Welcome to my life. It's a whirlwind of kids, chaos, pets, people, family, art, and being home (most of the time; I like to get out here and there). We unschool, so the unexpected is, well, expected...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Control based relationships with our kids... Careful, this could be a bit of a rant!

I consider myself a partner with my kids. We are on the same team and work together to get what we want in our lives. I don't think this could be possible if I were to implement control in any form over their lives.

There are all kinds of control based relationships, some of them really icky, like how my daughter's best friend has with her father. Some of them are subtle, like coersion, giving children choices like do this or do this (enter really yucky thing). Both of them are control. Control comes in many forms, but none of it is healthy to building strong relationships.

As adults we can recognize this with other adults, and partners, but what about kids? So many adults don't even consider how control is really unhealthy to kids. Why are so many adults dealing with control based relationships as adults? Hmmmmm, I wonder.... If so many kids are growing up with control implemented in their lives, surely that is what they learn in regards to dealing with others. Perhaps they don't grow up to control other adults, but I'd be willing to bet they learn to do that to their own kids.

When you unschool, first you get rid of the idea that one must "teach" a child in order for them to learn. That is the very first step to unschool, although some people come to the idea through attatchment parenting. When you really examine the idea of forced learning and natural learning, it comes to the idea that one person cannot really get another person to learn something, it has to come from within the learner. Sometimes kids want to please the adults in their lives and regurgitate ideas that make them appear to be learning the things the adults want them to be learning. That idea goes against how real learning actually happens. Real learning comes from the internal desire and motivation of a person that wants to know something because it is relevant to their lives.

When someone is choosing to home educate their children, they decide what their kids need to know based on their own ideas of what is important. When someone chooses to unschool, they let go of those ideas that parents know what exactly a child needs to learn. For each person that will look different because all kids are different and all families are different and all people live in different communities, have different incomes and influences, and talents. What does look the same, is that there is a deep form of trust that is formed by this idea of partnership.

Yes, I'm talking about control again...

If a parent decides to unschool and let a child follow their passions, they help them along the way by offering up activities and ideas that help to feed that passion. If a parent trusts a child that much and acts like their teammate to meet a common goal, then where is there a place in that lifestyle for control?

I haven't found a place for that. If you really trust your children to make good decisions and learn from their mistakes in a positive healthy way, then the parents really need to back off and work hard to NOT control the lives of their children. That includes, when a person sleeps, eats, what they eat, what they watch on tv and for how long, how long they play video games, and how much they chat online with their friends. If a child finds these things to be valuable, and if a child needs to eat a cookie at midnight, then that should be a choice freely available to the child. If it's not, why?

It always comes down to the "WHY?" question. So many parents justify their need for control of their children. Even some unschooling parents want to justify their need to control some aspect of their children's lives. They say things like, "Well, you don't know my child and he really needs me to tell him that he has to stop playing video games, because if I don't he will play all day and then be cranky, and I just can't have him behaving in this way."

Do people even consider that this kind of reaction of a child, to be cranky towards a parent, is directly related to the feeling of being controlled? Nobody likes to be controlled, NOBODY!!!!! You show me one person who does like it and I may change my mind, but for now I will stand by what I say. I may not know other people's particular child, but I do have a pretty good idea of the nature of children and people in general. Children are constantly belittled and demeaned in our culture. How did we ever get to this place in our world? It starts with the small things, like honoring a child's need to have that cookie right now, even when dinner is ready in ten minutes. Is it going to kill them to eat HFCS or PHVO or (gasp) white sugar, or whatever offending item that a parent has deemed unfit for the good of the child, or that it will spoil their appetite?

I personally find it much more harmful to the psyche of a child to tell them "no" and that their wants and needs are not valued, and that the parent's idea is better and more valuable. It makes kids feel less powerful. I want my kids to feel empowered and valuable. I want them to feel that they can do anything, I will not be their stumbling block!

It all counts! Everything has value and can be learned from. Kids who have the trust and freedom to explore their world in a safe and comfortable environment will do so. I find that kids WANT to do the right thing, they want to be healthy and comfortable and smart and they want to have fun doing all those things. Why wouldn't they, that is just something that many parents project onto their kids, this idea that all that is hard and needs to be shoved down their throats.

Again, it all counts! When you take away the box, there is a whole world out there for kids to explore and learn from. As a parent we can take our kids out of the "school" box, but then come home and put them in a box of another kind, a parent contolled box of "can't" and "shouldn't" and "for your own good".

Here's a good link to check out:

how children really react to control


kat said...

A very interesting perception on parenting....
Do you in any way worry about the final outcome? (narcissism, inability to function in a society based on the aformentioned, etc.)
Just curious as I am not familiar with this parenting technique. Not that I will ever have more kids, but you ARE family & I AM interested in your lives!! When I dont know, I tend to ask, please dont take my questions offensivly, they certainly arent meant that way!!

Jenny Cyphers said...

I don't like the way our society raises kids in general. I figure I'm changing that one kid at a time.

Healthy, happy, well adjusted kids grow up to be that way as adults. I'm thinking that will help them navigate the world they live in.

One of the biggest differences I see already in Chamille, is that she WANTS to be my friend, she uses my advice, and she has a level of self confidence that I just don't see in most of her peers that are raised with rules coersion, and school (large authority figure telling them what to do for their own good).

If kids are happy and healthy, they will succeed. They will find the tools they need to exist, largely because no one told them they couldn't.

It's a lot more than that though. I don't worry for them, other than the typical mom worries. It would be a waste of time to focus my energy in that direction. I can't control the future, I can only control what I do right now.

paxye said...

Thank you so much for this post... It comes at a perfect time in my own mini-struggle. I have always known I would unschool my children, I never thought it would be so hard to let go of the ideas and ways that I grew up with.
The complete lack of control as a child that I knew I didn't want my children to have to live with.
My children are still young, I still have a lot of inner work to do also to be the parent that I strive to be, your post put what I believe in words.

Stephanie said...

Hi Jen, glad I found your blog, I'll be back to check in I like what you are saying here :)
I have blogged along the same lines.