Sunday, October 11, 2009

Family Values

“The child learns so easily because he has a natural gift, but adults, because they are tyrants, ignore natural gifts and say that children must learn through the same process that they learned by. We insist on forced mental feeding and our lessons become a form of torture.”

Rabindranath Tagore

Sometimes, I feel like my everyday parenting falls short. Hundreds of instructions, such as; “Don’t forget to wash your face,” or “Put dirty laundry in the laundry bag,” or “Don’t take out new toys until the old ones are put away,” are often ignored by my children. Mostly, I feel as if I’m nagging into the wind.

But some lessons do sink in – some of them just by example. I can’t take all the credit - schools and friends have an impact too. Still, when my son recorded this list yesterday, partly dictated by my daughter, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of pride. They compiled a list of laws made it for their Lego societies. It’s listed below exactly how it’s written:

#1 No killing people.

#2 no littering.

#3 No eating each other

#4 There are gay rights.

#5 No breaking other peoples property.

#6 No hurting people.

#7 No using guns without licence.

#8 No bombs.

#9 No having kids until your 18.

#10 No purchasing alcholul or ciggarets until you are 21.

#11 No fishing on pvt proportey.

#12 No war.

#13 No stealing

I laughed when I read number three, which my son gleefully admitted to adding. “It’s already covered by number one,” I pointed out. Living in Cambridge, with our gay marriage and classmates with two mommies, helped fuel the fourth. I hope they stick with number nine (perhaps waiting later than that). My husband glanced the list and said; “I think you’ll feel differently about some of these rules when you’re a teenager.” (I think he was talking about ten). The strangest one is number eleven. My daughter thought of it. When I asked her where it came from and she said, “Tom and Jerry.” Apparently either Tom or Jerry went to fish, where there was a sign that said, “Private Property – No Fishing” (Who says all that “Tom and Jerry” provided was mindless violence?). I was too happy picturing how they wanted their society to function that I didn’t even bring up my son’s spelling.

This game they played made me realize that the lessons they learn are not from what I say, but what I do. And though they may see me wash my face, put dirty laundry in the laundry bag, and generally, clean up after myself, (and fail to follow by example) those aren’t my most important lessons. I hope they see by their parents’ actions, which values we hold most important.


  1. They made laws for their fictional world? That's frightening and brilliant at the same time.
    It's interesting to see what they wrote... And would be even more interesting to see what they would come up with four or five years later.

    I can't speak as a parent, but from observation of parents, the best parenting seems to be through example, provided there is understanding of why things are done.

    I've seen parents approach the issue by forcing their kids to learn life by rote, conditioning them to a set of rules. Rules that often fail to stick when the kids grow up... That doesn't work in a class room, and it mostly doesn't seem to work in life. : p
    I'm sure that in retrospect, your chidren will come to appreciate the upbringing they've gotten.

  2. Alesa, I agree, leading through example with explanations is the best way to reach children.

    Sometimes my son complains if I'm too strict, but he has a friend or two with less strict parents, and he sees how some of my rules are good.