If you ask parents about their goal for their children, they will mostly reply that they want their children to be happy. Happiness is an important goal, but it is a feeling that moves on a spectrum— the feeling of sadness gives happiness its meaning. Furthermore, active parenting has to be in place for any goal to be attained, although being balanced would be a more fulfilling goal for our children.
Let’s have a look at how to make that happen.
What is Active parenting
Active parenting is a parenting method based on the research done by social psychologists Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs, among others. They proposed that the condition of being lower in status or quality than others was the reason why people strive to become better. At the same time, they also proposed that (paradoxically) feeling lower in status or quality than others was the cause of all human psychological problems.
In a nutshell
Active parenting is actively guiding children to have balanced social interests, where useful and healthy goals can be achieved.
What is not Active Parenting
Not Over Bearing
Active parenting is not overbearing our children or “ helicopter parenting.”
A good rule of thumb
Don’t do things for your children, when they can do them themselves. Things like dressing up, setting up the dinner table, school homework, etc. teach them independence.
Moreover, being too strict with our goals, and filling every minute of their day to achieve certain goals could be counterproductive according to Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology and author of the “The gardener and the Carpenter.” He reminds us in his book to tend to our children carefully.
A quote from Alison Gopnik
“Caring for children is like tending a garden, and being a parent is like being a gardener. In the parenting model, being a parent is like being a carpenter. You should pay some attention to the kind of material you are working with, and it may have some influence on what you try to do. But essentially your job is to shape that material into a final product that will fit the scheme you had in mind to begin with.”
We are sometimes overprotective of our children. The underlying cause is fear, and it’s understandable. What has to be considered here, is that overprotecting our infants is a biological behavior. They are born so fragile, vulnerable, and they need that protection. However, children are not infants, and treating them as if they were, undermines their abilities.
Professor Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist explains how teaching our kids to be strong instead of overprotecting them In fact makes them strive to develop and grow.
We recommend you watch his powerful video.
Why do we fail in Active Parenting
We are busy
Lots of reasons can explain why we’re busy in modern times, but the result is that we don’t spend enough time with our children. Spending sufficient time with our children allows us to know about their strengths and weaknesses, not to mention their personalities. These are crucial understandings for guiding them towards healthy and useful goals.
We don’t have a framework
We tackle problems with our children as they arise. It is not that solving problems is a negative thing, but having a clear framework allows us to anticipate the problems before they arise, and put our children quickly back on the right trajectory. There isn’t of course a single framework that we can adopt, but being active means that we consistently need to educate ourselves about new concepts or methods that are based on current times.
We believe genetics has the ultimate say
Although scientists can’t deny that genes affect our personalities, human behavior is never traced back to biochemical mechanisms. Children’s behavior, therefore, depends on how well socially adjusted they are.
A quote from Alfred Adler
“ social adjustment is the obverse face of the problem of inferiority. It’s because the individual is inferior and weak that we find human beings living in society. Social interest and social cooperation are therefore the salvation of the individual”
What does the research suggest about Active Parenting
Communication is Key
There are numerous scientific studies on active parenting, and discussing them in detail is beyond the scope of this article. However, we will mention a relevant recent study by cognitive scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that found out; children involved in conversational experiences were more likely to develop better linguistic skills, cognitive abilities, and academic achievements. You can read the study in their article here.
This means that communication has to be interactive. Challenging children with conversations about their daily life experiences develop their neural language brain functions over and above memorizing words.
Communication is Hardwired
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald also mentions that communication is hardwired in human beings. It’s more profound in infants where the language is only the interaction between the caregiver and the infant. She talks about ”The still face experiment” done by the Harvard child development center, which shows the negative effect of breaking the communication between a mother and her baby.
You can read the full research here
We recommend watching her talk on Ted Talks.
Common pitfalls in Active Parenting
Your child is an individual
We sometimes actively want our kids to behave just like us. We relate everything that happens to our children, to our own childhood and past experiences. This might cause great difficulties for the children later in life as their personalities will not come out under these circumstances. Our children have their emotions and needs.
Don’t break your child
Using physical violence with our children is a form of abuse. We abuse our current superiority over our children to resolve a problem or worse, teach a lesson. What we need to watch out for, is that this superiority could be what is referred to as “ superiority complex.” A term coined by Alfred Adler. It doesn’t sound healthy, does it?
