New parents often search for books and articles looking for the perfect concoction of philosophy and method to raise healthy and well-educated children. Let’s talk about some of those philosophies and educational choices.
Parenting’s Slippery Slope
In the popular parenting world for the past few decades, there has been a push to encourage good “self-esteem” in children. Articles and remedies for moms and dads have been touting the need for children to feel good about themselves… no matter what.
This has led to the comical (and sad) idea that there should be sports with no score keeping, school with no grades, and competitions with no winners. With this scenario, there has been a generation of people who have grown up confused about who they are, where they fit in, and searching for motivation to achieve.
The real way to self-esteem is accomplishment of personal goals and self-discipline. This is what must be taught for a child to truly understand the sense of their God-given worth.
In an attempt to booster self-esteem, parents have been told never to suggest that a child is doing something wrong, but that they are making an unfortunate choice. Never to train or punish, but to redirect. Never to chastise, but to only speak of the good. And where does this philosophy leave a child?
A child that has no way to win will not try to achieve. A child that has not experienced failure cannot truly experience success. They must experience the agony of defeat to really understand the thrill of victory!
Without the understanding that something is wrong, and that they have done a bad thing, they see everything as a personal choice… meaning it isn’t a bad or good choice. It is simply a lifestyle of “to each his own”. They also believe they never do wrong. They are only choosing their own path.
This philosophy has gone so far as to lead parents to believe they should not teach their children the truth of their religious beliefs, give them a curfew or bedtime, or even teach the basics of biology and gender!
Talk about a slippery slope… it all started by believing that a child should be told everything they do is good and should be able to choose their own way. That a parent guiding them down any path is actually intruding upon their personal choice. This has been an epic failure.
Here are a few of the parenting philosophies that have been around for the last few decades.
“Children are Just Little Adults”
In the 1970s, there was a TV sitcom, Mary Tyler Moore, in which a character named Phyllis Lindstrom had a young daughter named Bess. Bess was taught to call her mother by her name and not call her “mom”. Phyllis often would talk to her about inappropriate things for her age, treated her like she was in charge of her own life and allowed her to make all her own choices.
Of course, being a situation comedy, some of the choices Bess made were part of the gag. But, the reality is that the parenting ideas Phyllis was talking about on the show were some of the new parenting philosophies coming out at the time.
The idea was that children should be given the same freedoms and privileges as adults. They are only young people and all people deserve to be the shapers of their own destinies.
So, does allowing children to make all their own decisions about everything foster a healthy sense of reality and truth? Not in my view. What it does is give the reins of the horse to a child who doesn’t know what to do with them. It can end in disaster.
There is a lack of understanding by the parent of their role. Actually, there is no role for the child at all. They are put in a self-parenting position. In some children this would cause a lack of security and a desire to seek out someone to guide them, and in others a sense of arrogance and entitlement.
This is the idea that children, especially infants, must be with their mothers 24/7. That a child will grow to be the most secure if they are never away from their mother until they want to be. This includes constant baby-wearing, co-sleeping, and breastfeeding on demand rather than on a schedule.
In my view, this is a choice that can be very unnecessarily demanding on the mother. It also fosters a sense that the child is in charge and makes the rules. Every child needs to understand that they are not the center of all life on earth. That they can do things alone even if they don’t want to and all will be well. And, that mom is the one who decides when they will be with her and when they will be alone. Mom decides when it is time to eat, time to sleep and where those things will take place.
A father and mother also need to have time alone. One of the best things a mom can do for her children is love and cherish their father. He needs her too. So, she needs time alone and time with him, both of which do not include a baby.
This philosophy is good only in that it focuses on motherhood being a priority. But it takes things too far and can wear out a mother in no time. And… a father too, for that matter!
This philosophy is similar to attachment parenting but is for beyond infancy. It is the thought that children are fragile and must be constantly attended to at all times. It is like someone standing over your shoulder while you read. Mom is involved in everything a child does.
I think many moms are partially helicopter moms and don’t realize it. For instance, a child who is old enough to pick up food from a highchair tray should be eating things on their own. They should not need mom to feed them each bite. They should be able to put on Velcro shoes by age 2 ½. They should be able to get into their own car seat when they can climb there so all you have to do is buckle them, etc. Children should do as much as they possibly physically can without assistance.
