Quotes on Parenting


“I would my father looked but with my eyes.” —Hermia, daughter of Egeu, in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Egeus was determined to wed his daughter to Demetrius, a man of his own choosing and against the wishes of Hermia to marry Lysander, the man she loved. The play depicts the tension between a father, who demands submission to his authority, and his tenderhearted daughter. The artwork here was discovered by Bill Huntley
in a children’s book during a visit to Greece.

When one has not had a good father, one must create one. —Friedrich Nietzsche

To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while. —Josh Billings

A mother who is really a mother is never free. —Honoré de Balzac

The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.” —Clarence Darrow

The fundamental defect of fathers is that they want their children to be a credit to them. —Bertrand Russell

Don’t limit your child to your own learning, for he was born in a different time. —Rabbinical saying

No matter how old a mother is, she watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement. —Florida Scott-Maxwell

Insanity is hereditary—you can get it from your children. —Sam Levinson

People should be free to find or make for themselves the kinds of educational experiences they want their children to have. —John Holt

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Reading Groups: Bring the Kids


How do you encourage your kids to read? How do you find friends for your kids who read? What can you learn from your kids who read? How do you train your kids to think and talk about what they read?

There are many answers to these questions. But there’s one answer that covers them all: If you’re part of a reading group, schedule one meeting each year or every six months to include the kids.

I got this idea from a blog post by Kyle Design, who writes about how to start a reading group. Kyle says, “Include the Kids: Once a year we select a book that we will read to our kids, then bring our kids to our book group to discuss it. We all really want to instill our own love of reading to our children.”

I like this concept. This may even be a reason for parents of young children to get involved in a reading club. By participating in a reading group event with their parents, kids will learn new ways to think about reading. Parents will get insights from their children about the reading they do. And because other kids of about the same age will be at the meeting to talk about the same book, the kids will have the opportunity to make friends with peers who read. This is one way for parents to put the power of peer pressure to work for a good cause—on the principle that friends who read don’t let friends who read lose interest in reading.

Film and Parental Discretion


“How do you help your children to be discerning and pick up themes and messages inherent in the movies, books, and visual arts?” Thank you, Cindy Gould, for another great question.

Just today I was talking with a screenwriter friend of mine about the kinds of movies producers like to make. For the fast buck, they favor films for teens. And let’s face it, most films targeting the teen market aren’t all that “intellectually meaty.”

That doesn’t mean, though, that teen films are ideologically vacuous. And some teens actually like sophisticated movies intended for a more specialized audience. Is it possible to equip them to be reflective about their film experiences without ruining their enjoyment of film? Absolutely.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Start young. Be selective about the films your children see early on. Watch them together. Afterward, probe with questions about what they thought or felt. To get specific answers ask specific questions. Remember that one scene in Shrek when the princess is singing and, just when she hits a really high note, the bird that was singing with her literally explodes? Here are some questions to ask: “Was it funny when this happened? Was it tragic? Was it both? How could it be both?” In The Lion King, the treacherous uncle looks the part. You could get some good discussion about that. “Do the bad guys always look like bad guys? How can you tell when someone might be trying to trick you into doing something you shouldn’t do? How do you know when to trust someone?”
  2. Let children express themselves fully. Ask questions about what they say. Show sincere interest in their answers. But be careful not to “cross-examine.”
  3. Affirm them for the good ideas they have and the reasonable ways they come up with those ideas. If you love the way they think, tell them, “I love the way you think!” If we’re going to raise a generation of thinkers, they have to know we value thinking. This brings us to a final point.
  4. Share your own ideas with your children. If you’ve asked for their point of view, you’ve earned the privilege of sharing your point of view and there’s a real chance they’ll listen because you’ve listened. Be careful about the tone of your contribution, though. Try not to sound too dogmatic and authoritative. Be a model of intellectual curiosity. Encourage your children to respond to your ideas with their own evaluation.

This is pretty general advice. Much depends on a child’s age and the relationship you have with your child. I hope readers will share their thoughts and experiences in the comments box below.

Parenting with Purpose


What is a parent supposed to be doing . . . as a parent? My friend Mike Austin is author of a book called Conceptions of Parenthood (Ashgate, 2007). In an excerpt on his “Morality and the Good Life” blog, Mike suggests that parents should endeavor to train their children in skills that will result in their well-being over the long haul. This, he says, encompasses the goal of preparing them to live autonomously. Mike interacts briefly with William Irvine (author of Doing Right By Our Children), who stresses the value of freedom.

I concur with Mike, and would argue that the best kind of freedom depends on being rational, and is experienced as a result of making consistently wise choices. So educating children for freedom is educating them in a tradition of wisdom. And that involves guidance through experiences of choosing wisely in comparatively safe situations when they’re young, and in increasingly challenging circumstances as they get older. This would surely empower them to be even more effective in using their freedom to achieve the best and highest goals as they enjoy greater autonomy.

If we who are parents succeed in this endeavor, our children may be our own wise counselors some day.

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