THIS article by Anne Josephson started quite a conversation on my facebook feed. I “shared” it to serve as an example of why I am happy with our choice to retreat from the world of public schooling and the pressure exerted by the parents of our children’s peers.
The article speaks to parents competing using the children as pawns, not the ills of competition itself, so let’s start with some quotes to clarify that position:
“I will no longer play the game of competitive parenting.”
“I am removing myself and by proxy my four children from the race. And by doing so, I am choosing to honor them for being exactly who they are: human beings in and of their own right, not proof of my worthiness… I am comforted by what one of the great philosophers, Lily Tomlin, said, “The problem with the rat race is, even if you win, you’re still a rat.”
So let’s replace the words “rat race” with “competitive parenting”. That turns the last sentence into,
“The problem with the competitive parenting is,
even if you win, you’re still a competitive parent.”
There is no reference to the child in that sentence, and I believe the point the author is trying to make is that parenting should be directed toward the child and for the child, not to improve the status or lend credibility to a parent who needs validation. I feel like the article validated my belief that it is not fair, nor in the long run healthy, for me to push my children “to do” or “to be” because another child in their peer group is already doing that, or because I want them to be the first to achieve a milestone whether or not they are ready.
Through the course of the conversation, I got clarity about these ideas as they relate to our family:
- Healthy competition can be a great thing, especially when it’s self-motivated.
- I am by nature a competitive person – it has made me who I am today.
- If they have it within them, I want that same internal drive to motivate our children, not our pressure.
- If they are not competitive by nature, then I will step in and provide motivation apropos to the needs that drive their personality.
- Finding my worth as person/parent through my child for the sake of being the first – the best – the only, etc., I will do my best to ensure that is not part of our family story.
How do you see your role as a parent?
I believe that my role as a parent is to prepare them to leave my side and succeed. I am doing my best to equip them to deal with all the kindness and unkindness in the world on their own two feet. They will absolutely know how to deal with people because we interact with people every day. When things go well we talk about it and when there are challenges we talk about how we could have done things differently, and will do them differently in the future.
As a parent-team, my husband and I check in with each other on a regular basis to evaluate how we are growing as a family and as individuals. A big goal is to honor our children as individuals. We want them to be free to be who they are, and we want to help them discover their individual gifts. We want them to have the knowledge, confidence and faith in themselves because they know they are loved and children of God.
As a parent, it behooves us to watch our children, observe their strengths, and build their character. Parents need to think about what motivates them when it comes to pushing their children in a particular direction. We should question if our motivation is to do it for them, or if we are pushing them to grow because our child has to be #1 or else you have failed as a parent. The part that worries me is that they will begin to think they have failed us as our child.
I also believe that God chose us to teach/learn from each other. I am open to and I want to learn the lessons are children are teaching us. They are individuals, they have unique needs, and they are growing me as a person. It is an honor and it is humbling to learn from them – they truly are sages trapped in the bodies of children.
In my case, I believe that if I strive to know them, love them, and guide them in their strengths while teaching them to love and respect their fellow man and leave the world better than they found it, I have succeeded. It has nothing to do with comparing them to their peers. It has to do with instilling the knowledge that they are loved, valued, and that they have something unique to contribute to the world. In order to do that within a circle of love, I remove our children to protect them from the competition, the hatred and the bitterness in the world.
I also include our children to have them grow: through social interactions with people we trust and respect, classes that are of interest to them, attendance to a church that fits our beliefs and our values, and community service. As they grow and find their interests, we will also branch out and explore in the areas that are of their choosing.
What is the meaning of “service”? To find that answer for my parenting philosophy, I turn to my faith: Jesus came to serve. In that sense, there will always be service in our family – whether it’s to our immediate family, our neighbor, to those less fortunate, or even service to the world we were gifted by taking care of it.
How do I define the world as better? By leaving it with more love – when I look at the New Testament, that’s what I get – LOVE. Simple. Love God; love one another. If I have shared love and others have grown because of that love, and if I teach our children to love and be better at loving than I am, then the world is better. In my little corner of the world, love is always the answer. Always.