Thursday, July 31, 2008

Parenting power: Building your nest- part one

As many of you know in my pre-mom years I taught parenting at BYU and early childhood studies at Ohlone College and because I miss it, you my blog readers will be the recipients of much unsolicited advice here in a series called parenting power. Because as parents you do have power (although not absolute) and you can actively make choices about things that will shape your children .
My favorite college class was Introduction to Child Development (a class I later went onto teach) I took this class my first semester my freshman year at BYU and my teacher was Dr. Scoresby. He had a masterful way of taking concepts and helping you see them in everyday. His lectures were always so interesting, entertaining, and practical (if only my students said the same thing about my classes). You always came out smarter. Four years later, he was my professor in a tiny 6 person grad school class on emotional and moral development. One day I ran into him across campus and he told me he was going to give me "best advice" as I was then still single and had much of my life ahead of me.
He told me that after I got married I needed to build this sort of nest or web for my children. I needed to get involved and form all of these relationships in the community, in church, with friends. This environment in which your children can grow and develop, an you as an adult can be supported in a healthy moral environment. A place where you help set and moderate the moral tone. An environment/network where others shape and influence your children. I know this kind of sounds like the old Hilary Clinton "it takes a village", but philosophically it is grounded differently. It's not everyone else being responsible for your choices, and raising your children. It is you actively creating and inviting others to help build and shape the rising generation.

Children especially teenagers need to know the expectations others have for them and that those expectations are the same as the ones their parents have. They need models of service, they need models of what it means to be a responsible man and a good father, and what it means to be a strong woman and loving mother. This is the exact opposite of what our society teaches, questioning all authority, and not being beholden to others expectations, and certainly not letting anyone who isn't your parent "tell you what to do", by all means do your own thing. This is why a lot of kids are struggling today. They need other adults to cheer them on, to tell them to shape up when they need it, to let them know they are special, to help them make wise choices. To help them feel unique and appreciated in a truly personal way. Then need a moral network that actively teaches them what helps or harms.

As our children grow up and try to "find themselves" and try taking on more and more adult roles they will be most influenced by their family of origin and all the people intimately interwoven in their sphere of influence. These are the models they will draw on. To develop these relationships we have to nurture respect and trust of these kids, by respecting their time, their ideas, and individualizing our attention to them.

Our homes need to become sanctuaries not only for our own children but for others, a place when they will be loved, and a place when there will always be guided on the way to happiness (which still means a place of limits and expectations). We need to open our homes to create these intricate webs of influence for our children. To help them see where happiness comes from. To create a society of empathy and altruism.

So think on this topic a bit and we'll come back to it later...
My thanful 3 for today
1. thinking about sillier times
2. watching hopkins last night (only 1 more episode left- sad)
3. my boys jumping around the famliy room


Kris said...

I am all ears for some good advice like this!

I love both the reminder that we do have power, as parents, and the idea of building a nest.

I think it is easy to feel powerless in the face of the many, many influences bombarding our children and what a good reminder that we can proactively choose a lot of those influences!

Jenny said...

Good to see written down what I was thinking about my own kids (not in such eloquent terms) I love that I can have friends IN to the house, and influence them for good. I love that we can see INTENTIONS (whether bad or good) and influence those intentions and make kids see that good choices are better. I would love to take a few of those classes NOW that I'm in the thick of the parenting thing! Smart mama, you rock.