When I was growing up, I belonged to the “Clean Plate Program.”
It meant that I ate everything on my plate—whether I wanted to or not.
When I was in school, I stood in line to get into class. I also stood in line to get out of class and to go to the bathroom.
When I balked because I didn’t want to do something, my father would point his hairy finger down at me and say, “Never say no to your father.”
Yes, it was back in the day—at a time when children were taught to be seen and not heard.
I realize this may sound archaic to some, and that today’s parents have left behind that “old-timey” way of raising children—or at least, they want to.
Because I have grandchildren who are still in the first grade, I am still interested in forging healthy relationships and being a good role model for them. I certainly don’t carry the parental burden that my daughter and her husband do, but I want to bring an attitude to my grandchildren that is entirely different from the one I grew up with—and perhaps even the one I used upon my own children.
Today, I found what is simply the single best parenting philosophy I have ever read.
What I like about it is that it’s short, simple, and to the point. It is also written by a mom (and teacher) who is both wise in experience and wise in her approach.
I share it here in its entirety, with permission from the woman who wrote it, in hopes that it will be of benefit to all the people who are raising children in today’s challenging environment—and who don’t want to use the old “children should be seen and not heard” school of thought.
“If a child is failing, it’s not their fault. It’s our job to set realistic, respectful, and meaningful boundaries. We must take into consideration our children’s developmental stage when establishing our boundaries. [Saying] ‘No, I won’t let you do x,y,z…’ suffices for a 15-month-old, but it’s not realistic to expect an elementary school aged child to take no as an answer—we want [those children] to talk back and ask why. We want them to play with the rules and experiment, push boundaries, and see how far they can go. It’s healthy and totally age appropriate! They’ll need those skills in the real world. Critical thinking, navigating social interactions healthily, making their voice heard. It’s annoying as parents to have to give reasons for every step we take, but let’s remember [our children are] practicing for the real world. Let’s empower them, not crush their being because of our own ego. If they’re failing, it’s because we are not giving them clear directions. It’s on us to offer a safe environment to let them thrive. Their job is to explore. Our job is to make sure they’re free to be themselves. This is respect for the child. It’s time to let go of ‘because I said so.’ It will save a lot of frustration and missed goals for sure.” ~ Lea Azevedo
Azevedo’s approach throws out viewing children as if they are little puppies who need to be trained, and it embraces the approach that children are equal beings who deserve our respect and understanding. (Nothing against my parents, or any parents.)
I can only imagine how much more relaxed, sure of myself, and filled with self-respect I would have been as a child if I had been raised by parents who utilized Azevedo’s approach.
I can only imagine how much easier my journey to becoming who I was meant to be would have been.
Even if a parent picks only one of Azevedo’s suggestions, they can’t go wrong.
>> Take the child’s developmental stage into account.
>> If a child is failing, it’s not their fault. It’s our job to set realistic, respectful, and meaningful boundaries.
>> Encourage elementary-age children to talk back and ask why.
>> Help them develop critical thinking and making their voices heard.
>> Remember that growing up is really just practice for the real world.
>> Have the courage to accept responsibility for not giving clear directions.
The goal is to help our children become who they were meant to be—that is, fully themselves.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Image: Flickr/Jon Grainger
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina