Don't tell children what they should do. Naomi Aldort frequently reminds parents to respect their children's choices and allow them to be authentic. Don't tell children they should share, say hello, or help with household chores. This is moralizing and is bad. (Anyone else see the irony of labeling moralizing as bad?) According to Aldort, if parents model what they want to see (being polite, friendly, or helpful), children will respond in kind as they mature. She specifically warns, "Sometimes we think we are following the child's lead, yet we try to sneak in a little teaching or guidance" (p. 59).
Moralizing is defined as "to explain or interpret morally; to give a moral quality or direction to, to improve the morals of." Far from being a parenting no-no, I consider this to be a significant parent responsibility! I want my son to share my values. I want him to understand social conventions, morality, and how the two intersect. Yes, part of teaching is through example, but I think it is reasonable to use words when necessary and require appropriate behavior even if a complete understanding of morality is not yet present.
|Man, talk about moralizing...|
Anything goes, as long as your child is emoting. Aldort does not advocate for a home devoid of rules. She acknowledges that even strict parents can still display unconditional love. However, throughout the book she indicates it is acceptable, even good, to allow children to scream for hours, throw hard objects, and insult people when upset. These children feel safe to express their emotions. Parents shouldn't try to curb this behavior or children will learn that their emotions are scary/bad/too intense for their parents.
During grad school, an instructor once told us that we should never ask someone not to swear during counseling. If we respect them, we need to offer a safe place where they can feel free to do anything. I disagree. Yes, I respected the emotionally disabled, inner city teens with whom I worked. And I expected respect in return. I received it. The kids understood what was tolerated and what was not and they liked me. I hope my children learn that, while it is OK to be angry, it is not OK to take out your anger by being aggressive toward others. That's called abuse.
Treat your children as you would treat an adult friend. The idea here is that the real world does not function with authority figures telling us what to do and handing out rewards and punishments. We should ask our children for cooperation, but respect their decisions either way. We should not, in any way, try to control our children.
The problem is, the real world DOES work that way. If we have an employer, we have an authority figure assigning tasks and rewarding us with a paycheck. Even for the self-employed, there are customers making demands and controlling whether or not to pay. There are rules to follow, called laws. If we decide not to cooperate with others, others will not respect us and try again tomorrow, they will leave us alone. If parents want to raise their children counter-culturally, that is their right, but they should know that they are doing so.
|What's a paycheck if not a reward?|
"The Bad" are all judgment calls. They are parenting theories with which I strongly disagree. But I respect that this is Aldort's book and she is certainly free to advocate for whatever she believes. There are two points, though, that I think are reprehensible. Both are underlying themes throughout the book and are clearly stated on page 75:
Other manifestations of doubting parental love are: unhappiness, disinterest in doing things, problems in speech or learning, bed-wetting, tics, sleep disorders, aggression, eating disorders, general tension, and irritability. When a child feels completely secure in parental love, he has no need for such expressions, he feels self-confident and spends his time pursuing his passions.Got it? If your child is suffering from any of these conditions, it's because he doubts your love for him. WHAT?! Now wait, don't get all excited. It's not your fault. The next paragraphs starts:
If you had to please an impress your parents to earn their love, you may now feel reluctant to give love unconditionally.OK folks, there are your take-away points. If your child has problems, it's because you're not expressing your love as you should. Don't feel bad, though, it's your parents' fault.
These themes, while not so explicit elsewhere, are present throughout the entirety of the book. Now, I understand that there is value in self-knowledge. You should be aware of your own baggage so you don't pass it along to your children. Also, there is more than one way to parent. But a book that makes parents feel guilty because Jr. has a speech impediment and then suggesting, "If you disagree with my theory of unconditional love, blame your parents," will not make my list of good parenting books.