Reading this meme at first, my reaction is 'yeah'! Then I let my mind walk around the idea, and I have one question: Do other parents ever wonder how this robotic-like consistency might be denying their child a whole, real experience of their parent as a person?
Can a human being always be clear, calm, kind, consistent, flexible, compassionate, respectful AND funny? (10 points if you answered no).
While being the best parent you can possibly be is a great target - being YOURSELF is probably much more important and impactful.
My kids know I am impatient. We laugh about it sometimes. Over time as a parent, I learned to be more disciplined and to not throw my impatience on them. That’s called being an adult. But impatience - that's my nature - I am a fast thinker and am quick to take action. Is this a ‘bad’ thing? No. In some situations it’s an amazing attribute. In others, I have to exercise discipline and learn to wait, observe and slow down. #mature #adultinghard
But what they learn from seeing the real me, is that I am able to utilize my faults as attributes at times, or discipline myself when necessary. How valuable do you think that modeling could be? Showing them that no one is perfect, but that it’s ok. #human
My kids also know I can run 'hot'. I get passionate, I sometimes get angry and I do get emotional. When I am truly angry and raise my voice, they still KNOW I love them and that I am actually being intimate with them by showing them my true feelings. They feel free in turn, to be real with me. They can tell me when I am wrong - yell back if they please. Being intense is not violence. Why is everyone so afraid of intensity? They trust that we can work through difficulty - no matter how hard it is. No matter how big the problem or the emotional reaction. They know I cry. They know to hug me when I cry, like I hug them.
Emotions are big. You have to contain them - understand them - work with them - not let them run the show. Decarte’s Error is an amazing book by Antonio Demasio, where the neurologist/author explains that “emotions are not a luxury, they are essential to rational thinking and to normal social behavior” and you cannot unwind them from rationality.
But how can you teach that if you are robo-parenting? We are humans, not robots, not AI. I don't truly think we can have an honest relationship (with anyone) unless we share that intensity - appropriately.
Finally, this approach might take something truly valuable away from children - responsibility. If we are peacefully perfect all the time and have a robo-wall around our true feelings, how will our children learn to be in authentic relationships where they are not only honest and open, but also responsible? It’s not always appropriate to be peaceful. Anger is a normal response to someone breaking a boundary you set. (i.e. a teen coming home after their curfew). That parental anger, in that moment, is powerful. Necessary. By expressing worry and that the feelings (and sleep needs!) of the parent matter imparts important expectations. And if you can voice your anger, without violence, you are communicating appropriately. And you are reinforcing expected behavior.
And here we come to our huge cultural shift we are in the middle of. It’s super trendy right now to have NO expected behavior on the table.
Many boundaries and some social structures are the frameworks around which we manage our large, intense emotions. The teen who came home too late, and then suffers his/her parent’s wrath AND is stuck at home with no car for the next 5 days learns that 1) They are valued, 2) Other people’s feelings/needs matter, 3) Communication is critical in intimate relationships and 4) There are consequences to actions that harm others. Or yourself.
How important are those human lessons? (10 more points is you answered, very)
The meme above, stating that ‘peaceful parenting’ be reasonable, clear, calm, appropriate, fair, kind, consistent, compassionate, flexible, empathetic, respectful and humorous - demands a rational parenting approach. It’s an attempt to separate the adult from their oh-so-dangerous emotions. It relays an expectation of the parent that is, possibly, beyond human. And it might deny the child an honest experience of a real person-parent, operating in a real world, on the fly. Like that child will one day have to do as well.
I am not advocating an emotional free-for-all, or the opposite of peace. Nuance is our friend… walking that fine line of being an emotionally mature adult, who can safely express difficult emotions in order to usher a child into their own emotionally mature adulthood, well, that’s a trick. One worth working on day in and day out.