Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Good Children from Perfect Parenting

I freely admit I was a know-it-all, one of those women-girls you kind of just want to swat. I knew that when a child was old enough to discuss their diaper, it was time to potty-train; when a child could undo their mother's buttons, it was time to wean. "No" was a word that should be used rarely to maintain its power for important stuff, like not drinking poison. When a child spoke to you, you should stop what you were doing and look her in the eyes, focusing on her words and body language.

Not only did I know it all, I was happy to share it, with my friends, with my babysitting clients, with my dates, with my mom, with anyone who stood still long enough to let me spew my wisdom on them. To all of you who knew what the battle was like on the ground, forgive me please. If you will forgive, I promise not to swat any of the young mothers, newly-married wives, or brainy teens who tell me all about perfect parenting.

My parenting world is filled with questions. Where I once knew exactly what the appropriate parenting choice was for any given situation, now I am unsure about so many things. One of the most basic of all parenting issues--helping your child be good--fills me with consternation.

What is a "good" child? At this point in the game, I really define good as peaceful and quiet, but I'll share this quote from Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting that has set me to thinking:

Good is an adjective often laden with moral significance. It can be a synonym for ethical or honorable or compassionate. However where children are concerned the word is just as likely to mean nothing more than quiet--or, perhaps, not a pain in the butt to me...this is what many people in our society seem to want most from children: not that they are caring or creative or curious, but simply that they are well behaved. A "good" child--from infancy to adolescence--is one who isn't too much trouble to grown-ups. (page 2)

Mr. Kohn (I always want to call him Alfie--such a great name) goes on for the two hundred some-odd pages discussing parenting, loving without controlling and a bevy of other thoughtful, logical ideas. I read and think "Yep, mm-hm, you go Alfie!"

Then home life as it really exists comes flaring into my mind and I have very little idea of how to stop the fratricide without defying all the principles of excellent parenting. How can we make it to the ethical, honorable, compassionate kind of good if we don't start out by mastering the not hellions at home or in public kind of good? Still working on that one. Oh, how I wish I still knew it all!


Strawberry girl said...

Maybe you could create a time machine so you could talk to (and scare the bageebers out of)your younger self, write it down, and try not to lose it when you pass the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Or you could simply get advice from any possible resource that you feel comfortable with that ISN'T your 17 year old blabber-mouth self.

Jami said...

A profound answer, my daughter. Unfortunately, I still remember all of the advise I used to dish out. I'm just having difficulty applying it. Adding six strong wills and six sets of free agency, complicates things a bit. Additionally, the perfect parenting choice doesn't always work. (What's up with that?)

And about the T Rex: How sad I was when the T Rex died out in my youth. Your aunt and I used to ride to school on their backs, up hill both ways, through the snow. After the T Rexes were gone, we had to endure the trip barefoot. It was pretty heroic. you would have been impressed.