July 10, 2011

On the topic of Parenting...

Ever have one of those days when the same topic comes up over and over?  It's not like you are looking for it, but everyone seems to be talking about whatever it is and you can't escape.  That was my day yesterday.  The topic was "permissive parenting" and no matter how hard I tried to avoid it there it was right in my face.

It started with this article I read.  It's an annoying opinion piece.  I know it's really hip right now to bash parents for having children that act like children.  I'm sure there are some crappy parents out there, but I bet most of them are like me just trying to find a balance.  We don't want our kids to stop thinking for themselves and obey everything an authority figure says.  Yet, it would be really nice if they would just do everything *we* say since we are the parents after all.   Especially because people are watching and we are supposed to be in control.  Parenting isn't easy under a microscope.  

Then later while at the pool I was sitting with a group of older women who started in on the same topic.  "Kids these days know they can do anything they want and their parents won't do anything to stop them.  Or can't because nowadays you can't smack your kids when they act up."  Wow.  O.k.  I could write a whole other post on the problems with this, but I'll let it speak for itself.  

But the icing on the cake came from family.  I won't go into details out of respect, but an already strained relationship is probably irreparably damaged.

I bit my tongue all day, but what I'd really like to say to these people is this:  kids are not brats.  They are young humans trying to figure out how to navigate through a very complex world.  They don't think they can do whatever they want because they are told over and over what they can not do.  Ask any kid and they will tell you, but it's sort of in their wiring to just give it a try anyway.  We need to just accept that growing brains are not capable of the same sort of adult thought processes.  And parents these days are not terrible.  If your parenting skills were so stellar back in the day then we should be great at it too, right?  If we are falling short now then by your logic it should be our parent's fault.  

I've said this before, and I am getting better, but I really need to be my children's #1 advocate.  They aren't perfect and sometimes I'm completely appalled by their behavior, but they are worth knowing and loving.   If I had to label the parenting style I aim for I'd use the word compassionate.  I spend a lot of time talking with my kids about compassion and understanding.  Everyone in our lives is precious and should be accepted for who they are.  It's not our job to change other people.  All we can do is change how we respond to the things that happen around us.  Anyone who knows me also knows that I often fall flat on my face and am nothing like a compassionate person.  I make mistakes and my children make mistakes, but we are trying and we care.  Please keep your judgment to yourself because it hurts.


  1. The difference is that your kids are not brats, you go out of your way to raise them to be polite. The parents in the article you cited (which I posted to a few places myself the other day) don't.

    There is a huge difference between kids being kids (which is why I fuss at adults griping about things like kids running on the WA State ferries), and kids being the ones in charge (like the child I saw recently who couldn't have been more than 6, very clearly telling her mother exactly what they were going to do and when they were going to do it.)

    Compassion is where you are exactly right. If you raise your children to be compassionate and understanding of others, they aren't going to be rude little s&*ts. But overly permissive parents are the real problem--when do they ever say no?

    I'm having to finish raising my nephew now, because my sister never had time to be anything but a permissive (and MIA) parent to him. He didn't need beating, yelling, grounding, or anything like that, he needed simply structure and rules. That's all most kids need, just for someone to calmly tell them what is acceptable behavior, what is not, and to enforce it consistently.

  2. I know it's more complicated than a short blog post can cover. I'm sure I've been a permissive parent at times letting the kids dictate what we are going to do and I've also been a real authoritarian too. What bothers me most is taking a snapshot in time and using that to condemn an entire parenting structure. Obviously you know your sister and her situation is different, but a stranger doesn't know me from Adam. One day I could look like the best parent in the world and the next like I should have my kids removed. That's what I don't like about articles like that one and the gossip at the pool. All it does is fuel a fire of contempt and does nothing to foster compassion. With my family member, I think that judgement is just wrong. We've never done anything to warrant the kind of criticism we get and I'm tired of it.

    I think we are on the same page. I've just got a bee in my bonnet at the moment :)

  3. Thank you for posting this. I've been struggling myself on balancing what society wants v.s. what's "normal." I'm not around many kids, so when my 4yo acts up, I wonder if he's normal or not. He is. It's apparent. I'm learning to watch my tone unless he's honestly not listening (a quick yell of his name snaps him out of it and it's only after I've said his name over and over and over). I'm also paying attention more to my punishments. It's so amazing how much further we get behavior wise when I treat him like a human who needs guidance rather than someone who's to submit (old church training I'm working to rid of).

    Thank you again!

  4. Although you don't know me, I, too, find myself the object of judgment regarding how we raise our children.
    If I thought it would help, I'd remind my parents that *I* am their child and I KNOW BETTER when they start that "in my day" crap that they have rewritten in their minds.
    Remain the THINKING person that you are. The only possible thing you CAN change is your wish that loved ones were as capable of respect, thought, and love as you are.

    Peace, Karen