Friday, February 6, 2009

Perfect Parenting Revisited

One of my favs from way back when nobody but people I nagged read my blog. Originally posted 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!


Heidi Ashworth said...

This makes me think of our (former) dentist who told my daughter, at age four, to "be good!" when she was squirming with pain under his non too gentle ministrations. We had heard he wasn't too good with kids--that was the last time we were there. It just bugged the heck out of me that he saw a perfectly natural reaction to pain as misbehavior. yikes! I think there are a lot of people out there who are still operating under that old idea. I am particularly sensitive to what is bad behavior and what is not since I have a child who appears to be badly behaved at times but is simply brain damaged and mentally ill. Not the same thing at all.

My Diary said...

You are adorable.

Jo said...

I kind of cringe when I think about the mother I was. I too knew it all. Now I know nothing, but I feel so much more peaceful about it. I know how to hug, how to laugh, how to listen, how to love, no matter what. I guess I figured something out. Great post!

E said...

For some reason I think I've already read this post before, only slightly different. Have you posted it before?

E said...

"Originally posted June 10, 2008"

Never mind. xD

Melanie J said...

I try to live by the guiding parenting principle that just kids just need to feel loved. To know that they're loved. I always love my kids; the hard part is making sure they always know it.

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Jami said...

Heidi, we left a dentist who was just rough. There was always someone crying there.

My Diary, you have adorable fingers.

Jo, I know what you mean. Good thing I excel at hugs. Or huggles as we call them around here.

E, you've read it. You've inspired it.

MJ, I think you've got the important part down.

Sara, thank you. I'm going to have to pass this time. Had fun looking at all your designs though.

Heather of the EO said...

I love the thoughts here. I struggle with this too. I mean I thought I knew everything and now I KNOW I don't, since every child is different and all that. And I also think it's a fine line, defining what a "good" child is and how to get one. It's overwhelming to try to figure it out. I'm so thankful that God didn't give me kids and then just say "good luck with that." He answers my cries for wisdom and that's the only way I do even one little thing right here and there :)

Jami said...

Heather, you are exactly right. I should do a post about that, the ways in which God has kept me from totally messing it up.

The Crash Test Dummy said...

Wait!? You, a know it all?


hee hee I love you KIA approach to life.

We can learn a lot from KIA's.

Well you can't, but the rest of us can.

LOVED this post. You nailed it.

Jami said...

Oh if only the KIAs would learn that KIA is impossible. But that is a life lesson that must be experienced. I am a lot more patient about it since I was SO insufferable when I was young. I am not exaggerating for effect. But you knew that. ;)

The Motherboard said...

Have you ever noticed that KIA --know it all-- is also the same acronym as killed in action?

Yeah. That's what I'd like to do those pesky kia's. Seriously.