Part of the problem with this philosophy is it fosters the thought in the mind of the parent that unless the child needs them for every single task, they aren’t loved as a parent. It also fosters the idea in the mind of a child that they are incapable and need their mother for everything.
Our job, as moms, is to work toward the day when our children don’t need us. They want our company and appreciate our advice… but they don’t need us. Their independence shows some of your success as a parent.
Consider that it is important to allow your children to learn the skills needed to take care of themselves. You may need to require it especially if you have been doing things for them that they should be doing for themselves. Stop doing things they should be doing. They may whine… but that isn’t allowed… remember? Make them do things for themselves as much as possible and this will build their self-esteem in healthy ways --- will stop the progression of mommy burnout.
This parenting style puts the priority on a surface and temporary relationship rather than on what’s best in the overall picture. The thought is that to tell a child “no” to something they want will damage the relationship, so allowing them to rule the day would be better.
Most people realize this is a bad idea, and would not consider themselves to be permissive parents… mostly because that phrase has a bad ring to it. But in practice, there are many more permissive parents than you think… and it is an unhealthy mindset for the parent and for the child.
A child needs to hear “no” sometimes. A child needs to understand they can’t have everything they want when they want it. They need to know you set the boundaries.
Then again, you want to say “yes” as much as possible and keep a positive attitude in your relationship with your child. But, when “no” needs to be said, say it. Don’t be permissive to avoid conflict. If there is conflict, see “Be the MOM: How to Take Charge!”
“Go out and ride your bike, but just be back by dinner time.” This is a phrase that would be said by a “free-range” parent. Free-range parenting suggests that if your child knows their way to the park and back, they should be able to go there without a parent or person who is older to watch them. Free-range.
I do not agree with this kind of parenting at this point in time. I believe there was a time in history when this may have been a safer thought. Now, with the world as it is, I do not believe this is wisdom. If you wouldn’t allow your child to go to a friend’s house to spend the night because you don’t know the people that would be there well enough to trust them with the care of your child, would it be reasonable to send them to the park without someone to supervise their care?
I believe a child should be able to play outside within boundaries, go to the park with a parent or guardian and play freely, and even go to a church or youth event without being hovered over by Mom or Dad. But, to let them “roam free” with the world as it is would be very foolish in my view.
Unschooling is another philosophy that has come out in the last decade or so. This philosophy suggests not to make any demands as to what children learn in homeschooling, (certainly not ever sending them to school!) and allowing them to wear whatever they want, eat what they want, go to bed when they want, among other freedoms.
One of the main women promoting this philosophy a few years ago had several out-of-control, bold children with long, unkept hair and arrogant attitudes. She hadn’t raised one single child to adulthood yet, so the reason people were listening to her was somewhat beyond my understanding…but I believe it was because her ideas were so far out of the norm.
This philosophy suggests that children will learn what they need to know when they need to know it. If they need math, they ask for help or pick it up when it is necessary. There is no real need to learn about historic figures unless they are interested. If they are, they will read about them.
I was watching a YouTube video of the family of the unschooling advocate. Her children were running around, standing on their heads on the couch and staying up until 1:00 in the morning watching TV with Dad. They said a normal hour to rise from bed was about 10am. The children chose their meal plans and on the particular filming day for the video, they had chosen peanut butter and pasta.
This woman even went to other people’s houses to coach them on how to “unschool” their children.
A mother she was coaching had a concern about her child going to the front yard to play on a hammock. The “coach” suggested she not prevent it… and lead her to allow her child to do something she actually felt was not wise. It was disturbing to watch.
Schooling is too demanding, intimidating and rigid according to unschoolers. They believe children will eventually choose to learn anything they need to know… and to force them to learn anything they don’t want to know is intrusive.
I can’t say enough about how much I disagree with this philosophy. It is a lack of discipline where the children rule and the parents follow. The roles are reversed and it is a sad thing to watch.
Yet, if you go online and read about it, there are many articles of people touting its virtues. But, if you watch a video of a home where it is practiced, I would guess you wouldn’t want to live there. When I watched one, I felt that way and was very sad for them.
My hope is this new phrase will come to be one of the philosophies people will embrace in time. It is what I call my parenting philosophy.
Mature parenting – understanding how your current words, actions and decisions will affect your child’s distant future and acting on that knowledge in a responsible way.
