I’m Grateful For… Parenting Role Models

Because this is November, I had intended to write a series about gratitude, and I regret that I’m off to a late start with it.  I’m really just busy this time of year.  I have much to be grateful for!

Even if you don’t come from a dysfunctional family per se, you will find it difficult to strike out on your own and parent differently from the way you yourself were parented.  There is a simple enough explanation for this.  Often times when we resolve to do something different from our parents, we are just resolving not to be like them.  And that is all well and good as a starting place, but it’s really poor when it comes time to actually act.  It tells you nothing about what to do.  Just for instance, Mike and I resolved, from before we even conceived Liam, that we were not going to spank.  I renounced violence when I got out of college and hitting my child, even in the name of discipline, would violate that.  Mike told me that he felt he had been spanked too often as a child, so he didn’t want to start.  I also went to college to learn about psychology.  Interesting fact: Punishment is a relatively weak tool for modifying behavior.  This applies to all punishments, not only corporal ones, and it applies to all animals, not just humans (or lab rats).  I’m obviously in danger of running away with this thought, so I’ll get back to my original point.  Knowing what not to do is never enough.

When I was a kid, I attended a private Montessouri school and to the extent that I was involved with church, it was the local Unitarian Universalist congregation.  Whenever there were field trips, sleepovers or other activities, I got to spend time with other kids’ parents.  And for the most part, they were not all that different from my own parents, or more accurately, they were different from my parents in ordinary ways.  But because of the nature of the church and the school, there were a number of grown up hippy parents: Counterculture-loving folks who had a very different take on everything than what I was used to.  When one of the kids acted out, these parents didn’t get into power struggles with them, they instead looked for more creative ways to get the kid to come around.  And it worked.  And when I would try to emulate them later, with younger children, it would often work for me as well.

All this is from my way-distant past.  I’d love to give specific examples here, but I just am not able to do it.  But their example showed me how to deal with kids in productive ways and I learned lessons that I have been able to put to good use now as a parent.  Did these folks realize they were giving parenting instruction?  I doubt they were thinking that far ahead.  But yes, children really are always learning, always listening, and I am grateful to these folks who modeled patience, kindness and grace to me and helped me to grow to be a better person.

How about you?  Are you ever surprised by how much you learned about parenting as a kid, or by where you learned what you now know?

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