‘Dad on the Run’ questions the fine line between teaching children conformity and fostering individuality.
“Because I said so!” Did I really just say that?
Are my demands for compliance without question really the goal of parenthood? Am I raising another brick in the wall; another round peg for every round hole? Does trying to do so more often than not result in a rebel without a cause?
More importantly, are the actions I take… the “ought to’s” of parenting effective? What measure do I use? At what point do I measure that outcome? Is a 2 year old who says please and thank you the goal? Or am I shooting for a 26 year old who can feed and clothe himself while not ending up in prison?
Maybe I’m trying to raise a better parent than I am. Perhaps, it’s not so important they listen to me (or anyone) without question and it’s more crucial they be independent and comfortable going against the flow.
I’ve seen the white water rapids of a group of teenagers pulling everyone along toward a waterfall and hidden dangers. I’ve rolled down that river myself. Learning to take a few strokes against the current of social rules and peer pressure is probably a valuable skill for a child to learn… so how do we teach it?
It is difficult to remember the world we present our children is not just in the words and lessons we teach with purpose, but in the guidance we offer through our actions (often inadvertently). Will my desire to be unquestioned expand their horizons and their potential, or limit their ideas and confine their goals? Am I willing to answer that question?
What about the other people they come across? When a person tells my daughter this activity is for boys or tells my son those toys are for girls I want them to question the assertion. When someone offers a ride to an underage keg party and it seems everyone is going, I want them to decide for themselves if that is a good choice, because I won’t be there.
I am the parent and I hold some authority, there is no avoiding the arrangement, but I don’t have to squelch their desires to know the “why’s” and the “how comes.” I don’t have to silence their objections. It’s not my goal to raise subservient children, I want them to grow up to be capable, and independent adults.
Being “like everyone else” may be easier in some ways for children and doing what they’re told every time certainly would make parenting a more pleasant endeavor. On the other hand, we should not forget to rejoice in the rebels and the rabble-rousers. I don’t want to raise a rebel without a cause, but I do hope to raise discerning, skeptical children who see much cause in this world to rebel against.
Here’s to you Link and J Bean, may you break all the rules (well, some of the rules) and challenge the status quo, may you not always take the easy way out, may you sometimes make other’s uncomfortable with your individuality and may we always remember that you are the rebels with a cause we raised.
I want to keep you from harm, so my rules and your ideas of freedom will often clash, but I want you to know that somewhere behind my inevitable scolding and angry face is a jagged bit of pride stuck in my throat.
Photo: Flickr/urbansnaps – kennymc
Originally appeared on Dad on the Run. Reprinted with permission