The New York Times – When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’ – [PDF]
There is so much in this article that I didn’t need to read. I could’ve told them damn nearly everything in there. I suppose I am more critical of traditional parenting methods. Though I my childhood was mostly unhappy, I was astute enough to understand just why my parents’ methods didn’t work with me. I understood a great deal about motivating people: perhaps that was my gift, that of understanding the way people are and the way people work. I also haven’t forgotten what it is like to be a child, to see through the eyes of a child.
I have never envisioned controlling my children. Of course, every parent’s innate instincts will drive them to move their children away from a path of danger, irresponsibility, and otherwise “bad” actions that will lead to a less than optimal chance at becoming a well-adjusted adult and functioning member of society. But I seek not to cause action through fear and control, but to inspire through love and compassion. Hippie shit maybe, but I’m more an iconoclast than a strict conservative.
The way Ihave always wanted to raise my children was through reason. You see, in the same way that a man cannot be beaten to comply when attempting to extract information from him, you cannot gain any form of meaningful compliance through punishment. I want my children to listen to what I say. I want them to understand why I am telling them to the things I tell them to do. I want them to know that I am looking out for their best interests. I would want them to trust and respect me. If my children have faith in me, then I have done my job.
I believe in letting children exercise their agency. Rules without explanations and logic are ineffective: they are nothing but meaningless boundaries that are designed only to punish them and to ruin their fun. If they do not believe in these rules that I set out for them, then they will absolutely break them at one point or another. Worse yet, they may lie in order to give the illusion of compliance. Being a str ict and heavy handed totalitarian will not inspire your children, only extracting an unwilling obedience through fear and conditioning. As painful as it may be, sometimes you need to let children make their mistakes. Of course you wouldn’t want them to get injured or experience any life-altering traumas, but at the same time they need to learn certain things for themselves: there is only so much faith they can place in their parents.
I give children a lot of credit. I think they are a lot smarter and capable then most people give them credit for. I envision that when my young son breaks a vase in the house from playing ball, I wouldn’t get angry. I might get a little annoyed. But I would take it as an opportunity to teach him why we don’t play ball in the house. Do I need to punish him and send him to his room, or put him in a corner? No, I don’t think so. A calm, frank discussion is all I need. As long as the lesson is learned, there is no reason for him to be punished. If he can understand that rule of no playing ball in the house, then he will not do it. If on the other hand, I send him into a corner to think about all he’s done, all he knows is that he has done something to anger me, enough to punish him. He will not have learned anything valuable from the experience.
And because I believe that children are more capable than we might think, I envision selling my children my ideals. Sales people can be called compliance professionals, and I think that it would be useful to use the same skill set that I use to achieve salesmanship excellence to achieve parenting excellence.
Without further spelling out my views on parenting, I believe in coming from a place of love and understanding. Perhaps paraphrased out of context from Silent Hill, parents are God in the eyes of a child. What better way to damage such a deep and lasting relationship by punishing, withholding, and manipulating your child? Nobody said that parenting is easy, but one should never forget the sacred bond between a parent and child and how easy it is to destroy that connection.