Mature parenting involves teaching and training children to recognize and respect authority, how to control their own emotions, and how their actions will affect their own distant futures. It involves loving discipline, appropriate distribution of responsibility, and careful consideration of precedents set. It also involves physical restraint only when necessary and words of encouragement with eye to eye contact throughout a normal day.
Spending appropriate amounts of time with your children, allowing them to learn to entertain themselves, taking responsibility for chores and giving rewards and consequences are all part of mature parenting.
Once a person can pinpoint the kind of parenting with which they most want to identify, they can start to make wise choices about education. Though clearly I want everyone to strive toward mature parenting, it doesn’t actually culminate into one full-proof choice for education. I truly suggest you read the blog post, “23 Common Mistakes Parents Make” and “Creating an Effective Parental Mindset”. It may seem that not all these things are in the same subject, but they actually are in my view.
The overall mindset of how you are parenting your child should help determine what kind of education would be best for your child. The reason is… a parent has everything to do with how a child will receive their formal education. The relationship they have with their parent, the home environment, and their sense of self-worth all contribute to their educational retention and success.
Think about that. A child will receive instruction from an authority based on how they view that authority. If you send your child to school, you cannot regulate what kind of teacher they will end up with in each class. And, I’m not suggesting you should! So, your child needs to have a general understanding of what authority is and means and how to relate to it. How they relate to you as a parent is the key to how they will view authority in general.
Some of the parenting philosophies we just discussed do not prepare a child well for the realities they will face in the real world. Taking the time to teach and train your children to accept and submit to authority with a happy spirit and willing heart will go a long way to helping them in the outside world where they will encounter policeman, teachers and bosses. (Teaching them personal safety about authorities is essential as well, but that is a different subject.)
When deciding on what kind of education you will provide for your child, a good first step is to have a thorough understanding of their own maturity level. Are they independent enough to stand up for themselves? Do they grasp the importance of friendships, how to be one and how to choose good friends? Are they easily influenced by peers? Would they be able to communicate something to you that is unhealthy or immoral? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Many things need to be considered.
Other thoughts relate to your family, location, religion and schedule. Let’s take time now to discuss educational choices with the pros and cons of each one.
Public education is a necessary thing for the general education of the masses. That said, I am not a fan of the situation it is currently in relating to the indoctrination of the youth. If you are choosing to send your child to a public school, my thought is you must be very diligent and aware of what they are being taught. They must know that everything written in a textbook or spoken from the mouth of an educator is not necessarily true.
Learning to submit to authority, not challenge when challenging isn’t appropriate, and following the rules even if they don’t like the teacher is a good life lesson. So, not all things about public education are bad. But, there is something to be said for being very cautious about it.
Again, the first step is to have a thorough understanding of your own child’s maturity level. Can your child think for themselves and still be respectful to others? If not, it might be a good idea to work on this before sending them to a classroom in a public school.
If your child is very peer-oriented, and easily influenced, it is not wise to send them into a situation where they may spending a huge amount of time with friends who will not share the values and standards you are trying to instill in them. If they show a clear vision of what your values are, share them with conviction, and are willing to ask you questions and keep an open dialog with you, then public school may be a viable option if the other options we will talk about are not available to you.
My suggestion is…for the best options… do one of the other three we will be discussing if at all possible. Make sacrifices if you need to in order to consider the other options. Each parent must do their best to provide what they believe is the best educational choice in their own individual situation.
But in my view, full-time public education would be the fourth best option, but a necessity for some parents and families because of their individual circumstances. This decision is up to each family and they must weigh out all the particulars.
ADVANTAGES – clearly cost would be an advantage. Our taxes already pay for public education. If your child has special educational needs, public schools provide therapy as a part of their services. You and your child will also have a chance to get to know a variety of different people and lifestyles… which can be seen as a plus or a minus. Extracurricular activities such as sports, drama and music are usually taught by professionals trained in those areas.
DISADVANTAGES – you will not have much if any control over the curriculum or what teachers your child will be set under. They will likely be taught things that you do not agree with if you are a conservative, especially a conservative Christian. They will not be allowed to pray out loud in the classroom and will likely have their speech squelched in regards to their religion. They may be influenced greatly by friends that are in families that do not share your values. Sex education may be completely out of your hands. There are usually larger classes per teacher in a public school.
What is the main goal for you as a parent? What are you hoping for your child’s future? Is it all about academics and social success? Is religion a priority or a side line to academics?
