Free range or caged?

So I know that we have all had our fair share of people giving us advice and almost force-feeding us their opinions about how to be a good parent so I will like to join that group of over bearing know-it-alls 🙂 will try as much as possible not to ram my findings down your throats.

As most of us know, being a parent is a huge undertaking and so some times we get tired and we loosen those reins a little and let the kids run wild. Or maybe we don’t.  Anyway, what I have noticed is that most times, when we allow children to ‘roam free-range’ (pardon my livestock metaphor 🙂 )they usually get off unscathed and we enjoy blissful moments of sanity and much needed ‘me-time’.

I might be small, but trust me, I can handle it…..

I came accross the term ‘helicopter parenting’ a couple of years ago and I could relate because even though I did not have a child then, I could see myself being that kind of a mom. You know, the type of mom who is always somewhere in the background watching their child play with other kids and ready to swoop in when their precious tot cries or falls. I was at a barbeque recently and my little man wanted to get in the trampoline with the other big kids. I finally caved and put him in, but I spent a good five minutes yelling at the other kids not to trample on my baby. I even gave the occasional stink-eye to the one who ignored my rants and trampled on my kid anyway. I know, pathetic right? I’m happy to report that the little one loved it and came off without a scratch. But, I had wasted good time that could have been spent socializing with other people on playing trampoline referee.

Or the type of parent who protects their child from ALL and EVERY type of emotional ‘stress’ such as telling their kid that their game with the other team was a ‘tie’ instead of telling the child that his/her team lost. Personally, I have played board games with children and purposely lost the game just to help the child ‘develop their self esteem’. However, it is also important for children to learn that ‘you win some and you lose some’. They need to be able to congratulate the winner and say ‘good game’. Most children will pout and say ‘no fair’ when they lose a game simply because they haven’t been taught sportsmanship from a young age.

When we allow our kids to lose and feel disappointment at a young age, they learn to bounce back from frustration as they get older*

Help me to help myself….

Maria Montessori’s philosophy regarding the role of an adult in the development of a child is that the adult/parent/teacher should always think of ways to help the child attain independence. The attitude of the parent towards the child should be that of helping the child to help himself or herself. Children really don’t need us to do everything for them. A two year old will feed himself/herself properly if we let them. Sure, there will be spillage and a whole lot of mess making, but it gives the child the opportunity to problem solve. Allowing children to contribute to the smooth running of the household is a good way of helping them develop independence and sense of responsibility.

I think that over-parenting is a major cause of the new wave of entitled youths that we see nowadays. A lot of parents do everything for their children all in the name of wanting the best for them or simply because they wanted to give their children everything they never had growing up. This dangerous habit of coddling our children is why we see youths vandalizing buildings, starting riots and having hatred for their governments and authority simply because they believe that it is the responsibility of the person in the position of authority to provide them with everything. Of course, the government has a responsibility towards its citizens, however, a lot of young people find it difficult to take initiative and build something for themselves. They keep waiting around for the government of the ‘rich’ people to advertise for vacancies. When this doesn’t happen, they get disgruntled and things spiral out of control. We need to realize that one of the greatest disservices one could do to humanity is denying our children the opportunity to develop independence from a very young age.

I remember that attending a boarding school helped me a great deal in terms of independence and self confidence,but, it also exposed me to a lot of things I would not want my kids to be exposed to. (See the helicopter mum rearing her head again?). But, I mean, we still have to protect our children right? The wisdom to attain that beautiful middle course is what we continue to seek. So, the jury is still out on boarding schools for my children. NO, wait. The verdict is in, it’s a NO:-)

Personally, I don’t believe attachment parenting is a horrible thing. What I do think is unhealthy is being the type of parent who will do anything and everything to ‘protect’ their children from all physical and emotional ‘discomfort’ on a border line neurotic level. No doubt, children need love, attention and very discerning parents who always have their best interests at heart.

Being a ‘detached’ parent does not mean that you believe children should only be seen and not heard. What I understand it to mean is that the adult in the child’s life respects the child enough to give him/her the opportunity to learn through exploration and experience. I have noticed that a lot of attached parents are either first-time parents or parents with a maximum of two children. I would like to think that a mum of four or five just doesn’t have enough bandwidth to hover over that many children.But,  I stand corrected! However, it is also possible to take the detachment thing too far so if you find that your child is the one who tells you when they learnt how to use the potty* or that you go to bed before they do, perhaps you might want to dial it back a bit 🙂

As a muslim, being a parent is an amaanah (trust), (see here) and parents are seen as ‘shepherds’. Therefore, we have to take our job of protecting our children from ‘ the wolves’ very seriously. However, this doesn’t mean that we raise our children in an unrealistic bubble. The world has become a very scary place and we definitely have to protect our children but like I mentioned earlier, walking that line between protection and over-protection is what we should aspire towards. After all, Islam is all about attaining the middle course in life.

So, which one are you, which one do you think is the most beneficial? For me I would say I used to be totally caged, being a first timer and all. But I am on the journey to being free-range within reason :-).  As for which is most beneficial? I say a little bit of both and a lot of dua (Prayer), faith-based tarbiyah (training) and trust in Allah (God) will most likely produce a well rounded and functional individual. Bi ‘ithnillah!

*Parenting Magazine, July 2013 edition

*Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator best known for the philosophy of education that bears her name, and her writing on scientific pedagogy. Her educational method is in use today in public and private schools throughout the world. (Source: Wikipedia)

Disclaimer: I would like to re-iterate that this piece, just like every post on this blog, is entirely my opinion. I am welcome to other opinions and I would love to keep this a conversation. Please read my disclaimer here

4 thoughts on “Free range or caged?

  1. Lovely piece on parenting. Not a parent yet but I understand the feeling to protect and not wanting young ones to feel pain. Well, now I’m of the opinion that pain is good as it help children grow and learn. If I shield my younger sister, how will she learn and grow?

    Like

    1. I agree too, coddling helps no one. That’s what I was trying to express in this piece as well. The fact that children/people learn best through experience.

      Like

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