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Is Confusion an Actual Parenting Model?

Why is it all so confusing?  Or is it just me?

I sometimes wonder why parenting feels so different (complex? overwhelming?) than it was for my parents.  Sure, the pace of change (particularly technology change) makes today’s world almost unrecognisable to previous generations.  But, parenting itself just feels more confusing than ever.

Possibility vs Fear

As a parent, I try to embrace progress and possibility.  But that is sometimes too easily overshadowed by my frustrations and fears.  And talking to many other parents – I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Then I came across a book by Asha Phillips.  Actually, it was a specific passage in her book   Saying No: Why It’s Important for You and Your Child.

To be fair, I have not yet finished reading the entire book – so I must slightly reserve judgement – but this passage alone captures what I have been struggling so hard to articulate for myself.

I found this passage of such value that I have written it out below. (Note that I have added an additional paragraph break to make it easier to read online – I hope the author forgives me).

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the excerpt below from Saying No: Why It’s Important for You and Your Child.

The Excerpt

Depending on the philosophy of the time, children have been pictured in various lights, and the role of parents has shifted accordingly.  Children have been seen as wild beings needing to be civilized, as in William Goldings Lord of the Flies, or as blank slates, magical to be properly moulded. Alternatively, they have been represented as naturally good and likely to blossom. If allowed to do so by simple encouragement and nurturing, in the image of the noble savage of the eighteenth century philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau.  We experienced a revival of this image in the 1960s with the mantra “All you need is love.”  These positions have recurred cyclically through time and appear with various prominence indifferent cultures.

Inevitably, approaches to child rearing reflect these fluctuating views of children.  We have had very regimented adult-led styles, which believe that the parents should organise and manage all their children’s behaviour, such as patterns of sleep and feeding on a four-hourly basis for babies.  We have also experienced the now common baby- or child-led ways.  Following the 1960’s this liberal style permeated all our approaches to children, at home and at school.  We had feeding on demand for babies and very open-plan, child-centred education, experienced at its most extreme by A.S. Neill’s school Summerhill in Suffolk. 

What can be seen clearly is that, over time, our views and approaches to children have changed.  At present, we live in a period which is not dominated by a specific approach.  The generation of ‘Spock’ children whose parents followed Dr Benjamin Spock’s recommendations in the 1950’s has no equivalent.  Just as in music or fashion, there is no specific style for the current decade. This opens up a more creative space in which we can make up our own minds.  It also leaves many parents feeling confused. [My emphasis]

– Asha Philips, Saying No: Why It’s Important for You and Your Child

My “Flash” Lightning Bolt

This passage struck me like a speed lightning bolt thrown by The Flash using Velocity 9! (OK, obscure reference but the boys and I are enjoying The Flash TV series at the moment).  For me, it is a powerful summary of both the possibility and frustration that I feel as a parent.  It gives me a much-needed historical context to understand why it’s so hard to know if I am doing the ‘right’ thing as a parent.

So what do YOU think?  Before your respond, let me leave you with one more excerpt from Asha Phillips’s book Saying No: Why It’s Important for You and Your Child.  I have pulled out the pieces that really resonated for me.

This is not a prescriptive book, nor a recipe book on how to say no….With that in mind, there can be no universal solution to our dilemmas; what matters is finding our own means and a variety of them. [Again, my emphasis].

– Asha Philips, Saying No: Why It’s Important for You and Your Child

So, I look forward to finishing the book.  And hearing what you think in the comments section.

And remember, be kind to yourself!

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