Much of what is considered (in a mainstream sense) as ‘normal’ or ‘good’ or ‘effective’ parenting or education; is based upon control. I identify as a peaceful parent in an unschooling home, and as such I have rejected most of these ideas.
In essence, the embracing of unschooling and/or respectful kinds of parenting, means the letting go of this control. It involves shedding the layers that we have built up over a lifetime of being controlled ourselves, and by believing that what was done to us needs to be done to others. It means removing beliefs that we previously had but have now come to question, in order to find new ideas and new ways of being and living.
When I am out shopping or walking, I don’t feel a need or a right to go up to people and comment on their clothing, their job (or lack therof), their hair, their tattoos, the number of children they have, or anything else that is personal to them and nothing really to do with me or anyone else. I may
display mutual interest, or just be interested or have a thought about it – but I will not go about making somebody else’s decisions and life all about me. Somebody else’s decisions aren’t about me, and I don’t think within that paradigm in the first instance.
When I am interacting with my children, I take a similar approach. Their decisions and their lives, are not all about me! And I am not going to make it all about me. Some things (like my own needs) are about me, but many things aren’t.
If they have their hair a certain way, that’s not about me. If they wear certain clothing, that’s not about me either. If they get upset over something that I see as minor, that is again, not about me! Their interests are not about me either, and neither are the things they aren’t interested in. Their learning, how they learn best, and what they want to learn about at any given time – is their own journey.
I would like to suggest the idea that every day, parents all over the place are making their kids’ choices and emotions and play and learning and personal preferences – about them instead of their kids, because of the control they search for over their children. I think many of us parents take
things personally; things that aren’t about us. In doing so, we make it about us – at the expense of ourselves and our children, and our relationship with them.
I do not feel that I have a right to control the way my kids play, what my kids play with, how they communicate, what they wear, how they prefer their
hair, whether or not they impress other adults with “obedience” or “compliance” (beyond how these, and similar, things intersect with the rights and autonomy of others). Their lives and their everyday decisions simply are not about me. It is irrelevant whether their decisions are ones I would
make, or whether they are making me look good, or whether I am complying with social beliefs about children, or whether they are helping me to fit into the social circles I value or am a part of.
When people ask me for help with unschooling or peaceful parenting, often they haven’t yet been able to let go of this control and they are looking either for ways to let that control go; or for ways to justify not letting it go.
I can’t help much if they are asking the latter, because if someone wants excuses, there are plenty out there in use already and that they perhaps are already using. The reasons why kids ‘need’ to be controlled ‘for their own good’, are able to be found almost everywhere. They won’t need help in
But if people want to understand better how they can successfully unschool or change their parenting paradigm, I can share my own experience of-
It isn’t about me. I don’t feel I have the right to control what my kids wear just as I don’t feel I have the right to control what anyone wears. I don’t feel I have the right to control or influence the way my kids keep their hair, just as I don’t feel that I have this right over anyone else either. I don’t get to be police over my kids’ emotions, in the same way that I am not police over anyone’s emotions.
Ultimately, I don’t believe I have those rights over my children. I respect my children as much as I respect any other person, any other adult, any friend or loved one. And as such, I just don’t believe that I can control them simply for my own insecurities, or based upon my own fears.
When you no longer believe that you have that right to be controlling of your children for your own ego; it is so much easier not do it.So, by acknowledging that our kids’ lives are not all about us – it then becomes important to acknowledge that this actually is about us in the sense that we need to work on things that would interfere with our children.
To become successful at true respect, I needed to make it about me introspectively, whilst allowing my kids to own their own lives and choices. It
just doesn’t occur to me anymore (many years after beginning to work on my own thoughts) to take liberties that infringe upon the rights
of my children to play, to learn, and to be; as they prefer. In the early days when I was grappling with the ideas of unschooling and deep respect for children, I did often feel that pull to control and manage and set things up in ways that would make me feel better (ridiculously conditioned
me with all of my entrenched preconceptions). As time wore on though, and as I began to truly grasp the philosophies involved in these ideas, I dropped the assumption that control of another person was a viable option.
When we have autistic children; it is even more socially expected (and accepted) that we be controlling of them. There are even more ways in which it is seen as “necessary” to infringe upon the autonomy and freedom of our kids, because of the social dialogue and thoughts of ableism, and goals of indistinguishability; that are so popular. This belief is also rampant in otherwise radical or alternative spaces, because such spaces are often inherently ableist.
If we have truly rejected though, that we as parents and people, have any right to control our children for our own wants – this won’t change when we have autistic or otherwise neurodivergent, children. We won’t be okay with respecting children in theory, but then be coming up against hurdles when we have a neurodivergent child. If we do then we have entrenched beliefs of ableism and (for whatever reason/s) believe that the right to be respected is lost when someone is disabled. This is a big deal and is something else to challenge in order to fully respect our children. Autistic children have just as much right as all children, to freedom, and to their own lives and preferences.
I would love to hear, in comments on our Facebook Page or on this blog post, how you have come to a place of deeply respecting your children, or where you are on your journey toward it. How have you worked on yourself and your own ableism, preconceptions toward parenting or learning, or feelings of wanting to control?