Thursday, January 12, 2012

Two-Part Parenting

In a conversation with my daughter this evening, I heard some things come out of my mouth that actually made a lot of sense. Don't you just love it when that happens? Rare--yes--but noteworthy. Having tucked her in to bed, I wanted to write them down. I will keep it short and sweet this time. I know; mark this day in the record books.

Parenting is a two-part process. Like the clutch and gas pedals of a manual transmission vehicle, parenting decisions are generally made with consideration of both of these parts working together in harmony. The pedals are not depressed together, but rather, it is in laying heavy on the one and letting up on the other that the car functions smoothly.

The two pedals are these: protection and preparation.

Some of the decisions that we make as parents are directly for our children's protection. The making and enforcing of these decisions does not correspond with free will. On the contrary, these decisions are made when our children's free will choices would be dangerous. Our job in these situations is to protect. Put the pedal to the metal.

Other decisions we make as parents are designed to prepare our kids to make their own decisions. This is where we give them choices. This is where we allow them to make their own mistakes, hopefully small ones now that will help them to avoid larger mistakes later. Our job at these times is to prepare them for the time to come, when they will be without us.

When the situation calls desperately for one, you lighten up on the other. There will be time to push the other pedal later. But of course, there is that one moment when the two pedals cross one another, one going up and one going down. This is the place where we offer choices within the bounds of relative safety.

That's it.

Told you I'd be brief.

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