3 Reasons People Are Complaining About Your Parenting

complain
When our children were younger, we were very conscientious about their care.  They didn’t drink “Kool-Aid.”  We mixed their juice half and half with water.  There was not often candy in our house.  We didn’t have network or cable television, and they would occasionally watch something from our collection of age appropriate DVDs (and by age appropriate, I don’t necessarily mean G rated, Cartoons, or Disney movies, many of which are extremely confusing and traumatic for a very young child)  We weren’t denying them anything they were asking for, but simply not giving them anything that was potentially damaging to their health and happiness when they weren’t even asking for it.

For some reason, this upset people.  A chorus of “You can’t shelter them forever!” was constantly ringing in my ears.  A phrase that never made much sense to me, because all parents “shelter” their children to a certain extent.  You don’t sit your 3 year old down to watch hard core pornography.  You don’t offer your 5 year old a shot of vodka.  You don’t drop your 2 year old off on the outskirts of town and see if they can find their way home.  Oh, and then there was the story of so-and-so.  You remember s0-and-so, don’t you?  Their mother never allowed them to have such-and-such, and when they finally got ahold of it they were obsessed with it and never did anything else!  You don’t want your kid to be like so-and-so, do you?  People were also constantly trying to undermine our parenting decisions.  Thrusting spoonsful of ice cream toward my 8 month old daughter, or putting on movies they knew we wouldn’t want the kids watching.  In short, it was extreme disrespect for my children’s wellness, and extreme disrespect for my wife and I as parents.  Obviously, we didn’t know what we were doing, so they had to correct it for us.

Well, some years and a few kids later, things have changed.  The kids are older, candy is inevitable, and we now have a TV with Netflix and a computer with the internet.  But one thing hasn’t changed, we are still upsetting people with the way we raise our children.  The problem now?  Too much freedom.  We don’t force them to dress a certain way, we let them eat when and what they would like, they do not have a fixed bedtime, they decide who they do and don’t want to hug and kiss, and we have no limits on screen time.

Why then, are people still upset?  Isn’t this what they wanted?  For us to stop sheltering our children and to stop being so “controlling”?  But that was never really the issue.  The issue was that we were doing something different.  We were going against the grain, and we still are.  That is a problem for three reasons:

1. By doing something different we must be implying that the way they raised their children was wrong.

2. They are jealous because they wanted to do something different, but gave in to pressure to maintain the status quo.

3.  Society has taught them to fear what they do not understand.

So, to all you different parents out there, I say be yourself, do what’s best for your family, and don’t listen for one second to the jerks who try to bring you down.  Your children will thank you, and you won’t have to ever wonder what would have happened if you had raised them the way you knew was right.

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Checkmate Dad! (Putting an end to my bias toward “Educational” activites)

Chess

There was a time when I had a clear distinction in my mind between “Educational” and “Mindless” activities.  I even had a mental scale, or rating system that I used to determined which activities would be more or less educational.

When my children would chose an educational activity (Studying the globe for example) I would be filled with joy and satisfaction, knowing that they would soon be silencing my critics with their display of awesome knowledge.  When they chose a less educational activity (watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for example)  I would be filled with anxiety, fear, and disappointment.

One place where this mental dichotomy would manifest itself is our local library.  We would walk into the children’s department, and the first thing my children would see:  The computers.  “Why?”  I would think, “Why can’t they look at books?  That is what we are here for, maybe they would actually LEARN something!  Must they spend the entire trip on the computer EVERY time we come here?”

On one of these trips my son (aged 5 at the time) stumbled upon a chess game on the library computer.  He fell in love.  For the next 3 weeks everything was chess.  He watched instructional videos to learn the names of the pieces and how they move, he played chess on the kindle and on the computer at home, and EVERY time we went to the library.  He was chess obsessed, and he was getting pretty good at it.

Had I insisted that he stay off of the Library computer, and go pick out books, he never would have had the joy of finding something that he loved.   By steering our kids toward activities we believe to be more “educational” we may just be robbing them of an opportunity to find something they are passionate about.

At any rate, our beliefs about what is “educational” are made up prejudices, and we should do everything in our power to make sure our children participate in any activity they desire, without regard to our biased opinion.

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Are You Qualified to Teach Your Children?

Another re-post from my old blog:

When people find out that our children are home-schooled (Well, unschooled actually) They usually respond by shifting the conversation to a more comfortable topic, such as…well, anything but homeschooling.  However, when speaking to less timid folks, the conversation can quickly turn into an interrogation.

“Whats wrong with the schools in our community?”
“Didn’t you go to public school?”
“How will your children learn to socialize?”
“How will they learn to take instruction?”
“How will they learn discipline?”
“How will they get a job without a diploma?”

And then there is my personal favorite, “What makes you think you are qualified to teach your children?”

When I was first confronted with this question, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to answer it.  I came up with all kinds of legitimate answers, as well as finding statistics comparing the performance of home-schoolers to children taught in public school.  But no matter what answer I came up with, it still didn’t feel right.

I then realized something that has completely changed the way I look at my children’s education.  I am NOT qualified to teach them.  My critics were right all along, I do not have what it takes to educate my own children.  But the good news is, they are qualified to learn.  Every child has within them the capacity to learn from their surroundings, without school, without a curriculum, and without a teacher.  So maybe you don’t have a teaching degree, but don’t let that stop you from allowing your curious, and resourceful children from learning naturally, and with joy, on a daily basis.

“Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.”   -Albert Einstein

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Bonsai Children

I found this post while revisiting one of my old blogs.  I thought it deserved a re-post.

I have a fondness for bonsai trees.  They are quite amazing, and if  I had the patience to grow them, or money to buy them, my home would certainly be a bonsai forest.

As I was sitting and thinking of the techniques used in growing bonsais:  The pruning, trimming, clamping, and wiring.  And thinking also of the outcome:  The size, the artificial appearance of maturity, the constant care that is required.  I compared these aspects to those of their wild counterparts, which are tall and majestic, with spreading branches, elaborate root systems, and no need for human hands to care for them.

Is it unfair for me to draw these same comparisons between the schooled mind, and the mind that was free to learn for itself?

At school, children are shaped into a form that may not be natural for them, but is acceptable to society.  They acquire an appearance of maturity, but it is merely an illusion based in fear.  They are kept contained for 6 hours (or more) a day so that their roots cannot reach deep into the ground, and find their own source of happiness.  Without school, children are limited only by their nature.  They are free to become themselves, whether that be a shrub or a sequoia, they will be themselves, and in that, there is much joy.

The main difference is that the growth of the bonsai gives a sense of joy and accomplishment to the grower, while the growth of the wild tree gives a sense of accomplishment and joy to the tree.

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