A private school can be a real blessing to those who make religious beliefs a priority in the lives of their family and children. Keeping in touch with teachers and knowing them or their families personally happens more often in a private school setting than in a public school one… at least in most cities and suburbs. In very small towns, this might be different!
Depending on the school you choose, most private schools that are well established have a very good academic standard that they expect their students to adopt. Your voice as a parent is much more influential since the student body in most private schools is smaller than public. Usually, private schools also adhere to the religious beliefs of the families involved. This is the main reason most people who choose private schools do so.
ADVANTAGES – if religion is a priority in your family life and you want to have support from the school to instill a belief system in your child that teaches them to learn the truths of God and creation, private school clearly has an advantage over public school.
Usually you will know the other parents and teachers involved in the school or will get to know them quickly, which helps you keep an eye on the influences permeating your child’s school day. You will likely have a lot of influence in sex education in a private school. Class sizes are smaller in a private school so more individualized attention can be given to each student.
DISADVANTAGES – teachers are not required to be certified in private schools. (Some may say that is an advantage…?) The cost of private school can be a concern. Tuition will be required. There are scholarships and private donations that help many students attend private schools, so don’t rule this option out immediately due to finances. Most of the time, extracurricular activities are somewhat limited due to budget concerns and availability of volunteers to lead them.
Home schooling can be many things. There are very diligent homeschooling moms who throw their whole heart and life into the home education of their children. There are also online schools available now where a child can do most of their work from their home computer. Some children thrive in a home school setting and are academically ahead of their public/private school peers.
The downfall is there are home schooled children who are not required to learn some of the basics and struggle to make it academically. They also are not socially experienced enough to interact with others in a public way if their schooling situation has not been geared to accommodate that need.
ADVANTAGES – Home schooling gives the option of focusing on the interests of the child. A good chance for families to work together on projects and build relationships with each other. Great option for students who excel and find public/private school too slow for their eagerness to learn new things. Or, if a child is struggling to keep up with the academics in a more formal school setting, homeschooling can be regulated to their own pace. Religious beliefs and sex education can be completely in the control of the parent. Cost is completely up to the parent.
There are many home school groups that provide options for extracurricular activities and classes that moms co-op to allow for children to have a variety of teachers as well as interaction with other children their own age.
DISADVANTAGES – A diligent home school mom can get burnt out if she is not able to regulate her time and efforts. Extra consciousness of social skills needs to be considered and children should be involved in many different activities that include others their age. Some moms burn out but do not find alternatives to educate their children, which leaves their children unprepared for the real world. With the other options, social interaction is built in. Home schoolers have to seek it out and plan for it to be a part of their education.
This means to use a combination of homeschooling, public and private education throughout your child’s lifetime and make decisions based upon their needs, the needs of your family, and your location.
This is the best option in my view. To think about the span of time your children will be going through their formal education… why settle for only one option? There are advantages and disadvantages to each. So, depending on your family situation each year, don’t feel guilty about choosing what’s best at the time.
If you are able to home-school and believe that is what’s best this year, do it! Just be sure to know what your child should be covering for their age in order for them to be on point if you decide to send them to private/public school next year. If your child is struggling in school, and you believe they need to slow down or speed up, that’s ok!
If you do not believe you are prepared or ready to home-school, consider private school. Look at the options available and seek out scholarships or private donations to make it happen.
If you home-school and there are certain subjects you believe you cannot address thoroughly enough, have your child take online courses or send them to one or two classes at public school. This works especially well in high school.
My oldest son had home-schooled, then attended private school for about four years, then home-schooled again all the rest of his academia until high school. At that point, I believed he needed some education in higher math skills and other things that he might gain better knowledge from public school. So, he attended two classes there and the rest home schooled.
The public school teachers recognized his skills in computers and offered to send him to a technical school in his junior and senior years! During those two years, he home schooled and went to tech school. He did all three… home school, private and public schools! Then he went to college and earned two degrees. He now works for a major bank in Kansas City in their software development department despite the fact that he had visual disabilities, and was diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome.
There were times during my children’s education that I was homeschooling some of them and some were attending private school. The point is, do what is best for your own child at the time. They may have different needs throughout their educational career. Be open and honest about their needs and don’t think you aren’t a good mom if you don’t do one thing or another.