I just read a great post by a young woman named Arwen Elizabeth who gets it.
While I don't agree with everything she opines on, she's a parenting whiz, and I wish I'd taken Parenting 101 from her.
One thing she said really struck me as important but made me a bit sad because it's taken me nearly 38 years to figure it out:
" ... what is important is not how I act upon them [family members] but how I respond to them, learning to be a bigger, better person through relationships."
Arwen contributes a lot of her own success at parenting to her own folks. Here's an excerpt:
"And the reason they could do what they did so well is, I've finally realized, largely due to the way they approached the task of being parents to us children: not as a job at which they might fail or excel, but as a relationship. It was important to them not that they *achieve* in any outwardly visible way, but that they *love* to the best of their ability. The quality of their parenting would ultimately be self-measured not by the impressiveness of anything we children did or became, but by the quality of our relationships with God and those around us, which would be a reflection of and a reflection upon our relationships with our parents themselves."
I agree her parents did have a thing or two figured out as well. Here's something her Dad said:
"What it boils down to is that we've been jobbed into thinking there are certain ways to "do" parenting, while the real trick is to "be" parents - make it part of our identity."
He also tapped into a source of fear that I've had, as a new parent, and work hard to overcome. You can see glimpses of my insecurity in earlier posts on this blog. Here's what he has to say about it:
"One thing that has amazed me since before we began our family has been how much fear modern parents live under. It's almost assumed that parenting means living in this constant atmosphere of fear: fear that something's going to happen to their child, fear that they'll do something to damage their child, fear that they'll somehow "fail" parenting. I don't know if this finds its source psychological theories, or modern social attitudes, or what, but it's a terrible thing, and I think part of the reason why people dread even the thought of parenting.
I'm sure this tendency has many roots, but I think I know some of them. Part of it has to do with our cultural mistrust of the person. Some centuries ago, an attitude began to rise that said that people were not as trustworthy as systems. A person could fail you, but a properly implemented procedure (or process, or system, or protocol) would not. This attitude showed up particularly in workplaces and governments, but it eventually crept into the home.
There it took the form of doubt - doubt cast on the parent's ability to parent. "You untrained, inexperienced neophyte! What makes you think you can do something as vital as parenting? What if you FAIL?!?!? Better not leave something this important to mere chance!" So parents were encouraged not to trust themselves, but to trust "the system", where "the system" was some protocol or process defined by some expert(s) in accord with some set of principles. Raising children would no longer be a chancy, suspect operation that depended on some frail, inexperienced human for success. Now all the parents had to do was follow the procedure, and the outcome would be guaranteed! After all, this principle worked for manufacturing flashlights - why shouldn't it work for raising children?"
Oh yes, his statement cut right to the root of my fears. Montessori or not. Public school or private. Time out or spanking. These thoughts just show that I was missing the mark--it's the quality of the relationship, dummy.
Both Arwen and her father extrapolate their own parenting philosophies to the subject of one of the touchiest, most neuroses inducing subjects in the world, DISCIPLINE, which can be a tough one for new parents. But their discipline philosophy completely resonates with me and I am going to try my best to adhere to to the best of my ability. Here's the gist:
"A parent who times out to punish is going to get a much different outcome than a parent who uses time out to firmly show consequences for bad behavior."
Or as her Dad says:
"One thing that really helped me with discipline: realizing the difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment is backward looking; discipline is forward looking. Punishment is "getting even" for a past offense; discipline is forgiveness of the offense but concern that it not happen again. Punishment is not concerned with the good of the offender so long as retribution is extracted; discipline is all about the good of the offender, that he might not do that destructive act again."
I've been a hard person on some of those nearest and dearest to me. Judgemental, extracting, punishing and demanding. I used to attribute it to my higher standards, but really it was a foil to distract from me feeling out of control. It really boiled down to vulnerability. I finally get how ineffective and pointless and brittle hardness is and I've been working hard to change some bad habits. I'm so glad that there are people out there learning these things much faster and with fewer growing pains.
Oh yeah, this former control freak has a lot to learn about parenting and family. And it's totally worth every agonizing, exquisite lesson.
Thursday, June 19
Posted by r3 at 12:31 PM