Other less extreme types of violence are used sometimes to make our children socially acceptable. A better approach would be putting minimum rules for them; they are less likely to break them, and we’re less likely to end up resenting them. Children need to understand what ”No” means for that to happen, but we also need to use it sparingly.
Be careful with the mighty values
In general, teaching children any knowledge should be equal to their mental capabilities at each stage. Special care should be taken hence to prevent children( before their judgment matures) from getting involved with philosophy, religion or any other fields that require them to form large views about the world. The reasoning behind this, is that wrong views learned at these early stages are seldom forgotten.
It is better that children have a clear and objective view of the world gradually while developing their judgment based on their actual experiences with the real world.
Focusing instead on subjects with no harm in erring; maths, natural sciences, language, and history would be most beneficial.
A good rule of thumb
Only establish ideas in children’s minds that they can see for themselves. These ideas, if few, will be well-grounded and accurate.
A quote from Arthur Schopenhauer
“ Opinion is like a pendulum and obeys the same law. If it goes past the center of gravity on one side, it must go a like distance on the other; and it is only after a certain time that it finds the true point at which it can remain at rest”
The Benefits of Active Parenting
- Face life challenges without conflicting with society.
- Adjust properly to changing circumstances.
- Have unique personalities backed up with their own experiences – they’re not imitating someone else’s personality.
- Capable of loving others, and will always strive on the useful side of life.
Meaning for parents
Active parenting also gives parents meaning for their lives. It fills them with purpose. We all know that life is difficult, but it’s even more difficult without taking responsibility for oneself and others. Useful and healthy goals make us get out of bed on a bad day, otherwise “the game is not worth the candle”
The Magic Years by Selma Freiburg
This book is an eye-opener for parents. The author discusses each stage of child development from a clinical psychoanalyst’s point of view. Her clinical experiences with children are extensive, and they shed a light on how the little minds of children develop through the years. She also gives insights on how to communicate with our children at each respective stage. It’s a great resource that we keep going back to, and we think new parents especially will find this book extremely helpful.
Ideas For Useful Activities
Researchers from EDC and SRI International found out that most parents say that knowing what young children need to learn about science, and having ideas for doing science with everyday materials, would help them. Other research suggests that kids generally learn more when they are occupied with one subject at a time, and combining theory with a hands-on approach.
As we have said, it’s dangerous for children to form large worldly views before maturity. It’s our responsibility to shield them from catalysts that could potentially do that. Watching certain movies or reading certain fairy tales maybe somehow beneficial, but it could harm their objective view of the world. So, we have to use our judgment.
The following suggestions are considered to be beneficial with no chance of harming their objective reality.
Teaching our children how to code can increase their creativity, and make them understand how the technology works by putting them at the back end of it. Creating things is always more rewarding than just buying them. We discovered simply coding which offers online coding courses for Children in a simple way. They also offer a 14-day free trial.
MEL Chemistry is super for kids to learn about science in a technological way as they offer VR learning. Basically, their idea is that learning is understanding fundamental processes rather than cramming yourself with isolated pieces of knowledge. They also remind us that learning science is important and fun, even if you don’t plan to become a scientist.
Get in the kitchen
Teaching kids how to cook is also a great way for them to learn a new skill, practice collaboration, and patience. It also allows them to understand the bigger picture, and be more involved in their food making process.
Raddish is a cooking club, culinary lesson, and mealtime solution all-in-one. What we found interesting was their game-like approach. They provide you with recipe guides, cooking utensils designed for kids, hand-on crafts, skill lessons, and grocery lists.
We have tried a similar service in the past, and it was a great experience for us. We kept the recipes and canceled the subscription after 2 months to master the learned recipes without wasting money.
Tip: You can try the service for a few months and then cancel the subscription to master the recipes you already tried.
Active parenting quiz
This quiz is designed to let you know a little more about your parenting style. It’s comprised of 10 short questions, and you get the results straight away. Remember, balance is the key!
We hope we have not made any hasty generalizations, and that you’ve enjoyed this article. Please leave a comment below if you have any feedback or suggestions.