Friday, July 2, 2010

UnParenting

As a parent I try to be involved in my children's lives in such a way that we are experiencing and exploring life together. I am available to help them get their needs met. I also do my best to meet their needs without being asked because we have spent their entire lives together and I know quite a bit about what they like and dislike, and how they will most likely react to certain situations or environments. I also respect their desire for independence and the fact that they are not static beings. I do my best not to take it personally when my efforts to meet their needs are rejected or fail to fit what they actually need in any given moment. If they don't need or want my help that's really okay with me, but I'm here if they do.

Some parents give their children freedom but fail to be present in their lives. They let their children do whatever they want without any support or resources. In some circles this is referred to as unparenting. At its most extreme it can be a form of neglect.

Unparenting also takes the form of parents failing to provide their children with information or guidance regarding what is appropriate in a given situation. The child is happily running in circles through a room for several minutes and then the parent yells at them and tells them to sit down and be quiet or leave the room. The child reaches for the last cookie on the platter only to have her hand slapped or the plate jerked out of reach. The child goes on an outing and doesn't have appropriate shoes or a jacket and gets scolded for not being prepared. What ever the situation, the child has been innocently doing something, happily engaged, or oblivious to something that others are aware of, and out of the blue they find themselves being yelled at, punished, scolded or shamed. Many times the parent was absorbed in some other activity or conversation and was ignoring their child up until the moment they noticed the child's behavior. They then notice that the child is "misbehaving" and in an instant the parent's negative attention is focused upon the child. To the child this can be scary, confusing, or just plain unfair.

A crucial part of parenting is providing our children with information so that they know what is appropriate or expected in a given situation. As parents we also need to be aware of our children's limits and abilities so that we can help them avoid or navigate situations that may be challenging for them in any way. Having a relationship based on trust and respect, along with having a history of providing our children with accurate factual information, makes it possible for our children to remain open and receptive to information that we provide. This process begins at a very young age. We help our children understand why we are quiet in a library or we wait for our turn to go down the slide. The more we can provide information about they "why" and help our children be prepared before they go into a new situation the easier the experience will be for both parent and child. If we manage to stay connected with our children we will be less likely to look up and react harshly or negatively when a calm and supportive response would better help our child. If we stay with our child we can provide them with information relating to our experience, "The stairs are a bit slippery here so I'm going to hold onto the railing. Would you like to hold my hand or hold onto the railing, too?" We can also help them understand expectations relating to specific public places, "It's polite to be quiet in the library because people are reading or trying to concentrate and loud noises might be distracting." And we have the opportunity to share with them why there are laws and rules about certain behaviors, "There are rules about not picking flowers in this park. We aren't allowed to pick flowers because if everyone who came here picked flowers there wouldn't be anymore flowers for other people to enjoy."

When we become a resource for accurate information our children are able to turn to us for cues as to what might be an appropriate behavior in a new situation. When we are involved in our children's lives we have a better idea of what situations are appropriate for our children and how we can support them so they can enjoy a new experience. When we remain connected with our children in any situation we are aware of what is going on with and around our children which enables us to offer positive support or information as it is needed. When we make our relationship with our children the most important priority in our life we get to have more fun as we explore the world together.

4 comments:

  1. I reblogged and tweeted a link to this post at http://fyeahunschooling.blogspot.com. ~Cheryl Hulseapple

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  2. Wow! Thanks Cheryl :)

    Having recently been to a conference, a common place for discussions relating to unparenting, I was surprised (and disturbed) to see the forms unparenting takes in families with conventional parenting. The disrespect to the kids of out-of-the-blue yelling and/or punishment when a little information and understanding would have sufficed really stood out.

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  3. You hit the nail on the head "...become a resource for accurate information." Not just the usual "because I said so" but real honest answers. Sharing this on facebook and if it's ok quoting you in my status.

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  4. :) JoAnn, feel free to share and quote :)

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