A week ago I wrote a post about parenting. Specifically, I outlined what I thought it took to be the best parent.
The response I received to that post (and there was a lot) was evenly split. It consisted of:
- Praise over the ideas expressed in the post (one woman told me that she will be placing a copy of the post in all future baby shower cards)
- Doubt and downright disagreement over the supposition that there is one best way to parent
Surprisingly, no one objected to my recommended style of parenting. Opposition only resided in the notion that there was one best way to parent.
Specifically, people said that while my description of ideal parenting might be effective, parents who have taken opposing positions have also raised children who grew into loving, caring, productive adults. Therefore, no single method of parenting is necessarily correct, and different parenting styles might be required for different children.
I’ve been thinking about this argument ever since.
It is true that a less earnest, less deliberate parenting style like the one I described has proven to be effective for many, many children. As a teacher of thirteen years who has gotten to know hundreds of kids and their families, I can attest to this.
In fact, my parents barely parented me. My mother and evil step-father could not have been less ferocious about the way they raised me, and I am quite pleased with the way I turned out.
But here’s the thing:
I still think that I am right.
I think that there are many good and perfectly acceptable ways of parenting that will yield outstanding results, and I also feel that despite universally-acknowledged bad parenting, kids can turn out just fine as well. But I still believe that there is probably one best way of parenting, and my philosophy comes closest to it.
This doesn’t mean that other ways, including ill-advised means of parenting, can’t be effective. It simply means that the chances of them being effective are reduced.
For example, we all know or have heard of someone who lived well into his nineties while smoking two packs of cigarettes a day
Does this mean that smoking is a good thing for some people, or does it mean that bad decisions can still produce positive results?
And could the smoker who died at 95 have lived to 110 had he not smoked?
Measuring lost potential is an impossible task.
Although I am pleased with the way I turned out and am at least moderately successful in terms of meeting my life goals, what could I have been had there been books in books in my childhood home and help with my homework and parents who did not allow me to stay out at all hours on a school night?
What if my parents had attended my Little League games and track meets and fed me more than bologna on bread for lunch everyday and required me to practice my instrument and read every night?
What if I had been sent to college immediately after high school instead of having to claw and scrape my way to get there years later?
Where might I be today?
And yet my mother might say that her style of parenting worked out just fine for me, and who could argue? Her son is a successful teacher and novelist and he owns a small business. He is married to a great woman and is raising a bright, precocious, well behaved daughter.
But this doesn’t mean that her parenting decisions were right. While I have managed to survive and thrive, my sister has had a considerably tougher life and my brother disappeared five years ago and has not been seen or heard of since.
I managed to beat the odds, but they were certainly stacked against me.
No, I suspect that there is a best way of parenting, and I suspect that my philosophy of ferocity is close to it.
And I know this makes some people angry, especially if they have adopted an opposing philosophy, because parenting is a very personal matter, and to question one’s decisions in regards to their children treads on dangerous ground.
But relax. Just because I think I am right doesn’t mean that I am right.
I mean, I am right, or close to it. But you can think otherwise.
And it also doesn’t mean that I always adhere to this philosophy. There are nights when my ferocity wanes as I battle with my daughter over brushing her teeth and rainy days when I cave into her demands to watch Sesame Street when I know that we cannot play outside.
Having a philosophy and adhering to it all of the time are two entirely different things.
I am not always as ferocious as I should be.
But I still believe that I should be.