Tuesday, February 08, 2011
When I was in junior high or so and had been babysitting for some years, I remember thinking to myself that I wouldn't be one of those parents who let their kids drag around naked dolls. I like clean, nicely dressed baby dolls. I still do. But now I understand that children seem to live for the very act of stripping the baby doll naked. And once the dolly is naked, they can happily drag the dolly everywhere.
And, for a while, I thought I knew how to have children who were perfectly behaved in public and who were charming and brilliant and gracious all-in-one. I thought I could reduce parenting to some kind of formula. If I do A, B, and C, then my children with be X, Y, and Z.
Then I had my first child. And I learned very quickly that A, B, and C do not equal X, Y, and Z because this fails to account for personality traits O, P, and Q, and life circumstances F, G, and H, and allergies T, U, and V. Yes, that's a lot of letters. And the combinations are endless.
I say this today because I've encountered some eye rolling and backhanded comments with regard to mine (and others) parenting, and I feel like it's time to make it clear what I believe and what I don't believe.
I can tell you the things I won't do as a parent: I won't hit or in others ways harm my child's body or invade her personal space. I won't call names, yell, guilt or demean. I don't want to make her behave well at the expense of her learning that her body is not hers or learning to hate herself. I don't want her to be externally motivated by fear of punishment. How will she behave when she's on her own if she's only motivated by fear of me and what I might do or say to her? How will she know how to make good decisions for herself if I've always "made" her "be good?"
My goal is behavior that comes from within because my children have learned what the right things are and how to do them. My goal is to love them in such a way that they know how to love and respect others. My goal is for my children to show kindness and compassion out of the overflow of kindness and compassion that has been shown to them.
I believe that children who are forced to do and be act in certain ways do not learn to make their own decisions. In fact, they may not really even have any idea who they are or what they want because they've always been told what to do and how to be. Of course, children who are not forced to act in particular ways will, certainly, make mistakes. Mistakes are an opportunity, though. They are an opportunity for us to teach our children forgiveness and reconciliation and grace. A child who is always punished and shamed for mistakes will only learn to punish and shame others when they make mistakes. A child, who has experienced forgiveness and learned how to make things right, will forgive others and extend the grace that allows others to make things right. I want to lead a life of grace so that I may leave a legacy of grace.