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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Raising Humans

Raising kids who are strong, thinkers, unafraid of standing up for what is right and just, begins when they are little. We simply cannot raise children who never question us or other authority figures, who aren't allowed to say "no", who are told what to think and feel, then expect them to magically become adults who question, think, feel, and stand against injustice as soon as they hit 18. I've seen so many people who are surprised to end up with young adult children that have no idea how to make good choices or be responsible after an entire childhood of not being allowed to make choices and only following orders. We didn't allow them to say no to us, yet are surprised when they can't say no to boyfriends, girlfriends, peers, corrupt authority figures, and others who influence their lives when they get older?

You don't teach a child to become a respectful human being by cowing them and disrespecting their autonomy. You can't teach them to respect others' rights by taking away their own. You can't teach them to take charge of their life when you were completely in charge for most of it. You can't teach them to trust their intuition when you deny their emotions their entire childhood. We want perfectly behaved children then suddenly expect them to be adults who do what's right and go against the flow. We want children who follow orders and don't question us yet expect them to become adults who question and think for themselves. But it doesn't work that way. Unquestioning obedience sounds really convenient for us when they're small, but is that the type of character trait we want to see when they grow up? Are our parenting methods now matching our long-term goals for our children?

"Well-behaved children" is not my goal. Unless by "well-behaved" you mean respectful, strong, independent, a little rebellious, empathetic, humane, kind, honest, intelligent, compassionate, and free-thinking. I am not raising human beings to be complacent, well-behaved members of a society that has no value for the things that really matter. I am not raising robots and yes-men-and-women who fear contradicting those with power. Our home is not a practice in hierarchy and authoritarianism and it never will be. Conformity is not my goal and my parenting reflects that. I value people who are not afraid to question the status quo when the status quo is wrong, and I am not intimidated when my little humans practice that ability on me. Learning when to say "yes" and when to say "no" is a necessary ability and I am the perfect, safest place for my children to learn this and to learn to do this with respect and honor and confidence.

I can't help but see the strengths in my children. Even in the middle of a difficult event or all-out battle or inconvenient behavior, I find myself admiring the people they are. Sometimes I think we get so focused on fixing bad behavior that we forget to see their strengths. The child that will fight to the death against what they perceive as unfair treatment? That's the child who will passionately stand up against injustice for themselves and for others. We need to learn to see past an action or behavior that we find inconvenient and understand what is driving it, and figure out how to channel and guide that driving force in productive, healthy ways.

Children are people too. If we can find ways to interact with other humans in our lives without hitting, shaming, yelling, and manipulating, then we can find these same ways to interact with our small humans. They deserve this as much as any of us. Imagine a world where an entire generation of children were treated as human beings and grew up understanding what empathy and respect looks like. That world starts with us.


  1. Beautiful. I wish more parents realized this. As a Montessori our goal is to develop the inner child so that they want to make good choices. It cannot be forced. There are no shortcuts to a peaceful, productive, and happy child.

  2. I meant to say, Montessori teacher. I am using this small phone, so I apologize for my typos.