Saturday, May 18, 2013

Individualism and Parenting - part 1

How many times have you heard someone say "Just be yourself"? I can think of many times a parent or sibling would express this to their child as they are growing up and seeking the answers of life or just trying to fit in with everyone else. If you can remember Jr High and High School then most of you know this feeling and have been there.

Individual Freedom or Individualism is defined as being:

the practice of independence in thought and action on the premise that the development and expression of an individual character and personality are of the utmost importance. ref

Consider a teen who is romantically interested in someone else. He might come home upset , blinded by a frustration that he just can't get past that prevents him from talking to this person. Then a loving adult or sibling would just simply say "Just be yourself - if they like you for who you are, then it will work out."

Sounds corny right?

Well think about it: if you are yourself and not pretending to be someone or something else, then won't you have less stress over time? There wouldn't be any lying involved (something that can ruin a friendship let alone a relationship).

But is it really that easy to "Just be Yourself"?

In most cases, no, it's not that easy to do. Why is that? Why is it so hard for young people to just be themselves?

There are many restrictions put upon a child as they are growing up that limits the growth of their individualism or individual freedom. Parents for the most part want two things for their children: 1) to have it better than they had it when they grew up, and 2) to not make the same mistakes they did. Sounds like a reasonable and caring plan for the most part but there is a obvious flaw here.

Imagine a child that is given everything they want and is "steered" down a path in life that avoids all the mistakes a person could make growing up. If he is just told not to do something because you say so or it's for their best interest instead of learning the why and the how of it, he could become rebellious.

Recently Tweenky and I listened to a talk given by Dale McGowan about "secular parenting"- something I wish I had had when I was growing up (there would have been many different outcomes and I would have learned more at an early age than getting a crash course later in life). Dale said basically that it was better for the child to learn on their own '"whys and hows," than to just give them the final answer.

It is like bringing home your math homework only to have a parent give you all the answer - way more time to play outside but did that child really learn how to do the math on their own? Not at all. So when it comes time in class to do those same problems and then has to show his work, he will not have the knowledge to do it. Not only that, he may be embarrassed in front of his friends and labeled a cheater for not having done the work himself.

Continued  here