Parenting, Like Teaching is a Balancing Act

Society only knows two ways of dealing with a given problem.  The two ways I speak of, are the two extremes at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Take teaching for example. On the one hand you have the advocates for a teacher centred approach.  This philosophy maintains that the teacher must be strong, exact discipline and be emotionally distant from the students.  It considers empowering students to be weak and counter productive.

Pretty extreme, huh?

Well unfortunately, so is the alternate philosophy.  The child centered approach to teaching, puts the emphasis on the child to direct learning, make critical choices and set the agenda.  Discipline takes a back seat in this approach as does rules and the authority of the teacher.

Both approaches are extreme.  Both have good ideas, but miss the most important aspect of any philosophy – balance.  In truth, both approaches can be melded into one by a teacher who can incorporate both styles of teaching through constant adjustment and introspection.

Unfortunately, parenting experts tend to take on unbalanced and incredibly extreme positions.  A few months ago we had the infamous Tiger Mother, who postulated that restricting her children from enjoying play dates and leisure time helped instill happiness in their lives.

Of course, there will always be an extreme position, advocating the exact opposite:

MEET the “serenity parents” – pizza and cartoons are in, too much sport or trombone lessons are out.

A US author is urging parents to lighten up and let their children have more fun, instead of obsessing over their lives.

Dr Bryan Caplan said modern mums and dads worried too much, and should take a back seat.

He advocated “serenity parenting” as an antidote to tight control and a plethora of extra-curricular activities, saying they would make no difference when children grew up.

Dr Caplan gives guilt-ridden parents the nod to let their children watch more television, and quit activities they don’t enjoy.

The father of three, including twins, has penned the new book, Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids: Why Being A Great Parent Is Less Work And More Fun Than You Think.

Dr Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason University in Virginia, said research on twins had shown genetics was more important than upbringing in moulding children.

“The most prominent conclusion of twin research is that practically everything – health, intelligence, happiness, success, personality, values, interests – is partly genetic,” he wrote in a Wall Street Journal column.

“With a few exceptions, the effect of parenting on adult outcomes ranges from small to zero.”

South Morang mother of two Renee Mayne relates to serenity parenting, saying she strives to create a stress-free home for daughters Maddison, 4, and Milly, 2.

“If we can balance a relaxed environment, where we listen, create boundaries and instil good values it’s not only serenity parenting, but a balanced lifestyle,” she said.

Parenting is the hardest job in the world.  So-called parenting experts try to give us quick fixes that sound easy, but miss the mark on two crucial factors.

1.  No child is the same.  There is no perfect parenting technique that will work on all kids;

2.  These methods almost uniformly lack balance.  Whilst it wouldn’t sell books, the best approach to take is to try a whole series of common sense ideas, whilst continually modifying and adjusting ones style according to what works for a particular child at a particular time.

I find that the best experts don’t preach to others, because they are aware that every child responds differently to situations and parenting styles.  And every child presents a unique challenge to their parents.

No, Dr Caplan, parenting children effectively invariably isn’t  “less work  than you think.”


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