Sunday, July 12, 2009

Authentic Parenting

I have latched onto this title as an apt description of my style of parenting, or at least as a description of the style of parenting that I aspire to. I first saw it on the website of Naomi Aldort, whose book, Raising Our Children Raising Ourselves, is my handbook and reference for how to be the kind of parent that I want to be.

I will give a full review of Naomi's book another day, but I can summarize her basic theory thus: It is but the job of the parent to celebrate who the children already are and to provide opportunities for the children to fully explore and achieve their full potentials. The parent must be the leader and must trust that the children are always doing their best.

I am working hard to let of go the notion that I must control my children or that they must obey me. Tonight, for example, when Holly wanted to stay in the bath after the other two girls were already out, dried and ready for bed, I told her without drama that Jasmine was tired and needed to go to bed now and that I didn't want to wait any longer. I said nothing more and got busy cleaning up the bathroom, and in just a minute or two she happily got out of the tub. I didn't beg or bribe or demand that she get out, and I felt good about giving her the information and then letting her make her own decision. And when she got out I didn't give her any drama by praising her for getting out. I just smiled at her and carried on with the task of getting her ready for bed.

For me, it is those simple situations that I struggle with much more than the big situations like when Anna and Holly are fighting or when Jasmine refuses to wear a diaper. The situations that could easily lead to trying to control the children seem to be very obvious to me, and I am able to stop myself before I react with anger or dominance. But the little situations like tonight with Holly sometimes lead me to try to dominate and then I end up creating a struggle where I have to win and the child has to lose. It is my genuine goal to completely eliminate that type of parenting from our home completely.

One struggle I continue to have is that although it is easy for me to celebrate the authenticity of my children, it is hard for me to celebrate my own authenticity. For one thing, I'm not sure what aspects of myself are authentic, and what aspects are simply the result of following rules and listening to other people's opinions of me for the last 35 years. Most of my habits and personality that seem to be authentically me are traits that I don't like about myself and would like to hide. In fact, most of the time my negative self-talk tells me that I am not good enough to raise such wonderful daughters and that they will far eclipse me in their talents and successes and that they will grow up with nothing but disdain for me. Yup, it's hard to want to be authentic when almost everyone I've ever known has rejected me once they started to know what I was really all about.

Nonetheless, I believe in the style of parenting described by Naomi Aldort so much that I have decided to take a course from her, not just to help me be a better mommy, but also to further my goal of eventually being a parent educator. I plan to get started on her course in the fall (it is partly via teleconferencing and partly online) and I will likely need to work on it for up to a year. Since I will be returning to work (as a teacher) in January I may have a lot on my plate, but I intend to really pursue this new career and to quit my job permanently in March. We'll see!!

The cover of Naomi's book says "Transforming the Parent-Child Relationship from Reaction and Struggle to Freedom, Power and Joy."


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