I have worked as a nanny for many years.
As a result, I have seen many contrasting styles of parenting, witnessing both the ineffectual decisions and the grand ones in regards to how to raise a child.
When I was in high school, I would sometimes see the two boys whom I would babysit every now and then running up and down the street for about twenty minutes.
One sweltering day, the sun high, I offered them some water as they passed my house and asked, “Why are you two running so much?”
They answered, “When we are too hyper or we’re arguing, our mom makes us run until we calm down.”
Another family I babysat for used the sentence, “I don’t like that,” often in relation to their children’s poor choices. For example, the toddler would hit the parent, and the parent would say, “I don’t like that.” Then maybe the toddler would pinch the parent, and the parent would again say, “I don’t like that.”
This would continue until the little one would give a gentle touch, to which the parent would respond, “I like that.”
Sometimes I observe parenting techniques that I think are ridiculous; sometimes I think they’re adequate. But sometimes I run into situations that I think are handled brilliantly.
I met with a single father, for whom I would come to nanny over a long period of time, to interview for a full-time position. While speaking of experience, references and general information, other topics arose as well. These topics included religion, spiritual beliefs, yoga and more. I admired his open-mindedness and easygoing attitude and immediately thought he would be a pleasant person to work for as far as parents go.
But what truly sparked my interest in possibly accepting the job was when he said something along the lines of, “Look, my daughter has gone to a Christian school and a Jewish school. I’m an atheist. You can tell her any of your opinions as long as you are clear when expressing them that they are just that, opinions. She is a smart girl, and I want to allow her to create her own beliefs and to be able to come to her own conclusions.”
This is the way to do it, I thought. Right on.
The real beauty of this idea is that he stuck to those words. With his children I would talk about belief systems, laws and cultures. At dinnertime we would sit around the table and talk about India—how in Indian culture the people eat with their hands. We would talk about morals and why some people do things certain ways while others do them differently.
And most importantly, when we were speaking about such a multitude of things, it was never in terms of “this is right” or “this is wrong.”
Having been guided in such a way, these children have grown (and are still growing) into conscious, perceptive and tolerant beings with an understanding much greater than what is right and what is wrong. They are in the process of understanding that outside of the generic morals (i.e. do no harm) there really is no right, no wrong. There just is.
And what a world it would be if we were all so progressive.
Author: Jenna Meyer
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Dhilung Kirat/Flickr