Wednesday, December 15, 2010

No Rules Rules For Jada and Will's Kids

I was reading Bossip (yes I know that one day it will rot my brain), when I came across a story about the Smith's parenting perspective.  It seems that Jada and Will (yes I am using her name first on purpose), have a non authoritarian style of parenting.
“We don’t have rules,” Willow’s mom, Jada Pinkett Smith, told Style magazine. “We come up with agreements. Kids are little people, and we’re in life to guide them. Trying to rule someone is always an illusion — and it’s no different with children.”

Most kids would argue they didn’t need to be punished if they did something wrong — much like we did as kids! — but the “Whip My Hair” singer has learned a lot in her decade on Earth.

Jada recalled a time when Willow disobeyed her parents and set up a page on a social networking site: “I told her not to, so I was so mad. I said, ‘What do you think I should do now?’ So Willow said, ‘Mom, take my computer away’. And I said, ‘How long for?’ She said a month.” Seriously? What kid does that?!

“I’m not saying it’s always perfect,” Jada admitted. (source)
As per usual, the Bossip commenters were full of negatives, but I really find their approach to parenting interesting.   Though we claim to be empowering children to be responsible adults, authoritarian style parenting actually does quite the opposite of its intent.  Not having specific rules, does not mean that there isn't a form of structure in place.  I think what people find so difficult about the concept of no rules, is that it thwarts hierarchy and begins with the position that children are little people deserving of respect.

Limiting the degree to which the unhusband and I are authoritarian, we take the approach of expectations.  We have tried very hard to assert the idea that as members of our family that we each have responsibilities that must be fulfilled in order for us to function as a unit. with each person playing a specific role so that we can function properly as a whole.  Being a part of our family means that everyone has to not only pull their weight but be mindful of how we speak to each other.  I am particularly insistent that the manner of speech must be respectful and this means that when I mess up, or the unhusband messes up, we apologize to our children.  It is our job to be good role models and as such we must acknowledge that we are not perfect and prone to making mistakes.  Of course, I have been told that I am too soft on our children but I have already seen positive results.

Every time someone steps outside of conventional approaches to parenting, there is discipline and ridicule.  Just because parents have been performing certain tasks, in a very specific way for generations, does not mean that it cannot be improved upon. I have written at length about our family conversations about race, class, gender and sexuality.  I challenge our children to acknowledge their privilege and understand their world.  In fundie circles, these kinds of conversations would be seen as unfit for children and yet they are a part of our daily interactions.

When we challenge convention when raising or interacting with children, we increase the likelihood that the burden of the biases we now carry will not be transferred to the next generation.  I challenge those who see children as people without personhood to consider how this negatively impacts their ability to function in a multitude of circumstances.

Please take this opportunity to share what your approach to interacting and or raising children has been and how you seek to subvert norms that are harmful to marginalized people.