I question this parenting approach…

My dog doesn’t respond to negative comments. She doesn’t learn from me yelling at her with anger and frustration.

Direct firmness is one thing. Angry yelling is another. Neither does my dog learn from being shamed.

Positive reinforcement with direct and firmness is effective. Yelling at her when she does something not ideal is simply not an effective behavioural moulding model.

This brings me to parenting …

I’m not an expert claiming to know what the “right” approach to parenting is. I’ve just been observing and thinking about it for a while and I have questions. Far more questions than answers.

Too often we just accept something because “that’s how everyone does it”. Asking questions is what leads us to a deeper understanding. From this understanding, answers are revealed. So here are my questions:

It seems that the primary parenting paradigm is to reward children for behaviour deemed appropriate and punish them for behaviour deemed inappropriate.

This seems alright on the surface but when I dug a little deeper, it started to break down.

I noticed that there was an overwhelming amount of anxiety in school. But where does it come from?

Well, I thought about it and it seems to me that a major contributing factor is this reward and punishment model.

Essentially, it teaches us to be afraid of being seen in a certain way. So we are constantly anxious about how we are seen to ensure that we fit in out of fear of punishment. It’s a very heavy and forced approach to behavioural conditioning.

Not only that but also, it’s not very effective. The forceful approach either crushes the spirit of the child or results in automatic rebellion. Even if what was wanted for the child was good on the surface, the fact that it was forced via this punishment model means that the child didn’t choose it themselves.

Because the child didn’t choose it themselves, part of them will be resentful and resist because that is the nature of the ego.

Surely there is a better way?

I don’t know exactly what it is but I have some inklings based on my recent experiences.

What if, instead of forcing behaviour we nurtured it via positive reinforcement? Instead of focusing on what the child was doing wrong, punishing them for it, and expecting them to change out of fear of punishment, we were to overwhelm them with attention, love, and acknowledgement when they did something incredible.

I think that would work incredibly well. The child would them want to choose what leads to all that incredible love. They wouldn’t choose what doesn’t lead to it, not because of punishment, but because they would see that it didn’t elicit the same quality.

We can still be firm when required. But we don’t have to punish the child at all. Every punishment teaches the child that the love that is received is conditional on certain behaviour. Instead of punishment, unwanted behaviour could simply be ignored whilst wanted behaviour positively reinforced.

I still have questions about this approach but I think it’s pointed in a far more loving and effective direction.

It’s become increasingly clear that most people in the world have the emotional capacity of a child.

Most people blame the world for their problems and how they feel — just like a child.

Most people just assume their way is right and are unwilling to question what their true inner motivations are — similar to a child.

Most people are incapable of seeing that the world is not how it seems to them — again, similar to a child.

So whilst the world is full of adult-looking people, the inner reality of most people is emotional immaturity.

Recently I have become aware of much unexpected and unwanted anxiety, guilt, and dread. I would question having children whilst holding that within me at the risk of projecting it onto them and passing it onto them to bear.

Before I have kids, I would want to be as clear within myself as I can be. It is not only the role of the parent to physically provide for a child but also, to emotionally, and far deeper spiritually provide for the child.

All parents are to be commended on their efforts — we all do the best that we can. However, a parent can only emotionally support and accept a child to the degree which they have accepted and navigated their own inner world.

All parents probably do what they think is best for the happiness of the child but few parents actually understand what is best. The capacity of the parent to nurture the happiness of the child can is constrained by the degree to which they are unhappy within themselves.

These questions are not to tell people what to do. I simply do not know. I am confused enough about my life. These questions are just here to bring awareness to gaps in understanding.

There are so many more questions. I think the world would be a far happier and more beautiful place if more people were willing to ask better questions.

There are far deeper questions than these two out there. Let me know if you come across them.

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