“Honoring your children” is a phrase you will hear a LOT in the homeschool community–but especially the unschooling community. I’ve come to see how this phrase is very subjective–with an incredibly broad spectrum of meanings.
Let me tell you what it does (and does not) mean for my family…
Honoring my children means respecting their wishes and needs over my own.
When I looked up the word “honor” in verb form, I got the following definition:
“regard with great respect”
This can be an awfully tricky area. I have watched parents take this sentiment to mean that their children should never have a chore or never have to learn anything they don’t want to learn. Admittedly, I have only seen one or two areas of life that I might consider imposing on my children if need be (understanding world cultures and religions; and understanding the government process and their role in it for our country). But for the most, I don’t impose learning on my children. Or rather, I try really hard not to impose learning on my kids. When I slip, they let me know I’ve gone astray and it’s short-lived. #stillahuman
BUT… my children ARE forced to carry the burdens that come with living in a community of people. That means they have tocarry some chores of the household (helping set and clear the table, dishes, laundry, bathrooms) in addition to self-care and caring for their own space (making beds, general hygiene–which is way more lax than most families–etc.).
If one of my children continually relies on me for something that is age-appropriate for them to know (and “age-appropriate” does not equate to “when the school kids are able to do it”) then they are pushed to be more self-reliant. Sometimes I am more passive aggressive about this than other times. Girly will be 8 soon and can’t really tell time. Honestly, I don’t find this to be a problem except for that she has some anxiety issues that lead her to asking me FORTY. TWO. TIMES. per day what time it is. While this annoys me, her having to ask and wait for the answer only adds to her anxiety. So as a means of helping her, she will be pushed to learn to tell time if she doesn’t willingly embrace it when I try to teach her. In the meantime, she has a digital watch. She just doesn’t grasp what the numbers mean or how long it will be to get to 4pm if it’s now 3pm. So it’s not really helpful.
Honoring my children means that I don’t force them to be something they’re not.
I get a lot of pushback on this. “They’re children. How do you or anyone else know what they are or what they could be?” Correct: nobody does. But that picture develops over time. While I am a fan of kids getting out of their comfort zone to expand their boundaries, I’m not a fan of pushing them so hard out of their comfort zone that they are extremely unhappy to the point of literally being forced.
If there is crying involved, that’s a problem.
NOTE: I have very little problem with the idea of my children crying.
I don’t adopt this method because I can’t stand to see my kids cry. Seriously. It’s not a coddling thing. I watched BigGuy scream intermittently for years of developmental interventions and a few necessary medical tests. Trust me. I got this.
But if a child is crying over something academic… WAKE. UP. And if a child consistently can’t grasp a concept or has zero interest in a subject–you need to move on and just accept them where they are unless that skill is a critical life skill. Shall we revisit those?
Critical life skills:
- Able to read fluently enough to understand basic instructions, contracts or conditions.
- Able to write legibly and clearly enough to fill out employment and doctor forms.
- Able to do enough basic math to balance a checkbook, give the correct money and get the correct change.
Everything else is learn-able. And everything else you want to teach them (like my desire to impose world cultures & religions and how the government works including their role) is not critical to survival. Even my own things–the things that this human mama cannot let go of–are not critical to survival no matter how much it is PAIN. FUL. FOR. ME. TO. WRITE. THAT.
Honoring my children means that if they are following a star that hasn’t been discovered yet, I help them move through this world without sacrificing that vision and movement in them. Honoring my children means letting them wear what they want (and sometimes hiding a sweater they will need even after they refused it because this is the first and last time you will do it knowing they will learn the lesson of thinking it through better). Honoring who they are could mean weeks of accompanying a small astronaut or cow to the grocery store, doctors appointments, playgrounds, etc. while they destroy their best loved costume.
Honoring my child means that if they simply cannot grasp concepts and those concepts are not on the critical skills list–we just don’t deal with them. If we have laws to abide by for that subject area, we find a different way to accommodate the law (you’d be stunned at how easily this is done).
Honoring my children means that they can be a garbage man and a burger flipper if they want.
Honoring my children means that I need to let go of the idea that society will judge my parenting skills by my children’s achievements (or rather, what society sees as “achievement”). That can be INCREDIBLY hard for a lot of parents. Even now, with kids my son’s age, I see the panic setting in when a child isn’t in the gifted program. It’s not okay to be an average kid because they will go on to an average life and…. and so what? Why can’t they live an average life?
Honoring your children means letting go of your idea of who they should become and your idea of what they’re capable of and allowing them to be who they are without making it about you.
Honoring who they are means following their passions when it’s annoying and inconvenient. Honoring who they are means accepting the things about them that you don’t love or understand, but are not harmful to themselves or anyone else. Honoring who they are means accepting that they may never grow out of loving Legos–and that’s okay. Honoring who they are means they may never be at or above grade level in math–but they can function in the world without making huge errors in math that would cause them to lose their money unnecessarily.
It means letting go of who you want them to be and letting them be who they are.
But honoring my child doesn’t mean there are never expectations of them.
I think this is the part people have a hard time with and I suspect it is a matter of control dynamics in parenting. Honoring my child doesn’t mean that if my child feels compelled to hit another child or be mean and bullying that “that’s just who they are” and you don’t correct that issue. It doesn’t mean that if s/he doesn’t want to clean up the mess they left in the family room that I simply do it for them because I don’t want to force my will upon them. Honoring my child doesn’t mean creating a monster. To “regard with great respect” means that I am taking special care not to let my child become dependent on me or disrespectful in the world–which can become dangerous for them. How is that being respectful to them?
Honoring requires modeling and connecting.
At the core of all of this is your relationship with your child, their respect for you as a person, and what you model for them. Do you thirst to learn? Do you keep a clean home? Do you break out a calculator? Do you have self-respect and integrity? How do you speak to other people? How do you speak ABOUT other people when they are not present? How do you speak to your children? What kind of ethic does that model for your children? And do your children think enough of you to want to emulate you? Or do they see you as a servant to them and someone they do NOT want to emulate?
It’s not an easy sea to navigate. As with most parenting challenges, it comes back to ourselves, our issues, our behaviors and how they play out in our children.
And it’s a never-ending process. But never stop getting up when you fall down.
Much love, mama.