parenting without fear
by Krystal Trammell
Originally published in a traditional homeschooling magazine that’s now out-of-print, c. 2012
I think no one’s ever ready for parenthood. We can read books, observe other parents; we may even take a parenting class or two—but raising a child is so much more involved and complex than what can be covered in the scope of a book, or even a hundred books. No manual on baby care can substitute for your own inner knowing or awareness of what your baby really needs in any given moment. As attachment parenting/unschooling counselor Jan Hunt says, the baby is the book. Children are people from day one—with their own needs, preferences, and feelings—and the relationship between parent and child must be founded with love and mutual respect.
However, in this culture we are not taught nor expected to trust our own inner voice, let alone to trust our children. Mothers and fathers are admonished even from their earliest days as parents, to dutifully seek the advice of experts for their child—whether it be medical, behavioral, psychological, or educational. In some ways, modern parenting has almost been reduced to a factory-style operation, where we expect to be able to plug in certain criteria and then produce a “good” child as if he or she were a commercial product.
Go to any busy shopping center or city park, and you may notice that parents in our culture are often just as controlled as the children they're controlling, because of society's often unspoken yet still-vivid expectations of the parent-child dynamic. We may have progressed in many ways, yet we are still not so far away from dogmatic concepts such as “children shall be seen and not heard”. Show me a screaming child in a grocery store cart, and I'll be able to show you at least several adults nearby who would advocate for a “good spanking”—and most likely a mother or father who is feeling extremely nervous and judged—no matter what he or she does!
We are afraid of what others—friends, our own parents, and even strangers in the street—will say if we don't respond to our child's unique or unpleasant behavior in culturally approved-of ways. We fear our children will turn out “wrong” somehow, if we don't adhere to the commonly held beliefs about how to raise kids. Even if we aren't convinced that punitive discipline is necessary, the psychological burden of society's belief that it is can weigh so heavily on us that we may still use it, for lack of better options in the heat of an uncomfortable moment. Thus, our actions are influenced by fear rather than love, logic, or intuition.
Underneath all of these fears, however, is one that we may scarcely be aware of—but it's the most formidable terror of all: Fear of the relationship between our children and ourselves being damaged beyond repair one day, after all the 'no's, arguments, and angry words are exchanged.
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