Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Tame Child-Creatures

“The more boring a child is, the more the parents, when showing off the child, receive adulation for being good parents – because they have a tame child-creature in the house. Let the kids be themselves and make no excuses for them. After all, they are their own little beings and not a clone.” ~Frank Zappa

I saw this posted the other day on Facebook. I and copied it to my TAL FB page, but ever since then, it’s been on my mind. I’ve been thinking about ‘tame child-creatures’ and comparing my own heathen horde with them and have thus far come out glad that our home contains none of these docile small people.

I’ll be blunt here; sometimes, homeschooling sucks, and when you have children who have been taught that their thoughts and opinions matter, and as a result of that, are used to being heard, listening to a 25 minute treatise on ‘Why We Shouldn’t Have to do Math Today’ can be doubly tiresome. We’ve spent the last couple of months in a bit of a rut. If you’ve been reading here lately, there have been a few posts whining about being tired and irritated. I would apologize for that, but I won’t lest I be accused of perpetuating the false notion that homeschooling is always hunky-dory.

I reached a breaking point (mental exhaustion-induced, I think now) and almost threw in the towel on homeschooling. After some discussion and intervention by Loverly Husband, some mindful cooperative parenting/homeschooling, a bunch of deep housekeeping and home-blessing projects and a substantial break and family vacation over the past two weeks, we’ve been successful in reigning in our kids a bit, setting some reasonable expectations and clearer boundaries and are getting back on an even keel.

That’s not to say that everything is comin’ up roses; we’re currently battling a little bit of First World Entitlement Syndrome (which has resulted in some serious discussions about their status in life and some plans on Mom/Teacher’s part to work in more hands-on direct contact with those less fortunate in our community).

All that aside though, I like that my kids have… personality. I am grateful that they’re thinkers and leaders – they question things; they don’t follow blindly and they’re confident that they will be heard. I count that as an accomplishment in my parenting career that my kids know that they can have their own opinions about things and that they feel free to express them. I admit that I have been embarrassed by them in public – what mom hasn’t? But most often, my embarrassment has come from me buying into some unrealistic stereotype that I momentarily feel pressured to conform to… like the idea that ‘good mothers’ have children who are mild-mannered, calm and quiet – especially in grocery stores.

I recently unsubscribed from a homeschooling support group because of the overwhelming presence of parents who want ‘tame child-creatures’; parents who have an unrealistic ideal in their head that their normally exuberant children don’t meet – and perhaps worse are the parents who are all too willing to share their favorite spirit-crushing methods of enforcing conformity. It got to the point that I was nauseated sometimes to read about some of the things parent’s have done to get those picture-perfect kids (like incorporating a spray bottle to squirt an errant child – like you might a puppy… srsly?? o_O).

The attitude seems to be that the long-term effects don’t matter (if they’re taken into consideration at all); as long as they present a good image to the world (or group) then whatever you do in the name of enforcing conformity is fine. I think that’s dishonest and downright harmful to the kids. It’s a mistake to think that in creating tame child-creatures, you’re actually molding the personality. If your child is wild at heart, you can discipline and punish the things you don’t like – but all that’s creating is a good actor. Sooner or later, that wild heart will break through, sometimes with tragic consequences. Wouldn’t it be ever so much better to work with your child to shape him or her into a productive adult? We all have flaws and personality quirks that will serve us in various ways as adults.  As parents, we’re supposed to think in the long-term. Facilitating our child’s inherent traits to maximize future potential is in our job description. I believe that learning to ask questions will serve my kids better as adults than obedience. Confidence trumps conformity. Lead, don’t follow.

There’s balance, of course. We’re aiming for delightfully cultivated wild children here – not feral brats. I am not suggesting that children who are allowed to run free with absolutely no boundaries or expectations are better; they might even be worse. No one wants to deal with bratty children who haven’t been taught common courtesies. It makes me wonder how many parents go to the ‘tame’ extreme because they’re afraid of having a ‘brat’; and furthermore, how much the ‘tame’ and ‘bratty’ children contribute to the problem because other parents only see the two extremes – the oh-so-appealing docile and obedient child who never gives a moment’s trouble and the obnoxious, loud feral child who has no concept of his or her role in society.

I like the natural indulgence in the fullness of the moment that kids seem to live in when they’re allowed to; it’s a reminder to me to live in the ‘now’. If they’re a little loud, so what? If they’re a little bouncy, that’s usually okay, too. A few well-placed reminders do the job nicely. It’s more work, sure – you have to be present and paying attention to your kids a lot of the time. But that’s mindful parenting, not performance parenting and that’s what we’re working towards. Cultivating wild children means that you’re actively involved in what your kids are doing now, not trotting them out like show ponies.  Even with all the effort that goes into striving for balance, I think I’d rather embrace the wild than train and tame.




4 responses

  1. Good post! This is a fine line for me b/c I share your views – I do – but I do want a tame child some of the time!! You know that two boys – esp when they are together – are not tame! But I am also glad they are enjoying themselves. It’s maddening b/c when we are out it in public no one else seems to be aware that boys/ children are active/ opinionated. I guess the fine line is the boys being themselves but then knowing how to act in public? I also get agitated when the grandparents actually expect these two youngsters to sit still for long periods of time – are they serious?!?! Anyway – good post!

    November 28, 2011 at 2:03 pm

  2. Great post, definitely resonates with me, however I do agree with Boy Mom Blogger, just some times I’d really like a tame child…..I guess you can’t have it both ways, but we can try hehehe

    November 28, 2011 at 3:12 pm

  3. Great post! I have struggled with this for some time. Definitely getting better at responding to my kids’ needs vs. those of some random stranger giving us “looks” in the grocery store because my kids are not behaving or whatever. I love the phrase you used, “performance parenting”. I see so much of that and it is one of the great things about homeschooling, that I am no longer having to interact on a daily basis with parents like that. It was exhausting, quite frankly. And wow, about the spray bottle. That is insane.

    One more thought…I have a very close friend who stresses obedience in her children any time an adult addresses them. Stresses Southern Manners, yes, ma’am, yes, sir. Admonishes them if they don’t immediately respond in this way. It bothers me because, while I think it is important that kids are respectful to people (not just adults), I don’t think it’s a good think that kids do something just because any random adult tells them to. Great set up for someone whose intent is to harm a child.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:42 am

  4. Jeannette

    Love it!

    November 30, 2011 at 7:03 pm

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