Saturday, March 11, 2006

Parenting for Youth Liberation

an interview With Cynthia Peters

By Tim Allen

How can parents behave in a non-oppressive way?

There is no getting around -- nor should there be -- the fact that parents have a lot of power over children. We exercise the greatest power of all, which is deciding to bring children into the world, or, as in the case of adoption, deciding to bring children into our families. Once I bring a child into my family, I continue to exercise a lot of power over her. I decide where she will live, what her name will be, who she will live with, whether she will have siblings, which community subcultures she will experience, what language she will speak, what she will eat, how often she gets a bath, and how much she will be held.

Not all of this power emanates directly from me. I am influenced by other institutions in society. My salary will help determine where I live, and therefore what community I raise my kid in, for example. How I was raised will affect how I raise my own child. My access to privilege or my sense of what my child can expect from the world will affect what I communicate to her about what she should expect. Etc.

So, as a parent, I experience many social and economic and cultural pressures which significantly affect the options I can make available to my child, her opportunities, and values. Making these institutions less oppressive is probably the single most important thing we could do to influence parents to be less oppressive towards their children.

For example, removing the stress of poverty and of living in a culture that emphasizes marketplace values would liberate parents and children to create families outside the confines of financial concerns. When my daughter breaks her arm, my first thought should be concern for her well-being, not dread at how much it will cost and anxiety about how to get time off from work in order to fit in all the Dr.'s appointments. It would be nice for parents and children if we could significantly reduce the amount of time we spend negotiating the pressure to buy Disney products, conform to Disney values, and consume various forms of instant gratification. Parents would be less oppressive with children if they did not have to pass on oppressive behaviors that come with living in violent neighborhoods, near toxic landfills, and in poorly designed cities and suburbs that create overcrowding and/or isolation rather than community...Read More...

No comments: