Offering parenting advice is a dangerous prospect. With all the mommy wars and the ultra-super-mom culture out there, even offering an idea on a more efficient way to brush your children’s teeth is liable to bring down a firestorm upon the unwary. So before embarking on this dangerous quest of sharing my parenting ideas, strategies, and experiences, I’d like to wax a little philosophical.
Before there was Babywise or Dr. Sears, Montessori or Your Baby Can Read, attachment parenting or free-range parenting, there was just parenting. Before the studies and talk shows, parents just did what their parents did and tried to improve upon it if they could. The goals of parenting were not to eliminate every risk or maximize every potential asset within the child. People just wanted to survive and be reasonably happy. They spent a lot more time on the first than the second out of necessity. Now that most of us don’t have to worry so much about the first, I feel we should focus on our society’s utter failure at the second. The most successful people in the minds of those around them are quite often the most (quietly) depressed, at least in my experience. This is nowhere more prevalent than in mothers. Have you seen the studies that having children makes you less happy? I say it shouldn’t be that way.
So I have a radical philosophy about parenting, and this is it: not to adopt any particular parenting style or theory, but simply adopt anything that makes our lives easier and happier.
Because of this outlook, the things that I’ll share read more like hacks than genuine parenting advice. I look for concrete things to implement that result in measurable improvements to the smoothness of our day. A few of my guidelines in deciding what to do:
- Time: Would my great-great-grandmother doing laundry by hand, baking her own bread, and raising five children, have had the time to implement this parenting strategy? If not, then I don’t either.
- Sleep: Do anything and everything to get it. Solve this problem before anything else. Secondarily, this applies to whatever keeps you in a good mood. For me, it’s getting to shower every day. Get that thing, be happy, and you’ll be a better parent by default.
- Live together: I can’t think of a clearer term for this, but what I mean is that the family’s daily lives should mesh together. If our schedule is built around just the children, then that unfairly discounts the value of our happiness as parents, and vice versa. Both parents and children must give and take to build something that works. This means that sometimes children will be unhappy about things. It won’t kill them.
- Work together: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the relative ease of our lives has gone hand-in-hand with depression levels skyrocketing. Children need to feel that they are a necessary part of the family, not just pampered pets.
- Think long-term: Is this behavior sustainable over weeks? Months? Years? The longer we tolerate a behavior, the harder it is to change. Oh, and I’m talking about our behaviors as parents as well as our children’s behavior. Weigh the ease now versus the pain of changing later.
- Make it easy to obey: If people have to open a closet and get out a hanger to hang up their coat, it won’t happen. Introduce a coat rack and suddenly people hang their coats up every time. People are lazy. Find a way to make it easier and more compelling, and even children will obey more easily (we can only hope).
That’s what I have for now. Of course, writing about something always sharpens its shape, so I’ll update this page from time to time.