Friday, June 03, 2005

Parenting advice?

It's been so interesting reading people's responses to my post on Karateforums. I got this post today, and it made me realize that not everyone sees parenting in the same way:

You are the parent, here. If you feel that training is worthwhile, and is doing them good, make them go. I'm consistently surprised how many parents say "I can't make them do it." Why not? Can you make them get up and go to school? Brush their teeth? Do their homework? Then you can make them train too, if you see value in it.

I don't know about you, but I don't "make" my kids do anything. I haven't since they were tiny and I could pick them up and move them to where I want to go. Coercion is not my MO, and I don't think it's the way most people operate either. Certainly not the parents who wrote in before this one, and whom I quoted in my last blog entry.

My children go to school when they "don't feel like it." They brush their teeth. They get off the computer. But I wouldn't say it's because I "made" them do it.

I think my role as a parent is to create a structure around my children--a structure consisting of love, mercy, humor, forgiveness, and, of course RULES. That structure helps my children learn to make the right choices. Sometimes I have to remind them quite strongly about this structure. Sometimes they're mad about it. But they need it and I think they like it.

Yesterday, Robbie wanted to go off and play with his friend Jacob B. after school. They had some nebulous plan of going to the park to meet his grandmother, and then going back to Jacob's house when the grandmother went home . . . ! I don't know the parents, I don't know where they live, I didn't even know if Jacob's mom would be at his house.

I explained this to Robbie, reminded him of the structure of love and rules that I have for him. He was very mad, slammed the car door, and fussed very angrily for a while. But I did not "make" him get into the car or leave his friend. By the time we got to the library (our original after-school destination) he was happily telling me about what he did in school.

Maybe this parenting style sounds permissive. I don't think so. I cannot see how a coercive style would work with a strong-willed, high energy, intelligent boy like Robbie, or with a sensitive, different-drummer, intelligent boy like Eli.

Actually, I can't imagine how it would work with anyone. There's a dad at TKD who is "making" his 10-year-old boy learn the Palgwe forms so he can be a full black belt. But the boy is reacting in a passive-agressive way: he's deliberately not listening to the instructor. Ms. Pryor even came over and told the dad this, just after the boy's dad told me he was "making" his son do the extra work. I don't know if the dad saw the connection.

I'm not going to "make" my boys continue TKD when they're ready to stop. Because I'm the mom here.

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