I get a lot of shocked responses and stares from people when they hear about my parenting style. My philosophy isn't quite as exuberant is Dr Spock's, but rather more like the teachings of John Holt.
As most of my friends and family know, I believe children thrive the most in an environment where they are free, with the exception of a few things that NEED to know, to learn by their own devices. Academically, Samantha is currently covering reading, addition, subtraction, multiplication, fractions, electricity, oceans, United States Geography, and History of Indians-about to move on to Bible History/History of Christmas ("Story of," traditions of the past and of other countries, foods, meanings of symbols...) ALL of this by her own choice. With that being said, we do have what some consider dry spells, where we aren't covering anything specific. We just read chapter books, play games, go outside. Although the value of these things should never be underestimated. Not only is Sam processing all the information she was taught, but she is learning from those down times too. But I digress.
For the most part, we also use natural consequences to teach. This is the real eye widener right here. Yes, we do whip-in extreme cases. From the way I interpret it, the Bible tells us to do so. But I also believe that we, as adults learn naturally, and that it is also as effective for children. In my own experiences, my car motor recently blew because of a snapped timing belt that I refused to replace routinely due to cost...Which in turn cost us over $4,000.00. Guess who does ALL their routine maintenance now? This gal! As if that doesn't explain enough, let me give a small scale example. I decide to leave the house for gymnastics 20 minutes before. We are late. I learned to leave earlier.
The same goes for Samantha. We allow her to make most of her own choices. She chooses when to go to bed, if she wants to eat dinner-no snacks if she doesn't. She chooses what she wants to wear. One that really seems of concern to some is that we don't make her wear shoes. She didn't wear shoes last year, except in the library (required by them if she wanted to go in-so she chose to wear them and go in) and few other exceptions where she wanted to. (She never got sick.) This year, however, she remembers that winter means cold weather. Cold weather plus no shoes equals cold feet. And cold feet equals painful. Some lessons take her longer than others, but the end result means she is being responsible in CHOOSING what she wants to do. ie To wear shoes outside in the winter-instead of doing it because she has to. She doesn't always wear shoes now. She doesn't feel she needs them inside or in the Summer, as long as she isn't on pavement. (I'm the same way.) There is so much more to this philosophy, but the end goal is to give children small choices while they are young so that they can make mature choices as they grow. The are more apt to choose to stay away from drugs or promiscuous sex. (It is a theory that teenage rebellion comes from being at an age where you are first able to make your own choices. Children become more aware that they control their own decisions and want to exercise that.) But it should begin so much sooner. And let me say, since we began this way of parenting about a year and a half or two years ago, the petty arguments have ceased. The days go by more peacefully and more enjoyable. This, I believe, is the product of having a Free Child.
Another thing we allow and encourage is the opportunity for Samantha to express herself. (Lots of people say we are hippies for this. Even Jessie calls me his little Hippie because I am more extreme then him in this form of parenting.) I believe this helps her to find who she is and learn how to control her emotions. With one restriction. "Do not hurt anyone or anything." So if she needs to stomp, by all means, Stomp! (She actually does it less now that she knows it doesn't phase us.) She can do that at any time she feels she needs to. She can scream-in her bedroom so she doesn't hurt anyone's ears...You get the picture. She can cry whenever she feels the need to. It can be for no reason at all. She has actually done this before, at random times. Once she cried because we went down a road damaged by the tornado. Because she knew people died from the tornado on that road. This opened up for more discussion about God, Love, Life and Death, something that we may not have had the opportunity to discuss had she not felt comfortable busting out into tears in front of me.
I like to think my child is a Free child. Free to learn. Free to live. Free to express her emotions. Free to express her opinions. Free to spend her time the way she wants. Free to be who she truly is.
It has been said to me more than once, "Well, she does her own thing anyway." Although some say this as a negative remark, I don't find this offensive at all. It actually makes me smile and think of all the things she does-her own way, the Samantha way.