I don’t believe in controlling children, or forcing them to do things they don’t want, or making them do things for their own good, or trying to fashion them in our own image.
But I do believe in parenting intentionally – with purpose and with kindness.
It can be so easy to get bogged down in our to-do lists, frantically trying to get stuff done and pay the bills, again and again… and earn the money for those pesky bills, again and again!
Of course, these are important. But sometimes it’s good to step back and consider the bigger picture.
“Picture yourself standing at a birthday party or in the hall of your child’s school. Around the corner are two other parents who don’t know you’re there. You overhear them talking about…your child! Of all the things they might be saying, what would give you the most pleasure? … My guess- and my hope- is that it wouldn’t be, ‘Boy, that child does everything he’s told and you never hear a peep out of him.’ “
Alfie asks us to consider “whether we sometimes act as though this is what we care about most.”
Writing an educational philosophy for our family’s home education journey prompted us to dig deep around this issue.
What kind of education do we want our children to have?
What kind of people do we want them to be?
This is not about trying to create the perfect child, they are all perfect.
It’s certainly not about creating rules and routines and rewards and rotas.
It’s about considering what our actions and our interactions with our children say about our priorities, what is important to us and what we want to nurture.
Our list got quite long.
We want our children –
• to feel comfortable in their own skin
• to feel safe and secure at home and in the world
• to have confidence in us and feel able to come to us whenever they need and want to, and feel sure that we will support them
• to have close, loving, mutually supportive and respectful relationships with us, their siblings, wider family and friends
• to recognise and place appropriate boundaries when relationships are not wholly positive
• to be curious, kind, generous and compassionate individuals
• to be kind and patient and calm when they can be and be forgiving and kind to themselves and others when they struggle with these things
• to love learning, to want to grow and develop themselves
• to follow their joy, passion and interest
• to have a healthy respect for, and a deep sense of caring about, themselves, others and the world
• to be able to say no and have an appreciation for the possible consequences of doing so in different contexts
• to be able to listen to their own bodies, explore what feels good and bad to them and use this knowledge to nurture their own sense of well-being and good health
• to develop resilience that will enable them to manage difficult times and emotions and respond to challenging times with as much positivity as they can muster
• to recognise the value of time as a healer and recognise, that sometimes, in some moments, survival is the best we can do (and that it always beats the alternative)
• to assume responsibility for their own actions and recognise that not everything is their responsibility
• to recognise that sometimes it is someone else’s problem and that we cannot fix or change everything
• to be able to let some stuff go and move on
• to be self-reliant and yet also be comfortable in asking for and accepting help
• to be gracious in accepting help that is wanted and in refusing help that isn’t
• to be willing to help others and be gracious if that help is refused
• to look for the positives and to recognise the value of re-framing
• to have a sense of connection to and appreciation for the natural world
• to be open to and considerate of new ideas
• to have a sense of their own competence and ability to tackle whatever life throws at them
• to recognise that learning never ends and that mistakes do happen
• to appreciate that mistakes and difficulties can be opportunities for growth (and usually are!)
• to place their relationships with others above any social expectations that don’t serve them well
• to question assumptions and challenge injustice
• to feel confident in their own judgement and decision-making skills
• to view the world with a sense of awe and fascination
• to let go of measuring and comparison, to give freely and without expectation of return
• to expect miracles and to recognise the gifts in the every day
• to wonder and be wonderful (tick!)
Of course, we can’t make these things happen. We can’t know the future and neither would we want to. But considering what is important to us and what kinds of qualities we value, can guide us in our everyday moments. Allow us to think more clearly and more creatively, be more reflective and less reactive, and be intentional in our relationships.
What do you want for your children? I would love to know your thoughts.