Admittedly, I have a very one track mind these days. But ever since I read Parenting Teens with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay it feels like my cranium has been opened and light poured in.
Before I read about Love and Logic, if you had asked me what a well-disciplined child was I would have answered: A child who follows directions and doesn’t embarrass you in public. By that definition, Jenna(2.5) is very well behaved, and her brother Bruce(6.5)…err..um…not so much! Now after reading Love and Logic I would a define a well-discipline child as: A child who is being trained to make good choices, to think for him/herself, and who takes 100% ownership for the results of his/her decisions.
My goal as a parent is not to raise a child who will do what I say, but to train a child who makes good decisions and chooses to do the right thing of his own accord. No matter what hegemony is present in my daughter’s life, I want her to have an inner voice that is so strong and wise that it will carry her through all situations.
To ground this philosophy in reality, this morning was pretty crazy. Bruce came up to me worried about going to school because it had started to snow. I checked all of the weather alert updates, and none of the schools in our area were closed, so I spent the next ten minutes calming his anxiety about getting stuck somewhere on the bus. Finally, we agreed that I would drive him to school this morning.
While we were driving to school I saw two teenagers walking up to the high school and coming to a crosswalk. The boy, who was about six feet and looked like he could play football, crossed the street on the red light. The girl who was with him, waited at the corner for the signal to change. She looked across the four lanes of traffic and held up her hands at her friend to say, “What gives?”
Whoa! I just saw an amazing moment in time. That teenage girl made a split-second decision to stay put on the corner. She didn’t follow the good looking guy next to her into what could have been a dangerous situation. She followed her own inner voice and stayed put. The teenage boy on the other hand, probably thought he was invincible and the ordinary rules of society or consequences physics would not apply to him.
This really made me think. What type of teenager was I? For sure, I was the girl who stayed on the corner, and the boys I hung out with in high school would probably have had their arm out in front of me making sure I waited for the light to change. All of the teenagers I chose to be friends with were really responsible.
But what types of teenagers will my kids become? Who will their friends be? At that point in my thought process I started to freak out a bit. I had just witnessed one moment of good/bad decision making. How many of those moments will my own kids someday face? Hundreds? Thousands? Deep breath Jenny!
After I dropped Bruce off at school the thermometer started dropping lower and lower, and the sky began turning whiter and whiter. Maybe Bruce was right to be concerned about the weather, and I just committed a parenting error by teaching him to ignore that voice inside of him that said he should stay home. Then again, maybe I was teaching him to check in with experts and make informed decisions. Or maybe, as is so often the case, I have no idea what the heck I am doing and am just making this up as I go along! 🙂
P.S. I read an interesting post at Tinderbox Homeschool recently about how the Unitarian Church teaches children to listen to their “inner voice” starting from a young age. They might be on to something!