As a kind of follow up to yesterday’s post, I want to talk a little about parenting in an unschooling family. First of all let me say there is no one model that all unschoolers follow. Since unschooling is different in each family – remember, standardization is anathema to unschooling – identifying an ‘unschool parenting model’ would be next to impossible.
I can only talk about what I know from my own experiences, both in our family and families with whom we are friends.
Perhaps because of the fact that we spend so much time with our kids, unschooling parents are hyper-aware that the “Do as I say and not as I do” model of parenting does not work. Ever. The video I referenced in yesterday’s post is a prime example. The father humiliates his daughter for being disrespectful and immature by being….disrespectful and immature! Gee, I wonder where she learned that behavior?
What also doesn’t work is acting like you’re doing your kids a favor by being their parents. Hey, they didn’t ask to be born, that was YOUR choice. Stop holding it against them.
The basis of parenting in an unschooling family is pretty simple, really. Kids are people too. They have their own opinions and interests which may or may not coincide with your own. That fact is acknowledged and respected. Of course nothing is perfect, we all have our bad days and we all make mistakes. But we strive to treat our kids they way we ourselves would want to be treated. No matter that they are not fully grown. They are fully human.
Often when I say things like this, people misunderstand and think it means that unschooling parents have abdicated their role as “Parent”. That we give our kids license to “do whatever they want” which, when said with the right inflection, implies that what kids “want” is always at odds with what is appropriate. As though what all kids want is to be tyrants and criminals.
On the contrary, most unschooling parents I know are great leaders, facilitators, mentors, guides and yes, parents, to their kids. This takes a lot more guts than ordering kids around, which only takes a loud voice and lack of respect. Great unschooling parents model the kind of behavior they want to see in their children. If their kids question it, there is discussion about it and not simply a demand that it be done.
One more thing I want to point out. There is a difference between keeping something a secret and keeping it private. Parents often act like kids should have no privacy and whenever a child attempts to be private, by going into their room and locking the door or going to their room to take a phone call, parents flip out and demand to know “what’s going on.” Why is that? Is it because parents can’t fathom anyone wanting privacy? As though they themselves have never taken a call in another room? Hey, I don’t always want my kids to hear every conversation I have – not because I’m plotting against them, but just because. Humans need a little privacy and time to themselves now and then. Kids are human, so why do we think that rule doesn’t apply to them?
Remember the Golden Rule? Last time I checked, it didn’t read “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, unless the “others” in question are your kids in which case you can do unto them however you want.”
No family is perfect, neither parents or children. Kids will have days when they aren’t the lovely, responsible people we want them to be. But if we as parents realize that as adults we also have days when we aren’t the lovely, responsible people we (hopefully) aspire to be, dealing with our kids’ contrariness is a lot easier.