I’m not going to categorize myself into one parenting style or trend, because I really think you have to customize your parenting to your personality and your kid’s personality and your family set-up. I will say, however, that I favour the slow-parenting (I like chill-parenting…I don’t want to label myself or anything I do as slow) or free-range kids (what are we raising chickens??). I’m not saying I’m not a hyper-parent in many ways, because I am. I really have to fight the urge to be completely hands off and I worry myself sick about absolutely everything. It’s a concentrated effort to just relax sometimes.
I was at Anjie’s first kindermusik class and I was watching through a window from outside the classroom. The kids were jumping, hopping, rolling, singing clapping. She was just sitting on the floor, watching mouth-open not moving.
Irrational Panic Time!!! “My kid’s not normal. My kid can’t follow directions. My kid isn’t being social. My kid is sitting by herself in the corner. What’s going to happen at school? Will she succeed? Will she fit in? Will she learn” said my head.
I had to mentally strap myself down just so I wouldn’t open the door to her music room and say, “Anjie, c’mon stand up! Clap! Jump! Sing! Dance!” I concentrated on my free-range mantra: CHILL. CHILL. CHILL.
After a few more activities, she was joining in, listening to instructions and answering questions. “See”, said my head, giving myself a mental pat on the back, “No need to interfere.” Smug smile.
Then I started thinking more about hyper-parenting. Those against it, say it prevents our kids from becoming independent, making their own choices, and developing without structure. But what about the parents? Have you noticed that some Mom’s and/or Dad’s are completely obsessed with their children and their children’s lives? It always makes me wonder, didn’t they have lives before children? Didn’t they have interests and hobbies and friends? And isn’t this where all this labelling of and creating, and analyzing and writing about parenting styles and judging other people’s parenting styles is coming from? (I know……I’m doing it too!). There is a huge cultural obsession with parenting. Do we lose our identities once we become a parent?
According to this enlightening article by Pamela Druckerman, North American parents are making life pretty difficult on themselves by being obsessive parents, while French parents enjoy their children, as well as, a healthy, social, separate-from-children adult life. (The French really do everything better!) Despite some generalizations, I think she has made several really interesting points. North American parents need to set boundaries and be firm with their kids, so that their children aren’t ruling their lives. We also need to stop feeling guilty, and make some time for ourselves and an adult life (remember the one you used to have…it’s still there just buried under all the blocks, balls and Barbies).
Making time for yourself, and setting firm boundaries for your children is going to encourage the positive intents of slow-parenting, which allow your child to develop, play and learn independently. It will also help them learn to follow instructions, listen to you and build patience-all skills that are important at school and wherever they are interacting with others.. So, if you can stop feeling guilty for sending them off to play on their own, or not taking them to a structured activity every single night, or telling them they have to wait for something- it could actually be good for them, and probably pretty awesome for you too!