A blog post entitled: “Let’s get that baby moving! Part 2” is an example of parent education one might call “Helicopter Training.”
Watch the last 2 minutes of this seven minute video of a 9-month-old baby. What do you see?
This 9 month old crawled on his own when he was ready. In this case the precipitating event was putting an iPad on the floor at his eye level six feet away. When he saw it, he decided there was some reason to crawl and, as you can see, he did. But we all know it would have happened without my help. I was just having fun, and not trying to get him to crawl.
“Here are five easy steps to get your child to that next stage,” says the blog. “Five ways to get your child to crawl”? We can see the whole series now: “Six Steps To Your Baby’s First Step,” “Nine Secrets To Getting Her to Do Her Homework,” “11 Ways to College,” “12 Step ….” Stop. Stop underestimating children.
Whereas the neurological understanding in the blog is sound, instructing parents in the best method for getting our children to crawl is right up there with “Teaching Our Kids To Think.” Kids are humans; they think. Babies are designed by natural selection to figure things out and internally motivated to become whole—just like adults. Crawling is just one more sign that their brain is progressing nicely. Learning to crawl does not require “empowered parents.”
The website, subtitled: “Transforming children’s lives by empowering parents and professionals,” is tragically deceptive. The truth is that this kind of “empowering parents” insults children by underestimating what they can do on their own. It can lead to dependent, anxious parents, too. Parents wondering if they are doing enough? Kids don’t need it.
Parents who feel it is up to them to get their children to be successful should expect their children to depend on them for success on into adulthood. The website’s subtitle should be: “Helicopter Training for Parents.”
What we have here is the nicest example I have yet come across of the cultural neurosis that has gripped so many parents. The implication that parents should be doing something to get the children to develop is symptomatic of pressure parents are under to accelerate their children up the social pyramid.
A professional educator knows, and parents instinctively know, that their children have within them the wherewithal to make something of themselves in the world. Children need to see us going about our normal business trusting them to go about theirs. By the time they are in grade school child-rearing law number 3 applies: If the parent cares more about it than the child, it absolves the child of responsibility.
The simply best parenting is much simpler. Great parents simply provide a rich, loving environment with boundaries. This environment contains the unspoken assumption that all human beings actively pursue their own growth and development. Adults who care about kids believe in their inner spark, watch for their genius, marvel and delight in their unique character, and support them as needed. If we act like they need us in order to master the challenges along the way, they will need us long past our need for them to be independent.
Taking responsibility for your children’s growth and development does not include controlling it. In fact the art of parenting, like the art of teaching, includes the art of taking full responsibility without control. Children are unready to crawl until, low and behold, some inner voice says NOW, and suddenly it all comes together for them, and they crawl. We can count on them, and they need to know that we know we count on them from birth until it is time for them to take care of us.
Education and parenting is as much an art as a science, and as I have said many times before, there are many good ways to parent, and no one right way. At the same time there are some not-so-good ways and taking on a child’s challenge when they are quite capable of taking it on themselves is one of the not-so-good ways.