Ever been told that your parenting choices are just a trend? I have. I’ve been told “just wait – your kids will grow up to dislike what you did no matter what it was!” Lovely, thanks.
The truth is, I only have to look at the teens and adults of respectful parenting to know that this simply isn’t true.
You see, respect doesn’t go out of style.
No child is going to grow up wishing they were shown less respect. No adult thinks “boy I wish I was talked down to more and treated like I was inferior“. No one is wishing they were punished for being a child and still learning. I think if anyone is – that’s something they really need to explore and definitely more indicative of them than of the method itself!
I think a lot of authoritarian parents think that kids naturally dislike how they were parented because they sometimes made ‘nicer’ choices than their parents. But their children still turned around to feel it wasn’t fair. However, they still based much of their parenting on control, obedience, fear bred by society and the narrative that parenting is synonymous with punishment. If these are the factors at the foundation of parenting then of course many children will grow to adults who can see how these choices aren’t ideal.
I think it’s also hard to some more authoritarian parents to admit that what they’re doing – what they feel is right – is not working. While their child is acting out due to frustration of feeling unheard, or their child is continuing to make choices they don’t want despite being punished. To admit that it’s not working means accepting responsibility for the fact that there is no decent basis for their controlling parenting. It means admitting they were wrong and changing something that they obviously (at least initially) felt was granted.
I also see many adults belittling the disrespectful things that were done to them. “I turned out fine” and “I’m glad my parents punished me” are often said as if it excuses the wrongs. However, this is indicative of a society that at it’s core works because we are led to believe children are inferior and cannot be trusted with freedom and respect. I’ll let that sit because I know it took me a lot of deconditioning to both recognise and accept that.
I really can’t comprehend how some parents now will not reach for the ideal and choose complacency over growth. The common argument is “I’m doing X and other/my parents do/did Y which is far worse!” So because you or some other child suffered, your child should to some extent? This logic baffles me.
There isn’t a level of punishment where the damage no longer exists. This false hierarchy is just an excuse – and a weak one.
Sure time out is less damaging than actually beating a child but are we aiming for ‘less damaging’? I know I’m not. Punishment (i.e. yelling, smacking/spanking/tapping, time outs, withdrawal of possessions, etc) don’t do any less damage than they would without the alternatives. You don’t negate the damage just by comparing it to worse. It also doesn’t mean the punishment-less alternative is any less significant.
I know that it’s confronting to hear that there are parents happily NOT treating their kids this way. It’s easier for these people to belittle this choice than admitting that their punitive authoritarian parenting mightn’t be ideal for creating confident kids who feel valued and respected.
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Accepting that this is our reality (where we have respectful, kind, confident, loving, helpful, etc kids without punishment) means destroying an entire life-long narrative surrounding childhood and parenting! It’s not easy. It means accepting that what was done to you wasn’t necessary or okay. It means accepting that what you’re doing to your children is damaging. That’s rough! Many are not strong enough to do that and cognitive dissonance is strong too!
But respect isn’t a trend. We’re not doing this because it’s a ‘new craze’ (nor is it new!). Respect for all humans of all ages isn’t something that is suddenly going to become less relevant or meaningful.
Thank you for reading!
You can find us on Facebook and Instagram for more unschooling and parenting inspiration.
- Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn – a must read!
- ParentSpeak by Jennifer Lehr – a significant read about how we talk to children.
- Positive Parenting by Rebecca Eanes.
Lilac Mess says
Thank you for this. This article popped up in my news feed today and I really needed to hear this. It was a rough morning with the kids. I lost my temper, yelled and was essentially disrespectful and mean. I was so ashamed. And it’s not the first time it’s happened. I looked at my girls and told them I was sorry. That I knew I was being too hard on them and that how I behaved wasn’t okay. Anyway…I am going to start with one of the books you recommended at the end of the article. So again, thank you! I’m one authoritarian parent who is admitting that this isn’t working, this doesn’t feel right…and I want to change!
Anna Vaschina says
“You don’t negate the damage just by comparing it to worse”…so true.
The narrative of authoritarian style parenting and it’s use of punishment is worth destroying. I’m so grateful for your voice.