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» Empathy in Action, Rick Ackerly, Ed.M.
A young man whose embryonic son is due to join us on this planet in exactly a month was chatting with me at a cafe this week about a project he was working on to grow Decatur. Half an hour into the conversation he interrupted himself and confessed to me his deepest fear: “I am so afraid to have children. There are so many ways parents can screw up their kids.”
Who can blame him for feeling this way? The blogs we read and the bottled water we drink are laced with anxiety about the future of our children. A whole industry has sprung up around the failure that lurks at school for the parents who are uninvolved, and another one addressing the diseases that can so easily infect our children as they interact with the virtual dangers of new technology. Parent involvement has become the primary vaccine for inoculating our children against a wide variety of virtual viruses spiraling out of control through our children’s lives.
If that were all, that would be sufficient to justify my friend’s anxiety. But that’s not all. The assault on parents is coming at both flanks. Our children are also at risk for parents being over-involved. By now everyone also knows that my friend’s son is at risk for becoming one of millions of “teacup” children, made fragile by over-protection and over-involvement.
In defense against assaults from two directions parents look for “balance.” Now, in order to be a good parent you have to find a balance between too much parenting and too little, between being a tiger parent or a slacker parent, between parenting that is too slow or too fast. OMG! Now parenting is a “delicate balancing act.” No LOL here!!
Want to stop the madness? Seven Old Rules:
1. Be yourself.
2. Use your judgment.
3. Make decisions.
4. Watch for and admit mistakes publically.
5. Get forgiveness.
7. Make another decision.
(…in that order.)
Good parent involvement at school, for instance, is not a function of more or less; it is a function of the quality of the teamwork, a matter of forming a workable partnership with our children’s teachers so that the little village that is raising the child is organized. Getting this relationship right can be a messy process of both people trying their best, making mistakes and learning from each other. Being willing to change their minds for the sake of the relationship and the children is critical.
The question is not whether or not parents should take an active role in their children’s education; of course they should. The question is not even, “What role should I play?” Don’t play any role at all. Our relationships with our children’s teachers evolve over time in the normal development of dynamic partnerships. It is an exercise in imperfection. Be yourself; let yourself go; let yourself grow.
Yes, it is true: being responsible for another human being can make one anxious. Raising children can be challenging, and we can do things that are not so good for our children. There is great value in all we have learned in the last fifty years about better ways of educating, and there is a lot for a new parent to learn. As the mother of a two of my grandchildren once wrote to me, “If I am in the game, I need a game plan. I could grow into a tyrant (ouch!) or I could grow into a friend to my child (oops!). I don’t want either of those roles. I want to be a loving and predictable parent – predictably there, predictably dealing with problems as I find ways to support my budding teenagers’ exploration of responsibility.”
But learning how to parent the right way is only half the challenge. The other half is doing it wrong and learning from our mistakes. Certainly, there has to be something called “good parenting” in order to know when you made a mistake. But focusing on the parenting advice can distract us from the grace that can come from learning from our children.
So, I told my friend what my cousin told me years ago when I told her I felt bad because I feared I was screwing up my children: “Oh, Ricky, don’t you know we all mess up our children? We can’t help it. It’s been set up that way.”
Posted on September 28, 2012 by Rick Ackerly, Ed.M.
Rick Ackerly is a nationally recognized educator and speaker with forty-five years of experience working in schools. He has served as head of four independent schools, speaks to parent and school groups across the country and presents at numerous education conferences. Rick is the author of The Genius in Every Child: Encouraging Character, Curiosity and Creativity in Children and lives in Decatur, Illinois. Visit his blog, The Genius in Children, or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
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Tags: *Parent Engagement at Home , Learning environment, Parents as teachers
Posted September 28, 2012 by Marilyn Price-Mitchell
This article shares such wise advice to parents. We are all learners in the journey. When we remember that and follow the 7 rules, we somehow make our way through the anxiety of having to be the perfect parent.
Posted September 28, 2012 by Dr. Connie Hebert
Well said....after raising 3 remarkable kids, I can say that I caught every moment I could to love, engage, teach, inspire, share, laugh, discipline, and support them. It worked! Now I see our daughter doing the exact same thing with her babies. The circle of life.....catch it before it's too late. Awesome article!
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