Off the Grid: Not Necessarily HR – Normal Parenting

As someone who has tried to unravel the complexity of interpersonal relations in human resources, I wouldn’t touch the conflict over progressive parenting with a ten foot pole. There probably should be a reservoir of full of ten foot poles created to be forcibly distributed to every self-professed expert that cashes in on opinions about how we are doing it all wrong and have been forever. People are different. Any theory on parenting will be grabbed up by parents hungry for answers. This is based on the fear of doing something wrong, the intense love and care of their children, or people simply looking for that one-size-fits all solution as an easy fix. Ironically, what many call “progressive parenting” is really regressive… going back to the way it used to be.

Children not only look for direction and guidance they crave it. It is an essential part of formulating the decision making processes they will need in adulthood. The theory that discipline is destructive is misleading. It assumes an adult ability to reason and make wise choices with a brain that is not fully developed. Children should want to be disciplined if it is a learning experience and not always punitive. They may not fully understand the reason, but repetition is the magic sauce for learning. Brainwashing? I hope so, but in a positive way. Giving an equal voice to a child’s opinions with their parents is good if it means that there is actual listening and learning attached. If it means giving up control to the child it is questionable. Rewarding bad decisions eventually creates more bad decisions.

A critical part of the development of a child’s brain is the shaping of the very architecture of the formative brain. The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University published an extensive study on the Science of Early Childhood. The feedback loop of “serve and return” interaction between children and the significant adults in their lives is essential to this development. Between ages 6 and 10 there is a natural pruning process that eliminates redundant neural links. Toxic stress during the formative years actually rewires the brain making their “normal” an abnormal response to their immediate surroundings. A 2008 study of The Child’s Developing Brain published in the New York Times shows the stages of development of the human brain until age 21. In spite of the fact that the brain is almost fully developed by the teenage years, there is an overwhelming capacity for further development in emotional maturity, impulse control, and decision making well into the mid-twenties.

The last time I was in the local mall exercising my “people watching” hobby I couldn’t help but notice gaggles of teenage girls in ultra-revealing outfits. Did they make a conscious decision to look like that? The better question might be, “Do their parents know what they are doing… and do they care.” For every people watcher hobbyist there is also some nefarious predator making the same observations. Are we training teenage boys to be predators by cultivating malling techniques? Some people pay for their mistakes the hard way and that could be called learning, but their parents are responsible until their children are mature enough to call those shots on their own.

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