Peace as the Foundation
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
I wanted to take a break from the FAQs to talk about what I think is the foundation of successful unschooling: peaceful parenting.
Called peaceful parenting, gentle parenting, respectful parenting, authentic parenting. It’s a parenting style that, like unschooling, is opposite from mainstream societal norms.
L.R. Knost says on her Little Hearts blog:
“Gentle Parenting is about guiding instead of controlling, connecting instead of punishing, encouraging instead of demanding. It’s about listening, understanding, responding, and communicating.”
That sounds a whole lot like the principles of unschooling as well. The two go hand in hand. Unschooling builds on the blocks of peaceful parenting.
Dr. Laura Markham at Aha!Parenting expands on the definition. I have it printed out as a reminder.
-We take responsibility of regulating our own emotions, so we can stay as calm as possible with our children
-We set limits with empathy
– We reflect before we react, looking for the reason behind our child’s behavior
-We connect before we correct
-We try to accept or child’s “big” emotions with compassion, which helps her to move past them
-We take responsibility for keeping our own “love cups” full, so we can pour our appreciation, acceptance, and unconditional love into our child
The biggest concept to impact unschooling that she doesn’t address in this definition is mutual respect.
Most parents demand respect because they are the parent. Most parents, sometimes unaware, view children as less-than or objects to be controlled, not as human beings who deserve the same respect as anyone else. I know, I was one of those parents.
Kids give respect when they are shown respect by the adults in their lives. For unschooling to work, parents need to build a relationship based on respect. It’s hard to trust my child to take control of her own education if I as a parent don’t respect her as a person.
I first heard about the concepts of “adult privilege” and “childism” a couple of years ago. It hit me like a ton of bricks. The questions popped up in my brain at every interaction. Am I doing what I’m doing right now just because this person (who didn’t get to choose this relationship) is smaller than me? Am I flexing my authority just because I’ve lived longer? Of course being around longer generally means I have more wisdom; but is age and size the sole source of my authority? Would I say or do these things to a friend, a coworker, or my spouse? I realized there were times I treated the server at a restaurant with more respect than I do my children.
It was that moment that I decided to change.
I never really thought about the style of parenting I would use with my children before I had them. I was just going to parent. I was spanked. I was put in time out. I thought I came out ok. I know my parents loved me. But then it came to implementing this thrown together parenting, it all blew up in my face. When I realized that whatever I was doing with my kids was failing miserably, I needed a 180.
Dramatic change is hard. Changing your ways is tough. Just like “schoolish thoughts”, old habits die hard and want to creep back in. I have 3 years of damage to mend. I could wallow in regret. I could rake myself over the coals for past mistakes. But that doesn’t help anyone. Moving forward, I’m learning from my mistakes. I’m choosing peace. I still have moments of spectacular failure. I have moments where it all seems to be going wrong. All I can do is pick up the pieces, apologize when necessary, and make the next moment better. We’re making progress toward a peaceful home…by being peaceful. Moment by moment. Hour by hour. Day by day.
Resources to Explore:
Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources by L.R. Knost
What is Peaceful Parenting? On Aha!Parenting by Dr. Laura Markham
Peace episode of The Unschooling Life Podcast
July 31, 2015 / TaraMcDonough / 0