Sunday, September 7, 2008

The importance of parenting

I think most parents would appreciate the importance of parenting, but I would suggest parents differ a great deal on how to parent, or what they are prepared to do. There are of course different approaches that you could take:
1. Traditional: You might take the attitude that 'I will teach my kids the same as my parents modelled for me because I didn't turn out too bad'. I actually consider this a variant of the next approach.
2. Pragmatic: You might take the attitude that I will do whatever works. I would suggest that most parents take this approach, and it tends to involve the provision of sustenance, clothing, shelter, security, and if you are lucky private school and a bit of a leg up buying the first house or car. I consider this a very low-maintenance approach to parenting, and its not a bad approach if the parents are good role models and have good communication skills. It fails abysmally if they don't because they end up resenting their kids for any burden they place on them. Effectively they are saying 'I didn't ask for this', but implicitly they did; by not being engaged in their kids lives. This dubious approach to parenting tends to define very limited notions of what constitutes parental responsibility. What they never realise is that its not a matter of quantity, but the quality of time for their kids. Kids can amuse themselves, interact with others, whether siblings, friends, or others, but the interaction with a role model is more important. The other failure of the pragmatic approach is its failure to establish any standards of what constitutes good parenting. They have no measure, or more likely very superficial measures, and often those standards are 'peer pressure'. Oh what would the neighbours think if they knew my son stole stereo equipment, or if their daughter got pregnant, or their son was arrested for some indiscretion. These are calls to action, but parents that need to wait for these hurdles to be breached really are disengaged from their children. Usually its due to a failure to communicate or to provide effective role modelling.
3. Loving: There are those whom argue that all that a child needs is unconditional love. I am not a fan of this approach. These people are in effect saying that humans are intrinsically worthy of love regardless of their actions or character. To be is to be valued. Of course they can't consistently apply that philosophy because life requires choice, thus preferences and standards to differentiate. How do you differentiate if you don't have standards (reasons). So these parents end up defying their 'causeless' love. Life is about the pursuit of value in all its forms, material, spiritual, romantic. The earlier a child knows that the more self-reliant they will be. A child is not maligned by a lack of 'causeless love', they are maligned by a contradictory or causeless absence of it. That absence is likely to not undermine their capacity to be loved, but undermine their efficacy in their thinking at a time when their capacity to articulate their fears, or to understand the pertinent issues is beyond them.
4. Rational: This approach might strike people as cold, but actually there is no dichotomy or contradiction between thoughts and emotions in a person (or couple) with integrity, with good self esteem. Generally the people who exude such confidence are those people who were raised with structured, goal-orientated lives. Some people are better than others. Some got the message too late, for others it was contradictory, for some it was compartmentalised, and for others they had to discover the principles from books, and thereafter struggled for years to correct their erroneous thinking, knowing that it was wrong but not fully comprehending why. A great many people just lack the mental efficacy or ambition and give up. And their is a relationship between those values. The rational people is the person who recognises that life requires deliberate rather than arbitrary action. They realise that what man is (his nature) determines the type of action he should or ought to take. There are a great many philosophers who struggle with the idea that you can get a value proposition from a fact. Does not the fact that humans have a rational faculty imply that one should use it? Of course. All the time? Maybe not. Answering that question is the role of philosophy.

I of course support the last proposition that 'man should be understood in order to define what is the best approach to parenting. This might sound commonplace, but its surprising the extent to which this is not done. The reason why this approach is not heralded as the 'best approach' is political. If you imply an 'ought', a lot of people get scared that government will impose values on parents. Of course this arises because you have a collectivist government imposing seemingly 'objective' principles on people. No good ever came from imposing things on people. The 'good' is that which is understood rather blindly accepted. That requires negotiations. Governments and corporations tend not to take the time to do that because they think that its not productive. The problem of course is that they think short-range. They fail to see that once you 'really' change a person, you have an advocate who is much more powerful than the sponsor because they are an existing relationship or come from the same perspective as the other prospective adherents. The failure to grasp this is the cause of all the world's brutality, whether perpetrated upon kids, armies or terrorists. What do we know about Bin Laden. We know he was trained to fight by the Americans. The American military - the so called defenders of freedom - are the fascists. Arab cultures are just poorer cousins. America is a dying star. Unless it rediscovers its founding values it will continue to go backwards, and of course I mean that in a collectivist sense. There is nothing stopping Americans from being successful however, since they can always export their wealthy. That's one reason why governments support globalisation. The other reasons are not pretty! The problem knowing so much is you easily go off topic. :)
Andrew Sheldon