Thursday, July 14, 2005

Philosophy of parenting

“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain as he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.”-Goethe

I saw this quote today and it sums up our parenting philosophy so well I just had to share it.

It makes me want to scream when I hear parents say "Boys will be boys!" while watching their little hellion run roughshod over other children at the playground. I shudder when I hear parents say "Oh, she's shy," while their daughter refuses to reply to someone who's asked her name.

The fact is, if you believe that boys cannot control their impulses you won't teach them. If you don't teach them, how are they going to learn to do it? If you don't start teaching them when they're toddlers that it's wrong to cut in front of another child at the slide, when exactly are they going to learn? Do you think they'll arrive at kindergarten all ready to stand in line and sit in a circle? Not if you haven't taught them that they need to do it and, more importantly, that they are capable of doing it.

If you don't tell your child that it's rude to ignore someone who's speaking to them, how are they going to learn to respond politely? If your child hears you say that she's shy, she'll believe it and continue to act shy.

(This one is a particular pet peeve of mine. When our youngest had hearing problems, she would often not respond because she couldn't hear the question. However, people so quickly jumped to the conclusion that she was shy and would say that to her as if it's ok, or even good, to be shy! The day we heard her older sister use that as an excuse for M-Girl, we put a stop to it. We repeatedly told M-Girl (nicely) that it was rude not to respond when someone speaks to her. If someone said "Oh, she's shy," we immediately said "No, she's not" and we'd press M-Girl to respond. She didn't always respond but we kept reinforcing the lesson. One day, she said "hello" to someone before they even spoke to her. She looked at me, beaming, and said "Mommy! I said hello to that man!" She was so proud of herself. She's not as verbal as her older sister - few people are - but she's friendly and much more outgoing than she used to be because she learned to be. But I digress.)

As long as your expectations are reasonable, your children will strive to live up to them. I'm not suggesting that you should expect your one-year-old to be able to stand in line. But just because she's not ready to do it doesn't mean you shouldn't correct her when she cuts in front of another child. If she hears the lesson consistently, she'll be able to comply by the time she's two or three. If you wait until she's three to start teaching the lesson, she'll have two years of bad habits to overcome and she's a lot more likely to fight you on it.

We do our children (and ourselves) a disservice by not teaching them how to behave from an early age. It's important that, as they grow up - and even once they're grown - we see them and treat them as their "best" selves, even though they won't always act that way. That doesn't mean being blind to their faults and praising them even when they don't deserve it. It means teaching them that they are capable of being polite and respectful while having fun. It means showing them the value of hard work and perseverance.

Ok. I'm off my soapbox. We now return you to our regularly scheduled navel gazing . . .


Laura said...

Okay, I have to say it again: Right on, Sis-tah!! Have high expectations of your children, and they will live up to them. Not only do some parents not teach their children proper behavior at a young age -- they don't even teach proper grammar! I had a friend whose kid would say, "Me want . . ." and she NEVER corrected him. Then he turned THREE, and she finally decided that it was time to teach him to say "I want." I just wanted to shake her and scream, "Why the !@#$ didn't you correct him sooner?"

Jessica said...

Exactly! It isn't wrong to correct your kids - as long as you're nice about it. They don't WANT to do things wrong, they just don't know any better at first. Then when they do know better, then they do want to do things wrong just to piss you off but that's another matter entirely!