Sunday, October 31, 2010

Parenting based on vision, not fear

I poked about on parenting web sites yesterday doing a bit of market research. I was surprised by how little most of the articles resonated with me. So many were based on the question, "Is it wrong to...?" or "Should I allow my child to...?"

I thought These are the wrong questions.  They are questions based on fear, not vision.

They are based on the fear that we'll somehow do parenting wrong (face it: we will). They are based on the fear that our kids won't fit in (hopefully, in some ways, they won't: not everything about pop culture is good). They are based on our insecurity as moms and dads.

How about focusing on what kind of people we want our kids to be, instead?

Here's what I want for my kids:

  • I want them to be caring, thoughtful people, who take the time to notice the needs of others -- and do something to help.
  • I want them to be engaged in the problems of the world, and to be able to think clearly about how to resolve conflicts.
  • I want them to be people of honor and self-respect, whose word is trusted and discretion unquestioned.
  • I want them to have real passions, and interests that will make their world bigger than they can ever imagine.
  • I want them to have strong coping skills, so they can rebound from setbacks and persevere when things get tough.
  • I want them to take responsibility and accept accountability, even when it's awkward and painful to do so.
  • I want them to be able to argue at a level that goes beyond "He's stupid" and "They're evil."
  • I want them to make decisions based on the right thing to do instead of what they want to do.
That's my vision. It informs everything from how much screen time my kids have to what kinds of activities they participate in. Do we allow texting at the table? No, because that's neither caring nor thoughtful of the people you are with. Do we give each child a computer, to minimize conflict over screen time? No, because that doesn't teach kids to share and work out problems.

The thing about parenting that's based on vision is that the kinds of questions you ask yourself become things like Would doing this bring us closer to the kind of family we want to be? and Would allowing that make my daughter a better person? We're looking forward to our real goals. We've got a heckuva lot better chance of reaching our goals if we factor them into our parental decision-making than if we don't.

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