Thursday, August 27, 2009

Letting go of the illusion of control

A few months ago I started reading P.E.T.: Parent Effectiveness Training by Dr. Thomas Gordon. I got about halfway through, and then for some reason or other put down the book and didn't pick it back up until a couple days ago. It's been a really interesting read, and I really like their ideas and hope to be able to implement them, even if Donovan seems a bit young still (though I have a feeling he really is not). I may also look into seeing if any P.E.T. training classes will be happening in our area anytime soon.

Last night I got to a chapter where the author talked about when you get to the teen years, when kids are a bit older, and all the things that cause conflicts between parents and children based on a difference in opinion, in values, in core beliefs. How these are things that, try as you may, you cannot force someone to change into. This becomes all too clear when you think about your own childhood, all the things we did in spite of, or perhaps even because of, our parents' disaproval, and that we did no matter how hard we had to work to hide them. The author mentioned how annoyed parents get when they talk about this in classes, asking how they are supposed to teach their kids their values then?

A quote that stood out to me in my friend's book was, "Be the person you want your children to be." This is basically also what the P.E.T. book author also said-- that the best way to pass on your values to your kids, is to live them and lead by example. That you can show them what you believe, and you can talk to them about it. And beyond that, you then have to step aside and just watch to see if your kids ultimately take up your values, or forge their own path. Beyond that, all that's left for you to do, as a parent, is to love them unconditionally, and accept whoever it is they are to become.

Intellectually I think I have always known this. One of the things that attracts me to Montessori is its ideas on fostering early independence and responsibility in children. However I am also very aware that I have inherited my mother's tendency of giving copious amounts of advice and information (whether desired or not) out of a benevolent desire/need to help others make the best decisions they can (based, partially, of course, on what I think might be best). I've been working on this for a while, and think I've done pretty well- learning to say my piece once or maybe twice and then dropping it, trying not to meddle in other people's business, etc.

To do this for friends and acquaintances is one thing. Last night, for the first time, I sat down and thought about what this means as a parent. How Donovan may will one day make decisions I'll strongly disagree with, whether they may be refusing to study for a test, taking up smoking or drugs, dating or even marrying someone I don't like, etc. And that I may be able to share my thoughts and beliefs with him, and try to give him guidance, but in the end it's up to him and I'll have no control whatsoever on what he chooses to do. And that thought is TERRIFYING. Utterly and completely terrifying. Last night, this realization of how little control I have over this person that I love so dearly, over his wellbeing, was easily the scariest moment I have had yet as a parent.

So I keep this in mind now, when he's young and still so malleable. I will try to teach him as best I can. And I will love him. And I will accept him. No matter what.

1 comment:

  1. I've always held the belief that as a parent you get to raise your child through elementary school, middle school if you're lucky. After that, you just have to step aside and hope you did a good job teaching them what you could. Because once they reach high-school they are going to listen to their friends, not you. Basically you have to keep your fingers crossed that they survive the experience and come out okay (if not better) on the other side. Only then can you and your child begin the relationship of adult to adult.



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