Monday, October 30, 2006

I want a sandwich...

Parenting is one of those things I never really understood, I just do. I know there are heaps of books you can buy on the subject, and that lots of people must freak out because they're not doing it right, and then go buy those books. Or maybe parents in law buy them as a discreet way of telling their children's spouses that they're not doing it right, or maybe nobody buys them at all...

Either way, my approach to parenting is really simple; children are people. They're often really short bizzare crazy people, but they're people none the less. I worry a bit about the supernanny and the baby whisperer training children to regimes and schedules. You can train children to behave according to your rules, the same way you could train a monkey or a goat, sure. But you don't treat people like that. All kinds of organisations from the Third Reich to Heaven's Gate have managed to successfully train people to behave in a particular way. They didn't get their own reality TV show.

My story goes that you should respect your children. That doesn't mean that you should let them do whatever they want - more that you develop a mentor relationship with them, where they'll listen to your advice because they respect it. This means that sometimes you need to tolerate behaviour that you don't like. But hey, I tolerate behaviour I don't like in lots of people, and most of them are grown ups. It means that you teach your kids the value of reason, by occasionally changing your mind based on their opinion. Then, the next time you want them to modify their behaviour, they're more inclined to listen to your argument. I'm not saying that my kids have no rules and can do whatever they want. My kids know about the rules, and why they are there. They don't always like them, but they comply with them.

Society is like that. Lots of rules for you to follow. People complain about 'them' - like how "they" make you fill in your tax return. Well, while my kids are little, I'm them. I'm society.

Humans are much cooler than goats or monkeys. In a child is all the personality and ego and specialness that you'll find in any human that ever lived. As a parent, I don't think it's fair to try to replace those little people's ideas or values with your own, any more than it is to assert your opinion over anyone else. Sure you'll influence them. But it's got to be more about providing guidance and advice than it is about fitting your child in with your life.

Of course, a lot of my ideas on being a parent come from my own Mom, who has decided to start her own site explaining how she managed for so long.

You can find her own, handcrafted thoughts on the topic at

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