Monday, April 26, 2010

Whether or Not We Agree...Some thoughts on Civility and Parenting

This morning I checked my email and caught the tagline for the Mamaworld Forum (yes, the one I had sworn not to post on--I know, I know). I was excited right away: the blogpost featured asked the question "Why Don't Time Outs Work?". So I clicked on and read, happy to have found a kindred spirit in my quest for more intellectual and progressive parenting. Now, let me say first and foremost that I understand why the Time Out method is so attractive to families, and I'm not here to debate this. You may or may not agree with me as to why I find it ineffectual, but if you use it, I respect your reasons for it. It just isn't the best way for me. I don't think any less of parents that use this method either: parenting is a difficult job, and I think a lot of us are doing the best we can.

If you want to read the post, pop this into your browser:
http://www.gilabrown.com/GB/Blog/Entries/2009/9/22_Why_Time-Outs_Don%E2%80%99t_Work.html

(sorry, Ludite Girl here!)
If you did click the link, you'll notice I didn't send you to the forum, but to the author's site. Because the forum was just another demonstration in how, when the masses get all irritated and insecure, start turning people they've never met into human pinatas.

And this is why I'm writing. There were a lot of posters who were able to post about why they used Time Out and why it works for them with a tone of civilized discourse. There were some of us who defended the article (myself included) and explained respectfully why we thought the way we did. It's a forum and really, that's fine. That's what forums are supposed to do. But there were also a lot of people throwing tomatoes and taking personal potshots. Many unkindly suggested that since the author didn't claim her motherhood publicly, that she was indeed without children and therefore, stupid at parenting. Nevermind that the woman has her masters in human development from Pacific Oaks College, one of the most esteemed teaching schools in the United States. Apparently, being able to push out babies trumps thousands of hours of hands-on experience, endless study and application and all that go with a degree such as this.

This is the kind of bullshit I find galling.

First and foremost, in the last 18+ years I've spent working with children, only during the last three of them have I been a mother. To say that I wasn't capable of being a good nanny because of my lack of child would have been absurd at best. Why on earth would doing something as basic and animal as the human body can do--reproducing--be seen as anything else? How on earth does one equate the ability to do what neanderthals did as acquiring some sort of expert intelligence. Pregnancy, birth and raising children are truly informative experiences, and no expert knows our children like we do. But to imply that higher learning should be trumped by a consequence of hormones is truly ridiculous.

It seems to me that as a culture we have an aversion to scientific thinking. Pop psychologists are all the rage, and the idea that we can watch television shows and learn about medicine, relationships, how to parent...well, that's kind of like eating junk food instead of a home cooked meals. Informative television shows are entertaining at best (although I can't find one parenting show that I'd call entertaining), but parenting shows are the most abysmal. They are disrespectful to the families, the audience and especially the children being taped, which is a trespass into their childhood and a travesty in and of itself. Children's challenges are hard enough and should be kept private. We don't respect children.

Yet, somehow, many seem to value the opinions of the television experts. Do we ask ourselves what their qualifications are? Where their theories and beliefs come from? So many complacent parents see something on television and think to themselves: "Oh, if I use this technique, it'll work for me." This easy acceptance of our society to jump on any bandwagon without studying it is a concern, as is our decreasing propensity of seeking intelligent knowledge by opening a book, consulting with a counselor, or any other sensible thing that has merit. There's a frightening absence of critical thinking involved on both sides, too. I find that some people choose similar parenting styles as myself, but without understanding the background or what makes the approach attractive to them. Knowing how to parent must be intrinsic with knowing why we are comfortable with certain kinds of parenting, and what sort of adult we are trying to raise while they are children. These should be the thoughts that help to guide our parenting, the thoughts that should challenge us to be better parents because it grows us up as human beings.

We lead and teach our children by example. Whether we use a loving version of Time Out or prefer redirection and helping to build life skills in slower, less traditional ways, our children learn from what we do, not what we tell them to do. Thoughtful parents don't go online, ridicule strangers and act out in these helpless, threatened ways just because they don't know why they think what they think.

We've got a long ways to go before we become a truly civilized country.

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