As life goes on and I get older and wiser, I begin to
see more how our perception really does color our actions. I suppose this
isn’t such a great revelation, possibly only my focus of the hour! I bumped
into a woman who I had originally met at my youngest son’s daycare. We had
that immediate commonality and bond that parents get, and comfortably
launched into a discussion about the feisty temperament of our two oldest
children. We shared stories about times of locking ourselves away under the
guise of “mommy’s going to the bathroom” to gather up our strength, clear
our heads, and face what is known as “things I never would have said to my
parents”. Things that, for some odd reason, our kids feel comfortable and
even righteous expressing to us. We pondered why this might be and why it
seemed so different from our experience as children. I know my approach to
parenting and my idea of the valued place children hold in our society is
still somewhat unconventional. However, I am not convinced that their
boldness stems from “giving them more voice and therefore they use it” nor a
parenting style that is too lackadaisical.
I read an article recently in the Canadian Family magazine that talked clearly about the context that our kids are living in today and how parenting really has to be different, as does the acceptance of what is now considered normal behavior. The author discusses the work of Dr. Kerry Daly from the University of Guelph, who states, “The relationship now relies less on adult control and more on the mutual cultivation of adaptive and problem-solving skills”. That’s all well and good and certainly gives me some peace that I am on the right path when I consistently move away from the “iron fist” approach. However, it doesn’t help me to deal with the intuitive and expressive nature of my child.
That gem came today from my chance encounter with this other mother and a story she shared. She told me of a workshop she had attended. She couldn’t remember the name of the man who spoke, but she recounted that he had coined the term “aggressive researchers” to describe children like our first born. It went like this: In life there are the compliant children who, when told “no”, actually listen; and then there are the aggressive researchers who, when told “no”, need to see what will happen. And then they need to research a little farther to see what will happen if they push that envelope … and a little farther again to make sure that the data they are gathering has some level of validity. I like this definition. It fits with the style of my child. It allows me to see him as him, and not necessarily a reflection of my inadequate parenting (i.e., I haven’t taught him boundaries, I haven’t been strict enough, I need more effective interventions). It offers me a view of him that is resilient and strength based. Aggressive researchers are skilled. They don’t take the world at face value; they need to verify their data to make sure it is “truth”. They need to push the boundaries, refute the norm, check out the edge, and pass the comfort zone. So my task as a parent becomes very different yet the same. From the “inadequate parenting perspective: I am invited to right the wrong, stop the incorrigible, whereas for the aggressive researcher, I am challenged to set the limits clearly so the “truth” exists and the child in not left with a world that has no research parameters. A Master’s thesis gone wrong!! I see the same “aggressive researcher” behaviors in myself, of course, and know that it has served me well in my adulthood and caused me grief as a child. I trust in myself as a parent to be able to honor the individual nature of my child and continue to provide him with a clear research context so he explore this crazy world in a way that speaks to his own truth.
LEANNE ROSE SLADDE
Sladde , L. (2005). Researchers. Relational Child & Youth Care Practice, Vol.18 No.1 p.39