photo by Vali
It wasn't until after I posted the link to Jaime's post on Licking the Floor on my Facebook page that I realized that there might be some (both observers of the actual licking the floor event and readers of her telling of said event) who perceived Jaime's zero-tolerance stance on tantrums as indicative of permissive parenting.
When you read that post to the end, you see that Jaime is careful to say: "I parent them today so that they won’t be shocked when I parent them later. Five years from now and ten years from now and twenty years from now." That is the opposite of permissive parenting. That is effective parenting. Yet if your boundary marker for tantrum situations looks different from Jaime's, you might be tempted to be purse your lips and shake your head,silently filing this example away in your mental file folder full of examples of those parents.
How would I know you might be tempted to respond in that way? Oh, maybe, perhaps, it's possible that I would have once responded that way.
Something I've noticed in the past few years of reading parenting books and magazine articles and blogs and blog comments and message boards is that there is a palpable sense of hyper-vigilance regarding permissiveness in parenting. Of course, permissiveness is something to be wary of and can be just as harmful to a child as overly-controlling parenting can be. What I am discovering, however, on my own journey along this parenting path is that what I once viewed as permissiveness in others or feared was permissiveness manifesting itself in our own home was actually just a case of differing boundaries.
I'll be the first to admit - this boundaries thing is all new to me. I don't have a good history with boundaries: I'm not good at establishing them, I'm not good at enforcing them, and as any recipient of my unsolicited advice can tell you, I'm not good with recognizing and respecting them with others.
In the past six months or so, I've been pouring an incredible amount of time, energy, and thought into understanding and applying the concepts of boundaries in parenting - both firmly establishing boundaries and then consistently enforcing boundaries. This is the heart of discipline, isn't it? Discipline = to disciple. Disciple = to teach. I am responsible for teaching my children "Yes, you can do this," and "no, you may not do this."
Perhaps it's because I've been thinking about and focusing on boundaries in my own mind so much that I've begun to really take notice of the boundaries of other parents we know. I've also been considering how our boundaries might be perceived by others.
For example, our girls can jump on the beds in our home. That has never been against the rules here. Even with an indoor trampoline, they still like to jump on the beds. If you don't allow that in your home, you might perceive that as an area of permissiveness in our parenting. The fact is that it's not. It doesn't violate a boundary here. However, we never allow them to jump on the beds in the homes of others unless the host specifically says it is okay to do so.
Another example - our girls don't have to clean their plates. They really don't even have to eat a full serving of what has been served to them. I will confess that I spent a long time making separate dishes for them for our evening meal until Kyle and I both agreed that wasn't working anymore. Now, whatever is served for dinner is what is served for dinner. They are encouraged (strongly) to try at least one bite of each offering, but if they choose not to eat a full meal, well, that's their choice. If they are hungry before bed, they get a banana and a glass of milk. But we don't make them sit at the table until they have finished every last bite.
(And I'm a lot more kid-friendly in my offerings at breakfast and lunch. My girls aren't starving. Trust that.)
If your children must eat a full meal before they are excused from the table, you may see our system as permissive. But again, those are just the boundary lines regarding dinnertime in our home.
Why am I sharing this today? It seems like in the past week or so, I've come across more than one article or blog post addressing the issue of parents out-and-out-loud judging one another on parenting decisions. Now, to be clear, I'm not talking about matters of abuse or situations where a child could harm himself or others. I'm just talking about the myriad of decisions we make as parents and as families on a day-to-day basis.
I just want to share with you that I've found great freedom in reminding myself "My boundaries are not her boundaries . . . my boundaries look different . . . we do things differently . . . this is okay." Isn't that thought so liberating? I find it very validating and very freeing.
Or maybe it's just me.