Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sept #11: There's Nothing "Peaceful" About Parenting Prejudices

“Man, Zita has such a hard time communicating her point of view. I wish she’d just voice an opinion already…”

Said no one. Ever.

No really, when something strikes my fancy or for some reason ignites the flames of my passion, I can get pretty hot under the collar. 

This should not come as a surprise to you, unless this is your first time visiting my blog and you’ve never met me in person…which, if that's the case, consider yourself fairly warned.

I can definitely argue, debate, discuss, and advocate like the best of them. And while I pride myself on my ability to take on an argument, I pride myself even more on the fact that I am often told that, in presenting my point of view,  I still succeed in being respectful of the opinions of others. To me, debates aren't about winning. They are about forwarding ideas, creating dialogues, stirring emotions and passions, and progressing our society. 

One of my favourite topics of discussion is parenting- mostly because I’ve always found the world of childhood education to be fascinating. I love working with children and learning how their brains function and learn comprehend the big scary world that they’ve been thrust into.

Many of my friends are strong parenting advocates.  Most choose one or two topics to focus on and, whether they be anti or pro circumcision, anti or pro spanking, crying-it-out or co-sleeping supporters, or exclusive breast or formula feeders, it’s been a while since I’ve met a parent who doesn’t have strong opinions about at least some major child-rearing choices. I have close friends on all sides of practically every parenting discussion, and would be hard-pressed to say that any of them are anything but wonderful parents, regardless of whether or not I agree with the techniques that they choose. 

I enjoy dialoguing on these topics, and while I have formed my own opinions on the most of these matters, try my best to refrain from imposing my thoughts/values/beliefs on others.  Ultimately, I believe that the only thing that should guide your parenting decisions are the needs of your family, children and parents included.

You could summarize my philosophy on children pretty simply: They are human beings too.  As such, I will treat them with as much respect as I would want to be treated and strive to treat others with.  This has led me to make some choices that are commonly ascribed to parenting techniques grouped under the “gentle”, “peaceful”, “non-violent”, or the ever criticized “attachment” parenting label.

I’m okay with people thinking these things, mostly because I don’t put a whole lot of weight on labels of any kind and don’t make my parenting decisions based on what others (be they book authors, doctors, or friends) tell me to do. I make my decisions, with my husband, based on what the needs and realities are for my family. It’s a pretty simple equation really.

That being said, I do have one “parenting” pet peeve that gets under my skin like absolutely no other…and today, I witnessed it yet again occurring on a friend of mine’s facebook wall.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, annoys me more than when so-called “peaceful” or “positive” parents take it upon themselves to shame, abuse or otherwise disrespect other parents who do not share their point of view or who are encountering parenting struggles.

The incredible hypocrisy of someone thinking that it is okay to publicly call out another person’s parenting style in such a way as to make them feel inferior as parents and human beings while simultaneously advocating parenting techniques that are rooted in treating children with love, respect, kindness, and compassion is beyond my comprehension.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a firm believer that we should always approach children with kindness and respect; but not just because they’re children.

We should do it because they are people, and treating others with love and respect is part of living in a society.

If you believe that hitting a child is wrong because violence doesn’t encourage positive outcomes with children, then you probably shouldn’t be beating up your friends (emotionally or physically).

If you believe that labeling a child with negative traits will actually aggravate the very behaviours that you are trying to negate, then you probably shouldn’t ascribe labels to other people that you are trying to have a rational conversation with.

If you believe that publicly shaming children leads to self-esteem issues including resenting themselves and others, then you probably shouldn’t publicly shame other parents, whether they be strangers or people that you care about.

If you believe that every child is beautiful and unique and has an individual personality/learning style that is precious and valuable to them, then you should be prepared to acknowledge that the same is true for all human beings, big or small.

What right do you have to tell another parent that they are “wrong” in how they are raising their children? You are not living their life. You do not know the reasons that have lead to their decisions, good or bad.

Believe it or not, there is more than one way to respectfully parent children, and some people will not agree with your point of view. Unless you are asked for your opinion, be very cautious about offering it. And if you feel compelled to do so without an invitation, remember that your words have consequences and can heal or wound based on your intentions. 

If you really want to help a struggling parent, start by showing the same respect you think children merit. All human beings are worthy of being treated with kindness. “Positive” techniques don’t have an expiry date of 18 years.

And, while you are busy preaching compassion, don’t forget that children learn more by observing our behavior than they do by being actually being taught.  What would your children learn from your conversations with other parents.  Would they be proud of how you communicated your message? Or would they be saddened to know that you deliberately and intentionally embarrassed or hurt someone in your quest for proving that you are “right”.

Before you jump on your high horse and start preaching, you’d better make sure that your practices match your sermon.

Otherwise, stop pretending that you’re perfect and teach yourself some much needed humility.

And, for once, try actually being the person that you want you kids to believe that you are.

Please note: If ever you feel that a child is in immediate danger or is being genuinely abused in such a way as to warrant intervention, please consult a specialist instead of attempting to take matters into your own hands.  While there is no "right" way to parent, there are absolutely "wrong" ways to parent- if you are concerned that a child is in danger, please do not hesitate to contact the authorities and protect them. 

This post is part of my September Blog Challenge. I will be posting a new blog post on (at least) every other day of the month, for a total of no less than 15 posts throughout the month.  The purpose of this challenge is nothing more than to push myself to continue using writing as a way of releasing energy and opening my mind. 

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