Let’s be real, society dislikes children, they feel oppressively inconvenienced by them. And when you are kind to children? Society dislikes you too. And who enjoys being disliked? It’s worth it but that doesn’t always make it easy.
When you parent in a way that is outside of mainstream expectations, you are held to an incredibly high standard by those who do. Your child better be xyz or your whole approach is discredited… it hasn’t worked! Sidestepping the reality that people are within a process of learning, especially those newest to the world; the giant hole in this logic is that when you parent outside of mainstream expectations you don’t have the same standards for measuring success. You’d actually maybe rather not be viewed successful if that’s the way they want to judge it you know?
But even still, humans are very reactive to shame. And it is easy to lose sight of who you are when there is a sea of voices trying to tell you who you should be. And for most people, this is something that has been ongoing since birth, it is a cemented pattern of behaviour control that is difficult to break; not only in your actions towards your own children but in your own actions towards yourself. And then it is an even more difficult pattern to break out loud, in public where you know people just aren’t going to get it, they don’t want to get it, they’re invested in specifically not getting it. And it is tempting in those most difficult moments to avoid the shunning, pushing far to the back of your mind at what expense that would be; your child, your relationship, your ideals…
So what helps me?
Perspective. How my child acts and reacts? That isn’t an extension of me. How I respond to their actions and reactions? That’s me. That’s what I stand behind. That’s what parenting in this way is about for me. Their choices are not required for my personal success, mine are.
Reality check. My child, like all people, is going to feel frustration, disappointment, overwhelmed, anger, sadness… everything! And they are going to make mistakes. We are going to disagree about things. I cannot prevent this even with the addition of punishment or reward or shame or fear, nor would I want to… Seriously, why do people believe punishment can somehow cure a person of their inner humanity? And how messed up that that might be a pursued goal?
And I just keep reminding myself, what matters is what happens next. My behaviour, my behaviour, my behaviour.
Create a life that feels good on the inside. Not one that just looks good on the outside.
My pride isn’t derived from what my children do or do not do. I feel pride when I process my own conditioned reaction and choose better; choose kinder, choose empathy, choose problem solving instead of problem shaming, choose our relationship. I’ll leave the pride for my child’s actions to them, where it belongs.