the children. Of course that was not taken well by those who had already said they use all his advice and they think their kids were turning out wonderful. People's feelings were getting hurt which I don't like to see.

At first I said a couple of things about the advice the columnist gave, but I kept to my policy which is that I don't judge others for what they do. I talked about the columnist and me, and not about the local parents in my area. Frankly except for hoping their children are not being abused or neglected I frankly don't care how other people parent their own children. Well I don't want their children in harm's way ever. But I am not going to dictate how people are to raise their children. What I am saying is that I didn't want to be in on the part of the argument to attack the parenting of other parents (it had really gone above and beyond a polite discussion by that point). I didn't want to say what others were saying such as anyone who follows that guy's advice is just wrong and a bad person. So partially into the whole thing I shut my mouth and just watched the emails fly back and forth. I was too curious to just delete them without reading them so I was lurking in on the discussion.

At one point a person said that they hated the advice he gave and their kids were great. Another said she did all the advice and her kids were turning out great. People were taking sides on the parenting topics but the thing was that the two sides each thought they were doing the right and best thing but they thought the other was very much in the wrong.

Finally someone said that the true test would be time. We would all have to see how the kids turned out in the end. What ended the entire heated exchange was when a person said something about over time we will see whose kids are well-liked by others and whose kids are avoided by others. It was said by a parent of teenagers, I think, that at some point people would start avoiding being around the children who were not so great people (that was said to the parent of a child whose oldest was about five years old). It was said by the more experienced parents that a good judge of the job we did as parents is seeing if our kids are basically nice people who others enjoy being around. And someone said that if we notice that people are avoiding doing anything with our family or our kids that maybe we should try to figure out why and that maybe our kids were not so wonderful as we thought they were.

I think those were wise words.

Since that time when I go through parenting challenges regarding specific issues, I ask myself sometimes what the big picture is and I look to the big picture instead of micro-focusing on the small stuff. Instead of over-focusing on if my children always put their dirty dish in the sink and think that the occasional oversight means they are are turning out to be irresponsible, I look to the bigger picture such as they do it correctly 95% of the time and after all, the boy is just 6.5 years old and some families don't even have a child of that age helping out at all.

Regarding my children's hearts and personalities, as a self-check I try to figure out how my kids are turning out as people in general and one test is if others enjoy their company or not, if people are avoiding being around our children or not. I look to see if other children love to see my children to play and talk with or do other children avoid them? Are the other parents asking us for playdates? Do playdates end on a happy note or a bad note? Do relatives and their teachers and community leaders (coaches, Scout Leaders, etc.) have good things to say about our children or bad things to say? What feedback to others give me?

I think it is a good test of our parenting skills, the test of time and seeing how others view our children, whether people are happy to see my kids coming or whether they groan.

1 comment:

Shawna said...

Wise insight.

As a parent who has raised children for over 20 years now, it really is amazing to see your responsible, happy, friendly child go through a period of complete rebellion and push the boundaries as hard as they possibly can. I have learned that there is no way to predict how our children will turn out--their demeanours and patterns and habits can change as they mature, sometime for the better and sometime not. But they usually do come back around to what they were taught, what was demomstarted in the home, and where their heart truly leads them.

It is so easy when they are younger to say, "My child is this or that." "My child will never this or that." "My child knows better than this or that." The truth is, they become their own person and try many different roles and images before deciding what and who they truly are.

Anyways, that is my experience with a 28 yr old, a 21 yr old, a 20 yr old, a 17, yr old, two 16 yr olds and a 7 yr old. We can never say for certain if what we are doing is the better way/means, as each child is an individual and responds to his/her environment and relationships and circumstances and experiences differently. Only time will tell what our efforts and beliefs have done for our children.