Archive for May, 2012

Permissive parenting

I worry a lot about exerting my will over other people. I hate the idea of forcing someone to do something they don’t want to, and worry that even if someone says, or even thinks, they’re happy to do something, deep down somewhere they are resistant to the idea and only complying to please me.

I can see that this is ludicrous. Layers of second-guessing quickly become meaningless – when someone says “This is my answer, this is my reason,” I have to accept that.

I can also see that this might have something to do with being raped. I explained before that it wasn’t a physically violent experience, only emotionally so. His bullying and threats wore me down and in the end I said yes. This presents a thorny issue. If I have to take other people’s words at face value, does that mean the rape was my fault. Could I have prevented it if I’d said no long enough?

Rhetorical question – I know academically my asking “Hey, do you want nachos…? Are you sure?” is not the same as bullying a crying 14-year-old into having sex against her will, but I need to acknowledge all the swirling, competitive thoughts about control and sense of self before I get onto today’s (non-rhetorical) question – what does this mean now I’m raising a child?

Toddlers have their sticky little fingers in EVERYTHING. Plug sockets, toilet bowls, plant pots, eye sockets. Plus they have no impulse control. My instinct is to let Isaac have at it unless there’s a chance he could kill himself. Knife in a plug socket? Not ok. But dumping a bowl of cereal on the table and smacking his hands into it? I’m fine with that, and I’ll clean it up without complaint.

J-dawg and our nanny are not fine with it though, and grumble about manners and things getting broken. But stuff is just stuff, and seriously I think it’s easier to teach manners by being polite yourself than by trying to control another person’s behavior.

I think you can use love and trust to teach children self-discipline – letting them make mistakes, solve problems, have a chance to learn are all part of that. I also think entirely permissive parenting is a form of neglect. The message you end up sending is that you don’t care one way or another what your child does. What I’m trying to find is the line between the two, while avoiding a swing in the other direction – where you control someone because you think you ought to, not because they benefit from it.

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