Parenting in View of Others
Spending time with relatives is sociologically interesting. My siblings and I were all raised in the same house by the same parents, yet there are some significant differences in how we parent our own children. Some of this can be attributed to natural divergence. Because we are each different people, we experienced growing up in different ways and learned different lessons as a result. The influence of spouses is huge in determining how kids are raised. The most fascinating aspect for me is trying to figure out which differences in parenting spring from the children themselves. My children and their cousins are distinct individuals and thus have trained their parents in different ways.
I am not the only one who observes these differences in parenting method. Sometimes I feel self conscious about this when my kids are not displaying their best behavior. Gleek wields anger as a shield. Her first reaction to stress is to be angry and assertive. As a result I’ve developed a host of parenting strategies centered around preventing anticipating angry outbursts and preventing them, or for controlling them and managing them when they occur. For years I worried that I was handling this wrong, but lately Gleek has matured and is co-opting these tools as her own. She is managing herself instead of me having to do it for her. That is a huge parenting success in my book. Yet one of my relatives did not comprehend the dynamics of Gleeks anger. Her kids did not explode in that manner and in all seriousness she asked “Can’t you train that out of her?”
I’m afraid my mind jittered to a halt and I was grateful that the conversation turned elsewhere, because the question was shaped in a way that expressed a miscomprehension of what was going on with Gleek. Gleek is not an angry person by nature. She is a highly empathetic and sensitive person. Often she gets angry because she is afraid that she is a bad person and does not want anyone else to see it. Being angry hurts less than being sad. If the anger comes from insecurity, then punishing her for angry behavior will only increase the insecurity and the anger. Instead we have to let her use the tools that come naturally to her. We weather the anger while making sure that it is not expressed in ways that do harm. Then when the storm has passed I help Gleek look into her mind and heart to find the real source of the emotion. This methodology means that sometimes there are public scenes with private resolutions. It means that other people witness the hard bits without fully comprehending the extent of the follow-up. Are there better ways to parent Gleek? Maybe, but this is the best way I’ve found. We’re making it up together as we go along.
I have similar parenting loops for each of my kids, they need different things from me and I strive to give them what they need. Sometimes this means that I spend time in a public space looking like a horrible parent. I can live with that though I never enjoy it. I try to remember it when I observe the decisions of other parents. I see my siblings and the disciplines they give to their children and sometimes I think I would not use the tactic that they are using. Yet if I feel inclined to judge, I try to stop myself and remember I am not seeing the whole picture. The public part of parenting is the tip of the iceberg and there are many ways to get it right.
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