Friday, November 17, 2006

Re-post: Homoeopathic parenting? - March 05

From Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Reading Rosie's blog and comments here has made me re-think my definition of the kind of parenting I do and the resulting kind of educational provision the children have. 'Autonomous' nearly explains it, but it's actually not strictly true if I'm honest. I do sometimes deliberately inject very tiny amounts of influence - in homoeopathic dilutions! Calling this Homoeopathic Parenting makes it sound like just the use of homoeopathic remedies, and we do that too, but perhaps when I've thought a bit more I'll refine the term or change it slightly. Potentised Parenting?

On her blog, Lou mentions strewing, which is the American Unschooling practice of setting up the learning (living) environment by 'accidentally' leaving things around in the hope they might stimulate their children's curiosity or excite their interest. I have tried this in the past, and it did work a little bit sometimes, but my lot are far too perceptive not to spot such a deliberate but tricksy attempt to influence their learning and were just annoyed by it, so I soon dropped the idea.

In recent years it's been my practice not to provide information until questions are asked, and then to confine my answers to the information requested, and to work on building my trust that the children innately know what they need to learn and how they need to learn it, better than another person ever could.

So where does the homoeopathic-dilution influence come in? Well, it's definitely a work in progress, but by closely observing the children over the years I've noticed that, like in homoeopathic medicine, less is more. Less authority, less influence, less input, has more effect.

I probably need to make it clear that I don't believe I know what's best for them. I think they know what's best for them. My position as parent is only to take up a privileged and honoured front-row seat in the amazing unfolding story of their early lives and maybe to help out with the props and the costumes, certainly not to direct the performance. So I'm extremely circumspect about the idea of trying to use my influence at all to affect any outcomes.

For one thing, trying to deliberately exert a lot of influence will, in my opinion, have one or more of the following effects:

The children will become less sensitive to their own preferences and therefore less able to make good, independent choices throughout their lives; or
The children will instead rebel against authority and do the complete opposite of what they think the parent wants;
The children will start to become anxious about being able or willing to fulfil their parents perceived requirements; or, in the best case
The parents attempt to influence will have no effect and be completely ignored.

So how is it possible to have any good effect at all on the outcome of their lives? I think the key to this lies in the same kind of intent we use when we're placing Cosmic Supply Company orders - with trust and a picture of what we want, then letting go and trusting that it will happen and paying with spontaneous gratitude when it works.

Also, I'm very aware that the children can't help but to unconsciously use me, the only parent they know, as a model to follow and emulate. By living my life in the best way I can, I can teach by example alone how to be happy, truthful, optimistic, reasonably confident, curious, systematic, authentic and diligent. I think following parental example is a very strong influence on children's decisions and behaviour, provided the waters are not muddied by any resulting effects (listed above) of too many attempts at deliberate, active control.

I do have preferences. There are things I don't want to live with in the house, like drunkenness, cigarette smoke and, on a lesser scale, the things I listed in my comment on Rosie's blog amongst others. There are other things I have a positive preference for, like books, sensible spending and healthy food. I do sometimes exert my control over these things, in very subtle ways. Here's a list of ways in which I sometimes do that:
Steering the supermarket trolley straight past the end of aisles containing things I don't want to buy, even if the children might have wanted to buy them. I figure, if they don't care enough to ask then it's OK to actively avoid those things. And what they don't know about or think about, they don't miss.
Making sure the household finances are an open book, so that decisions about money are taken by the whole family thereby reducing allegations of unfairness or excessive nagging.
Surreptitiously binning cheap horrible toys that nobody seems bothered about when the children aren't looking.
Keeping lots of books around, reading them and studying things that interest me in a semi-structured way.
Not smoking, drinking, doing drugs or too much junk food myself.
Not watching an excessive amount of TV myself.
Keeping the communal rooms and my own space as clean and tidy as I'm comfortable with.
Making sure I get enough sleep, fresh air and exercise.
Trying not to be judgmental, bitchy or unkind about anyone.

I would do a lot of those things anyway, but I am conscious of the fact that in doing them, I'm having a strong influence on the children. It's as much influence as I want to have and sometimes more than I feel comfortable with having. In common with most of my friends, I think parenthood really is a huge responsibility, and a very delicate undertaking.

posted by Gill at 10:51 AM 8 comments


Blogger Rosie said...

Interesting reading this again.
The post you are refering to is quite hard to find - I had to look out of interest. Only the last paragraph is relavent!)
Here it is

6:14 pm, November 19, 2006  

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