The “Good” Parent
Take this “Good” Parent Test to see if you are living up to the expectations of your culture.
1. I believe that it is the first impression that counts the most. Y or N
2. When I go to the playground, I think more about how my children are going to get hurt so I can protect them than what capacities they are building.
Y or N
3. I believe that the university my children attend determines how successful they will be. Y or N
4. I believe that when my children make a mistake, that I should intervene and correct them immediately. Y or N
5. I believe that telling children about their positive characteristics has a detrimental effect on their character. Correcting faults is more important. Y or N
6. I am a good parent by being vigilant about my children’s faults and correcting as many of them I can. Y or N
7. When my children go out in public, my first thoughts are with how others will perceive them. Y or N
8. I prefer that my children go to Club Med rather than an experience in the wilderness or jungle. Y or N
9. My child can achieve a lot more success by being more outgoing than ingoing. Y or N
If you answered yes to many of the above questions, you are a “good” parent, at least in the norms that are practiced universally in the world. This is what most parents do most of the time and they don’t seem to be able to have an internal choice to do anything different. They aren’t all bad. Being outgoing, having a university education, making a good impression, correcting faults, and being safe are all meritorious.
The problem with this approach to parenting is that its locus of control is in the hands of some cultural idea that may or may not be useful anymore, if it ever was in the first place. The most telling aspect of whether you are being controlled by your own inner true self that has choice 0r by the culture around you is whether or not you feel compelled to correct faults all the time. If you are an obsessive corrector, you have given over all of your control to the culture. This can be extremely harmful to your child’s future.
When Erika, my eldest daughter, was 19 or 20 attending the University of Victoria, she called me up one day distraught and full of tears. When she thought about her own sense of the future and the university she was attending, she could not find a great match. Nothing about her experience was aligned with what she thought she might want to do in the future. She didn’t know what to do. Well when you are a parent and your children are distraught, the great tendency is to become just as dysfunctional and do silly things. Fortunately, at that moment, something inspirational happened between us. I told her that probably the kind of future that she wanted for herself doesn’t currently exist in the culture and that is why it isn’t in the university program, that she should just think of possibilities and not concern herself so much with the university program. It was enough to stop a few tears.
The next day her Spanish instructor spoke to her about the possibility of going to Mexico to study Spanish and also teach some English courses for several months. Then she figured out that the rest of the year she could study art in another part of Mexico. By breaking the cultural mode she was able to become extremely fluent in Spanish and study the style of art that has the most impact on her personal style. As a parent I was lucid enough for a few moments to encourage her to break out of the culture. I stopped being the “good” parent and it paid off.
There were no cultural rules for me to follow to help my children through their university educations. The “good” parent would say to just go along with the system and it will pay off in the end. It just didn’t work. Erika graduated from university with a masters degree and was invited to do her doctorate. It means that for her, there were parts of the university experience that worked, and parts that didn’t. For some children a university education is not the answer because the cultural system is so counterproductive to who they are that it completely stifles them.
When you do not make your own decisions, but allow the culture to decide your fate by following its pattern, you end up being like everyone else in the culture. Some of it is worth keeping, some is not. You try to correct your children when their thoughts do not match cultural ones rather than encouraging them to live out of their true selves.
wow, great post dad!
I appreciated the way you talked with your daughter. She is fortunate to have such a wise father.
This post is really interesting. As I was reading through the question, I answered yes to almost all of them, even though I know that the no answers are the most important ones. I really consciously want to break out of the cultural way of doing things, but I often feel insecure about it because it is forging new ground with no outside support, encouragement or role models for me to follow. It takes a lot of courage to be different. When I’m feeling insecure then I tend to just follow along with the culture. I think that it would be interesting to see your thoughts with Juliet’s schooling experience and how it fits in with what you’ve been writing.