There are two types of parenting when it comes to raising children. Proactive and Reactive. The proactive parent is involved and aware, cognizant of what the child is doing, setting guidelines and using discipline to teach the child what is right and wrong. The reactive parent is also aware but let's the child experiment in an somewhat open arena, leaving the child to learn from his mistakes and deal with the ramifications that are involved.
Now, in order to be an effective parent, you do have to be a combination of both. Finding a balance between the two is THE challenge. However, to be an extreme in either category is NOT a good thing. And, being a dad that's constantly on the move with the kids, it's easy to see fall into the "reactive" category, which I thought I did *A LOT*.
Taking the kids to their activities, I have a lot of opportunities to watch other parents.
Yesterday, I realized something about reactive parenting. Some reactive parents give their children too much extended freedom. Basically, whatever consequences come from the child's action is supposed to teach the child proper and appropriate behavior, regardless of how it effects the environment or others.
To illustrate, I ask - is it my responsibility to tell another person's child that they should be using their "inside" voices? Especially, when it is obvious to all the other parents that he's distracting and behaving inappropriately. It's also apparent that other parents are reluctant to over step their bounds. So, am I the consequence that the child is supposed to learn from or do I remove my children from the situation and let the kid continue on?
I see two problems with the reactive approach. The first, what and from whom does the child really learn? Did he actually learn that he should be quiet and stop horsing around in order to respect other people's space? I don't think so... from the kid's reaction, he learned that I'm a mean guy who ruins all his fun. His real parent didn't stop him, the other parents were too passive, and I'm a complete stranger... I have no leverage to teach this boy much.
The second problem is that the parent ends up having to deal with the consequences of the kids' consequences. In my case, the boy's parent had to deal with the embarrassing situation of another parent, namely me, appropriately disciplining their child. It must be easier to say "sorry" to a stranger, than to say "no" to your child.
Where does the line get drawn between being a reactive parent versus a lazy parent?
Sher and I prefer the more proactive approach of consistent discipline. It was not so much a conscious choice, but rather something that make sense to us and came naturally. We find comfort in knowing that when we do give our kids the freedom to learn from their environment that our kids will not stick their hand on the stove, not because they've done it before and learned that fire is hot, but because we taught them that the fire can harm them.