If consistency is the only indicator of good parenting, you’d be hard pressed to find good parenting here. My parenting style alters depending on what I’ve read most recently. I’m glad consistency is not the only indicator. Ensuring more-cuddles-than-meals, and more-meals-than-baths is also useful.
At least by world-schooling, WE are consistent. The relationship is present. Even if the methods change. And my favourite parenting writer Gordon Neufeld says parenting is not a set of skills, it’s a relationship.
There is a brand of parenting advice which places a good deal of emphasis on First Time Obedience. You will know it if you know it and which I’m not going to introduce you to it if you don’t. First Time Obedience is the idea that kids obey first, and immediately, and clarify or ask questions, or appeal, later.
We haven’t insisted on First Time Obedience with our kids. If we ask them to do xyz, we like to hear ‘yes mum’ or ‘yes dad’ but if they say, ” please may I have 5 more minutes” or “I just did xyz” or ‘I’m watching Baby Boy, so I can’t’ then we try to listen and be reasonable.
We don’t, however, put up with repeating inane things like “brush your teeth and climb into bed” seventeen times.
So, our kids listen, and understand obedience, but we haven’t stressed First Time Obedience per se.
Here’s the rub: there are 4 to 6 million unexploded landmines in Cambodia, and we have three kids who love to run off paths and jump in piles of leaves (and two more who would if they could).
First Time Obedience is what I wanted in Cambodia. If I say COME HERE or STOP there should be NO room for discussion or debate. It’s a safety issue.
So, a couple of times I’ve found myself wishing I trained up my kids like Captain Von Trapp, in The Sound of Music. I could blow my whistle and they’d come running. I say jump, and they’d hover, waiting for permission to land again. We could walk a safe narrow path through landmine laden fields and guarantee they’d stay safe.
As it happens, we stayed in pretty safe areas, and the children had a healthy enough understanding/fear of the landmine issue that they stuck pretty close to us. So it worked out.
(I have so much to write about landmines, and disability in Cambodia, and I will. But today is about something else)
The situation got me thinking. ( I appreciate I overthink things, and people of the generation before ‘to parent’ became a verb will understandably roll their eyes…)
I believe in parental authority; that is, I do actually believe parents have the right and the obligation to direct their kids.
I also believe in right and wrong, and that kids are capable of both. I recently read a parenting book that said there is no right and wrong, there is only love and fear. That, my friends, is a load of rubbish. I do both right and wrong everyday.
I also believe we have a duty to raise, train and teach our kids. I think child-led learning is wonderful, but maintain there is a BIG role for parents. It involves relationship, communication, affection and TIME.
So, even though First Time Obedience is an attractive and possibly comforting idea, we wouldn’t like to parent like that all the time. We want our children to be capable of polite enquiry, thorough debate and constructive criticism. We want our children to rigorously defend their own points of view, back up their arguments and follow their own ideas through to their logical conclusions.
We want them to have the courage of their convictions and learn to swim against the tide.
And they are getting very good at this! Far out, my kids are so opinionated. Hmmmmm, I think they get it from me. I knew traveling together would give us more ‘family time’. I didn’t know how much of it would be spent in such spirited debate!
Of course, when its bed time, its bed time. ‘I’m not tired’ doesn’t count as a good an argument, and gets no point for originality either.
The other reason we allow debate, is that we don’t want our children to learn obedience through fear.
It shouldn’t be the volume or the size of a person that determines whether we follow their instructions or not. Unlike driving in Asia, where little guys give way to big guys, we should acquiesce if the person is RIGHT, not scary. As parents, we shouldn’t model that big people get to tell little people what to do, because of our bigness. What would happen when they grow bigger than me?
And blind, unthinking obedience can lead to stupidity, like the secuirity guys at the airport diligently placing bags on the monitor conveyor belt, when there is no one watching the x-ray screen.
Of course, it would be much simpler if we just laid down the law and enforced total obedience. But if simplicity was our goal, we would have steered well clear of parenthood, wouldn’t we?
So, we continue on, talking, wrestling and wrangling verbally with our kids. Sometimes we allow ourselves to be pursuaded. Sometimes we are wrong. Sometimes we agree to disagree.
Just not when there is a field of landlines.
So, what parenting philosophy are we subscribing to this week? I think it’s called eclectic.
How do you get your head around obedience?