Welcome to the March 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Self-Expression and Conformity
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about authenticity through self-expression. We hope you enjoy this month's posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Peaceful Parenting Applied.
I set the topic for this carnival ‘Self-expression and conformity’ a while back, because I tend to think and write about this topic now and again and because I find that we don’t read about this topic very often.
In the light of the Steubenville rape case, and many other horrid acts towards people that taint the news these days, I think this is a very pertinent question.
Self expression in children s something that parents do seem to struggle with. Not a day goes by without reading some call for help: “my daughter wants to dye her hair purple.” “My son wants to pierce his ears.” “My child dresses inappropriately.” On the kinds of forums where I linger, these parents have mostly made the choice to respect their children’s wishes and now seek a way to help them navigate the terrain. Yet time and again, commenters will attack the original poster for the mere choice to follow their children, to grant their children physical autonomy.
|Image: New Hair|
Yet physical autonomy is what this is all about, specifically the Steubenville case. Children who do not learn that their body is their own, that their choice is to be respected do not stand up when they see other people’s bodies being violated. They do not understand the impact of violating others and they can’t fend for themselves when they are being violated.
Children who are molded and pushed and shaped into what we adults, what we as a society want them to be, lose the respect for the self and others.
Now how on earth does dying your hair lead to raping intoxicated girls?
It may not be a straight line from purple hairdye, but not respecting children’s bodily autonomy on a regular, institutionalized basis, does lead to these horrid situations.
Society has institutionalized disrespect for children. It’s everywhere. From the simple comment: “Is that what you’re going to wear?”, to physically holding your child down at the doctor’s office, to not being able to use the bathroom at school when you feel the need. Children's bodies are constatly being invaded, abused and controlled, and most often by the ones they love and trust.
Body shaming, style shaming and the repression of self-expression leads to these beliefs in the child: “I am not worthy. I am ugly. I can’t make choices for myself. I’m stupid. I don’t deserve anything. Nobody loves me. I’m just strange. I don’t fit in.”
Children who think that way grow into young adults who think that way…
How many of us thought all of these thoughts at least one time during adolescence. I’m raising my hands here. Both hands and some feet too! It’s not very hard to imagine that young adults, repeating these beliefs to themselves like a damning mantra, will make all the wrong choices.
It’s time for us, adults, society at large, to give our children their bodies back to their rightful owner. To themselves.
Freedom means your body is yours to govern. Let’s at least give our children the freedom, let’s abolish the slavery in our homes. Let’s stop acting like we know what’s best for them and instead guide them through the choices they want to make.
Your child want to dye his hair purple. Great, help him find out where he can find a non-toxic dye. Try some temporary dyes, if you want him to find out what it'll be like before he goes for something more permanent. If he goes to school and that’s not tolerated, explain the rules and maybe suggest he dyes his hair during the summer holidays.
Mostly parents want torestrict physical self expression for the way others might react, for the sake of social conformity, the "what will other people think"-mindset. Yu should care less about what 'others' think. They don't live in your house, you're not raising them. It doesn't matter if you get strange looks. You should explain this to your child, yes, but you don't need to decide for them.
Children need to feel social borders. In a way, they do certain things to create a reaction from society. Let them. Guide them through it.
Allowing your child to make choices of his own does not mean ‘unparenting’. It does not mean you're being permissive. You are still there to help, to offer guidance, to steer the water, to explain social consequences…
- No Tattoos! (yet) - Jana Falls at Jananas is okay with tattoos. You just have to wait until you're 18.
- The Chains of Conformity -Destany at They are All of Me writes about teaching her children to be true to their own authenticity and... screw conformity, it's for sheep.
- Supporting Self-Expression in Children - At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy encourages her children to be themselves and express themselves accordingly.
- Encouraging Good Examples -Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work encourages her spirited preschooler to choose good examples to copy in order to discourage inappropriate learned behaviors.
- Supporting Your Child's Self Expression - Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she support's her daughter's desire to be herself despite objections from Rasta Daddy.
- Can a "good" child be noncompliant? - Lauren at Hobo Mama has a sweet-natured child who is anything but obedient. She likes him just fine, but his grandmother's not sure what to make of him.
- In Crowd or Outcast, March to Your Own Beat - Jorje of Momma Jorje compares some of the odd fashions of her own youth to some of the crazy stuff kids, and her teen in particular, are doing these
- Their bodies are their own - At Authentic Parenting, Laura questions society's claims on children.