It occurred to me this week, via some frustrations within my own family, that parenting is often done by the seat of our pants and off the tops of our heads. If we have good instincts and were well brought up ourselves, this can be effective. However, as I compare parenting to teaching, something puzzles me. As a teacher, (or any professional), we have objectives; we work hard to meet them. We don't go about it haphazardly, hoping for the best ending, but we make a Plan, or many Plans, often with a colleague to back us up or lead the way. We study and learn what is research-based best practice. We wouldn't dream of slacking off for more than one bad day here and there, and we truly give it our best effort most days. We go about our jobs with deliberation and care, for the most part, and often use up our emotional energy in doing so.
What I'm puzzling over, as I observe parents in the grocery store, in the news, around the school, at the mall, in the library, or in my own home, is why we don't apply ourselves similarly to our far more important job as Parents? We are we even allowed to be parents without some kind of a test to pass or a license to dole out consequences, pile on the encouragement, and give our children the tools to go out into that big world? I'm sure you've all seen the parents who make you wonder that. And on some days, we ARE those parents... after all, no one is perfect and dealing with our own kids is quite different than anything else that we do. But I can't help thinking, shouldn't we have a Plan? Shouldn't we have planning sessions weekly with our back-up, our leader, or our partners in parenting? Shouldn't every parent belong to some kind of a support group where we can regularly learn research-based best practice in how to cope with our kids? After all, we cannot assume, and most of us do not, that the way WE were parented is what we intend for our own children. In fact, more often than not, we go into parenting with all kinds of determination to do it differently, and we seek therapy to figure out how our own parents impacted us. Otherwise, we do it all over again, whatever it was. Of course, this does not apply to everyone, but it certainly seems to be the norm.
But we love our children, right? I love my job too. Unfortunately, love is NOT all that it takes. It is NOT enough. I can't just love teaching in order to be a good teacher. I can't just love kids and depend on that to shape them, teach them, and support them. What about knowledge and deliberation to do it well, if we're going to do it? It's hard work; there is no doubt about that. But the information is out there, and ignorance of what is best for our kids is not going to save them or excuse them when they are grown.