Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Radical Parenting

The FLGs were watching a special on Discovery Health about radical parenting. There's a list of some of the types here. Some parents keep in constant physical contact with their children until the age of 2 or 3. Some unschool their kids out of concern of the rigidity imposed upon them in education.

As FLG was watching this he felt bad for the kids. FLG is sure these parents mean well, and each of these parenting strategies makes sense, like everything, in moderation. Parents should hug their children AND parents should let children go free. Ultimately, FLG thinks these parents are overcompensating for their own personal hangups, regrets and what they view as their own deficiencies and there's a big risk that their kids will be warped because of it.

Here's an anecdote:
When I was a kid I had a classmate over to play. My mother decided that we should make chocolate. Not make chocolate per se, but she would melt it, then we'd pour it in molds, put it in the freezer, and in an hour or so we would have candies that we'd made.

During the pouring, a bit fell and my friend swooped down like a condor and licked it up directly from the floor. I didn't know the phrase at the time, but my reaction can be best described as WTF?! Turns out his parents didn't let him have any candy or chocolate. In hindsight, I'm sure this posed a dilemma for my mother, but I think there's an Aristotelian lesson in that little boy who licked chocolate off the floor. There's a nature that we can't overcome. Trying to completely suppress our appetites or force virtue in extremis, rather than moderate and encourage them, leads to disaster.

I have no idea what became of that boy. In fact, I don't remember having a playdate with him ever again. Probably the fallout from Chocolategate. Perhaps he's thriving. Maybe the incident led to a re-evaluation of their parenting strategy. Somehow I doubt both.


Andrew Stevens said...

Actually, he's probably doing fine. The surprising thing about children is how resilient they are. Most people overweight the effects of parenting by a factor of approximately a thousand. It has a much larger effect on the child as a child than it does on the adult he/she will become. See Judith Rich Harris, for example, though she's overconfident in her conclusions.

Of course, I may be misled by my own anecdotal experience. My parents had absolutely no lasting impact on me, certainly none that I can detect, either positive or negative, but I don't believe that I am terribly unusual in this.

redwagonmama said...

Hi! I am the Attachment Parenting mom from the show. I just want to clear up some misconceptions over my segment. The pop up info box that came on the screen when we talked about "babywearing" said that we carried or were in close contact with Luke (our youngest) from birth to *crawling*. He was 17 months at the time of filming and was still carried frequently but not constantly. We also said that we continue with *some* carrying in a carrier until age 2 or 3 and that everything we do we do until the child outgrows the *need*. You may have noticed that my older children were quite independent in the scenes of them getting food and drinks, cleaning up on their own, playing on their own, etc. There is plenty of opportunity for a baby to explore while being held or in close contact with parents. The security children feel during this time helps them to be more confident in exploring things on their own when developmentally ready.

I'm not overcompensating for any personal hangups or regrets either, especially considering I was raised in a similar way. All my parenting is based on the biological expectations of human beings and therefore have *no* chance of "warping" them. You may remember from the show that I also have a 20 year old who was raised with Attachment Parenting. He turned out great!

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