I can honestly say unparenting and non-parenting didn’t really work for our family. Of course, I started unparenting blindly, with no structure, no ideas, and no research into what it “actually” meant. I just proclaimed to my kids we were doing unparenting for a week, and that was that.
Looking back, I should have known four individual minds, ranging from ten-years-old to eighteen-years-old would view unparenting VERY differently. I should have seen the potential problems in what each of them thought unparenting meant, and how unparenting would add a few more problems to an already busy parenting hierarchy.
We started with non-parenting. A theory we felt meant they were just free to be themselves. We took the approach that they could have ultimate autonomy to be who they wanted, follow their dreams, and express themselves openly and uninhibited. For us as the parents, it meant all the pressure of grades, future planning, and long-term decisions, could take a break for a bit. We wanted their minds to stop obsessing about the future, and to enjoy the present. Sadly, non-parenting meant something different to the kids, it seemed in relinquishing on controlling their future, they felt we stopped caring about them.
They had become so used to us charting daily activities, mapping their trajectory, and plotting out their long-term goals, that they now felt a sort of panic. Their future had been such a constant focus for us. Now they feared we thought it was unimportant, and that was frightfully odd to them. My youngest said she was being ignored, left out, and told me that non-parenting felt like she wasn’t important anymore. She felt disconnected and missed our attention, even if it was filled with me telling her what to do.
That was an awakening in itself. I realized that so much interaction with my kids was around outlining their chores, evaluating their chores, and then mapping out more chores for them to do. Then it was talking about the future, setting intentions, doing the things that will serve them when they are grown up, and establishing proper work habits…ugg….It was sad to realize this. It made me see how the bulk of our connections was me being a constant drill sergeant, and once that was gone, I wasn’t spending as much time with them anymore.
We quickly switched to unparenting. Still parenting, but adding interaction back in. “Non” meant none, “un” meant more, but not like we had been doing before. Unparenting was less of the things we disliked about parenting. Less yelling, no more bossing, controlling or saying all those things that parents do, that stick in our minds forever; seldom being healthy. We thought unparenting was more progressive and congruent with a harmonious plan. Unfortunately, our kids thought unparenting meant NO parenting at all. They wanted absolute freedom, total hands off, and the liberty to just do what kids love to do.
That meant dishes and making the bed started an argument. Asking where they were going and with whom, got rolled eyes and obnoxious groans. All the safety rules and common courtesy rules had disappeared in one fell swoop, and that put me in a panic! They got self-righteous that we were cramping their space or patrolling them too much. They wanted to be left alone and allowed to do whatever they wanted, forgetting about picking up after themselves and going to bed at a decent hour.
Unparenting was good in many ways as it helped me see that once again an adjustment needed to be made. I sat thinking about the words; unparenting and nonparenting. I saw the way the kids had taken them to the farthest extreme. “Un” and “non” are both prefixes meaning “not” in the English language, so why would they expect anything less than NO PARENTING. Both words energetically refer to less, none, little, not, and without. All the things our kids were expecting us to do. So, I had to come up with a different idea. No parenting meant no peace for me. I wasn’t willing to have no rules, no structure and no boundaries. I as a parent need a few things to keep some semblance of order. I also need as a maternal being, to feel my kids are both happy and safe.
Many people have spoken to me about the tug-of-war between unparenting and parenting. They see the value in allowing their children autonomy, but also know they too need some sovereignty in their homes. As adults, they have a clearer picture of what is appropriate or conducive for happiness. They have preferences and likes that matter deeply to them. We all have our base needs and our external needs. We have principles and beliefs that we choose to live by. These can not be thrown to the waste side haphazardly. Giving up what we value for ourselves and our environment isn’t workable if it causes more chaos in the long run.
In the desire to find my optimum parenting style, I woke up this morning thinking of a new term… Peaceful Parenting. A combination of words that energetically sound more harmonious, and encouraging. They foster joy and peace, while teaching, and guiding our youngster’s bright minds. Parenting needs to be there to help our youth learn and see things; including expectations, regard for others, and respecting our environment. Yet, doing it in a peaceful manner, with kindness in mind. I want to be peaking from the heart, not from the pulpit, helping not controlling, showing not demanding, giving not guilting are all foundations of this new idea. I see it as parenting children in a way that is peaceful for me, peaceful for the kids, and keeps peace throughout the family.
As my new week begins, I will sit down with the kids, map out a plan and ask them what peaceful parenting means to each of them. Getting their input will help get them invested. If I know what they need and how they wish it to be, I can design a better system for all of us.
I promise to keep sharing and let you know how Peaceful Parenting goes week 1.