Politics, Philosophy and Parenting for Peace
Updated: Jan 1, 2019
Parenting is tough, really tough. The definition of a family is not tangible. Working in the field of restoring family dynamics demands a critical and open view of justice. Within each precious relation, family members intricately balance what is just for themselves and their family as a whole. The family system is a pinpointed example of how justice plays a role in the wide range of systems that make up our communities and our world. Families are the grassroots of socierty. Strong parent leaders build strong commuities of peace. Justice and parenting each require balance. Balancing what is good with fair discipline alongisde our own values and experiences.
There are a few philosophers that have made an impact on my parenting philosophy. They have shaped my thinking patterns, my response, and my goals. Thinkers like Berkowitz, Foucault, and Derrida have especially opened my eyes.
These thinkers have kindled my heart toward deeper compassion, richer deliberation, and true pleasure for my work. I have learned there is so much more to learn and that I am more curious than ever (Byron, 2017). I work to pass this curiosity onto my parent clients and to inspire their desire to lead with peace at home.
I tell my parent clients, that the best discipline happens long before misbehavior. Discussing parent conflcits often end up with two parents 'arguing' about how or what consequence to use connected to some poor social behavior. Every person has their own very intimate perspective on how children learn through punishment and discipline. Some history into philosophy of justice is useful in merging these converations.
The first book I read about punishment and discipline is Michael Foucault’s Discipline and Punish (1977). Foucault pushes the reader to consider if punishment is humane. The book wreaks of disgust for injustice and speaks to how desperately we need to consider a body, mind and soul in how justice plays out in consequence. I have gained a strong viewpoint around punishment now. I see the clear difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment gets kids nowhere. Discipline is to teach therefore it is needed to set limits. However, I urge parents to teach kids ahead of time, encourage good habits, to model peace and to do all we can before discipline is even necessary.
If there was one enquiry that parents consistently ask, it is how to teach kids their expectations. Many come saying they have tried everything from spanking, yelling, segregating, taking a favourite toy away etc. Parents are crying for a new way to have their children listen to them. Foucault writes about how punitive power works, “It is in the procedure of access to the individual, the way in which the punishing power gets control over him…” (Foucault, 1977, p. 127). Gaining control over children’s behavior is never easy when parents are frustrated. Controlling others is the opposite of what is needed. The fact is, sustainable peace in a home begins when the leaders model self control and consistency. The question that I like to discuss is what is the parent’s perception of the difference between punishment and discipline and how do they teach and model this? Quickly, parents realize accountability and their home environments begin to align with their ultimate goal for peace. Discipline is a deliberate teaching process of contingent expectations, consistency and respect; punishment is a power of revenge, pain. and confusion.
Berkowitz has me thinking more about bottom lines and parenting. The connection with my work here is solid. Parents have goals to have their children listen more, show more respect, use more manners, cooperate etc. All of these skills are taught through the parent’s perspective on what is just. The parent becomes the judge as they scuffle with being too harsh or too permissive. Why Must We Judge? (2010) explains why boundaries are needed to cultivate an environment where children can thrive in the light of judgement in our society. Parents judge through setting clear limits. They can learn to practice the art of discernment (Byron, 2017). Berkowitz does a fantastic job explaining why a final word is paramount in shaping our children, “In our passion for rationality and fairness, we sacrifice judgment, and with judgment, we abandon our sense of justice” (Berkowitz, 2010, p.1). For children to know right and wrong, parents must know what right and wrong is for them. Reflecting upon this piece, my work will continue to strive for finding my own boundaries while still being open and tolerant. Justice is exactly this, the ever-shifting sweet spot that allows the scale to balance where everyone feels safe. It needs the weight of the center to work, this to me now, thanks to Berkowitz, is judgement.
Derrida writes like there is never an end to anything. To follow along is akin to a child arguing their way out of brushing their teeth. He goes on and on and there doesn’t seem to be a clear end to his point. This is what I learned as deconstruction. Unpacking a point of view until it comes back around again. He offers a brilliant idea that there are many perspectives to all situations. Although this seems common knowledge when I read Derrida this becomes glaringly more evident through finding defferance, dissemination and positions (Lawlor, 2006). The patience it takes to get there is insurmountable but worth it. Derrida inspires a way of thinking that is infinite curiosity. This is by far the most important parenting tool. To attempt at compassionately deconstructing a family crisis, a child’s unwillingness or a parent’s shame is my work exactly. By stripping away my previous thoughts, bias, and expectations allows me to serve dignity to the diversity of family life. Another amazing take away from Derrida is that in order to deconstruct we have to read and listen carefully with curiosity. His work inspires me to help parents get involved a deeper level with their children, to learn to read their kids, to actively listen to them and to consider that they still have so much to learn. We can read kids by finding out what is being said, what else must they hold for this to make sense, and what do I learn because of having grasped it (Byron, 2017). I work to inspire parents to deconstruct what they might have placed already on their kids now. I ask questions. A lot of questions. In fact, questioning has become the center of every single parent session I do. Through deconstructing our parenting positions, we begin to see we are only leading with what we knew all along, we must learn more to lead in a new way. In the end, what we find out is that our children are only reflecting back to us exactly what we ourselves are struggling with. Both families and justice are always evolving and not easily defined. Therefore, it is “necessary to make justice possible in countless ways” (Lawlor, 2006).
Derrida’s ideas help shape that quest by opening up our minds and realizing we actually know very little. Deconstruction encourages humility, for that Derrida serves us all
Foucault balances discipline and punishment, Berkowitz weighs tolerance and truth, then Derrida provides a way to muddle through and find that there are no perfectly right parenting answers at all.
Each family is so unique with their own set of exclusive roots. My work is an opportunity to challenge parents to listen to their precious gut and come up with their own solutions that celebrates their expertise as kind and firm family leaders. I walk beside parents on their journey toward discovering their own judgements, personal values, curiosity and self discipline.
I am grateful. Love is the magic that can be sprinkled on the justice scales should they tilt.