I’ve been thinking about parenting lately, considering what makes a good parent versus what makes a lousy parent. I like to think that Hubby and I are good parents, but we aren’t the best people to ask about that. The ones who really know are our children, and even they won’t be the best judges of that until they are older and looking back. Right now, with our children being in their teen years, we’re just dorky and embarrassing and we’re fine with that.
We have long had a parental philosophy that states the objective we are trying to meet with our children. That philosophy: We want to raise our children to become independent adults who contribute to society.
I don’t know if other parents have this sort of philosophy, or, if they do have some sort of objective, whether they’ve ever tried to articulate it. I only know that having articulated our philosophy, our parenting flows directly from that.
If our objective is to raise independent adults, then we want our children to have the ability to make their own decisions and question authority, even our authority. That means they are allowed to disagree with us. They have to do it respectfully, which is part of showing them how to be contributing members of society, but we welcome any disagreements they have with us because it shows that they are capable of independent thought.
Our philosophy also leads us to believe that our children get to decide the direction of their lives, not us. We won’t be insisting they become doctors or dental hygenists or museum curators, even though pushing unwilling children into a family profession is considered acceptable by plenty of parents. I have to wonder what parental philosophy (stated or unstated) is behind this forcing of occupation. Is it that children are property and parents, as property owners, demand total control and obedience?
Another natural outgrowth of our philosophy is that independent adults have to take responsibility for their actions. If they do something dumb, they have to take the consequences, whatever they might be. Of course, if they are to be contributing members of society, it’s very clear that we won’t abide by them undertaking some criminal activity (political protests not included, of course). We have often told our children that if they are caught doing something illegal and they’re found guilty, we’ll still love them, but we’ll be visiting them in jail.
We’re not against using other people’s behavior as an example in getting across our parental philosophy to our children. One time, as I was driving my kids, then of elementary school age, to school, we saw some kids throwing rocks at a stop sign. I was furious with the behavior and immediately lectured my children, telling them that I never wanted to hear of them doing such a thing. I specifically told them that we, as tax payers, had helped pay for that sign and that defacing the sign meant that these kids didn’t understand who had paid for it or what the costs were to replace it. I don’t think young children typically get tax lectures, do they?
Obviously, if we were willing to give our children tax lectures when they were in elementary school, that means we believe they are capable of understanding complex issues (with explanations appropriate to age level, naturally). This is a direct outgrowth of our philosophy. If we treat them as though they can understand particular adult issues, then when they become adults, they will have a greater knowledge base to draw upon, which will help them to be independent.
If you are a parent, do you have a parental philosophy or certain objectives you are trying to reach in raising your children? If you don’t have children, but you would like to some day, or if you work with children, what sort of parental philosophy would you adopt?