Child – led Childhood

Demand Feeding. Baby Led Weaning. Child Directed Study. At what point to we just hand in the towel and say “fine, raise yourselves, you’re so good at it!”

Thing is, though, that might not be such a bad idea.

My role as a facilitator in antenatal sessions isn’t to teach, but to provide a framework where parents can discover for themselves what they need to know for their parenting journey. This is so preferable to teaching – parents are all individuals and being able to cherry pick the most important pieces of information for them personally and as a couple ensures that they receive exactly what they need (if I’ve done my job right). This saves me having to teach 100 different things too, otherwise there is no way I could provide for every parent that comes to me (there isn’t the time!). Many, of course, outright ask questions expecting answers; usually I would signpost, occasionally I’d answer. But the information they uncover for themselves is largely the bits they remember the most. And it means they, as couples, can make decisions together – and lay foundations for their family life.

My homeschooling experience is almost identical. I have a framework, but it is my sons who decide what they want to discover, how they want to learn it; I support them and come along for the ride, there with the knowledge of how to find out the information. It is the skill of learning how to learn that I am ‘teaching.’ This would be the same in an ideal school. Child directed study is becoming part of many curriculums.

Should my parenting be any different? Am I there to tell them what to do, how to be; even who to be? Or am I supposed to, like above, provide the framework so they can grow themselves up? A Child led Childhood.

Research is consistently showing that allowing babies from birth to determine their day (feeds, sleep etc.) increases cognitive development throughout childhood, lowers risk of obesity, increases dexterity , improves speech development, social development… They do better with adults being catalysts and support for their development, rather than directly interfering with it by being parent led. Why should this stop out of babyhood?

This can sound extremely bizarre to adult ears. How can children possibly understand or know what they need?

I wonder whether many adult’s reluctance to hand over the reigns is their own internal power struggle saying that they should be in charge.

Oppression is the powerful majority controlling lives and removing rights to the powerless minority. The movement of ‘Childism’ is one which argues that kids need to be respected as human beings, and to treat them as people of unequal worth to adults, and to dismiss their perspective or experiences due to differences in their in size, experience and power is to be discriminatory, oppressive and abusive to children.

April is Child Abuse month, where we look at child trafficking, neglect, pedophilia, child slave labour, domestic abuse and every other horror perpetrated towards children in one big umbrella of abuse. Perhaps it should all, like murders and abuses of other minorities, be called crimes of prejudice. These, like violent and abusive acts towards POC and the LGBTQ community are named as acts of homophobia and racism, should be named as acts of childism.

That is the extreme end of the scale. Ordinary Parent led parenting is nothing like abuse. But perhaps the beginning of solving childism is for all parents to trust their children to occasionally make some decisions about themselves for themselves. Maybe, letting the kids take the reins every once in a while on their own lives wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

They can’t do a worse job of parenting themselves than adults have thus far.

My two definitely do a much better job of it than me.

 

 

Article on demand feeding milk and child development http://eurpub.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/03/13/eurpub.cks012.short

Article on baby led weaning and child development http://www.naturalhealthquincy.com/uploads/pdf/971.pdf

Article on child directed learning – http://alternativestoschool.com/articles/benefits-self-directed-learning/

Article on childism http://ideas.time.com/2012/04/26/childism-the-unacknowledged-prejudice-against-kids/

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