I have two daughters, and people who meet us together often ask me for parenting advice. Whether these people are libertarian friends or whether they’re strangers admiring my daughters’ behavior on an airplane, my answer invariably boils down to this: Remember that each child is a person.
It’s not always easy. Sometimes I’ve had to take actions to keep my kids safe and/or keep store owners from throwing us out, and these actions have occasionally caused disappointment. I’ve made a habit of involving my kids in decisions that affect them, even when they were very young, and even when I was tempted to say, “Just do it” or “Because I said so.” I’ve taken responsibility for my actions, especially when I’ve made mistakes. I strive to keep my actions consistent with my words, and I feel blessed that my kids have decided to follow my example and have learned to trust me. I feel very blessed that my husband shares my parenting philosophy and partners with me every day in raising our kids.
Kids look to parents to answer questions, and they can ask a LOT of questions, from the trivial to the profound. When one of my daughters asked me if we believe in God, I replied by asking her what she believed. We had a fantastic conversation. My kids think critically about what they learn and to come to their own conclusions. Occasionally I get into arguments with my 11-year old who currently believes some form of government is necessary to enforce the laws she holds dear. And my 12-year old isn’t interested in discussing government or politics because she thinks it’s boring. Part of raising kids to think for themselves is accepting their opinions when they disagree with me and trusting that we’re all capable of learning and evolving through open discussion. We all respect each other’s opinions or lack thereof even though we currently disagree about the substance and/or importance of some beliefs.
I’ve learned that respecting my daughters as individuals means that the golden rule doesn’t always apply. When I was a kid, my mom tried to motivate me to lose weight by refusing to buy me any clothes. The year I was 12, I owned only one pair of pants that fit me, and I bought those with money I’d earned with my paper route. I was determined to be a different kind of mom and buy my kids all the clothes I never had growing up. But my daughters couldn’t care less about clothes. When I see them dressed in old clothes and offer to take them shopping, they tell me, “Mo-om, clothes aren’t important. It’s who you are that’s important, not your clothes.” I laugh and have to agree with them.
Sometimes parents get into authoritarian power struggles with their kids over trivial issues out of fear from being judged. While I sympathize with the peer-pressure we endure as parents, this type of fear is no excuse for forcing kids to do such things against their will. As mentioned above, my kids don’t care much about their appearance, and this pertains to hair as well as clothes. They will usually brush their hair if I ask them to do so, but sometimes they refuse. This irks me, I admit, but it’s not a big deal… if people want to judge me for having messy-haired kids in raggedy clothes, they are entitled to their opinion and all the “tsk – tsk’s” they choose to send my way. I’ll be the one having a blast with my thoughtful, wonderful kids.Tags: parenting, philosophy, politics