Last night, once again, I attempted to feed my kids dinner. Key word, of course: "Attempted". The younger one is easy enough, but with D., it's the 5:00pm epic battle that confronts me every day. Shields were worn, fighting words were had and, in the end, there were no victors. After much back and forth, and 2+ years of pretty much forcing D. to eat dinner, which entailed sitting with him for hour upon hour as he squirmed and did anything but eat, we are finally trying the "they're not going to starve themselves" model. A part of me calls this failure on my part. But others, apparently, are calling it consensual living:
Founded in 2006 by some North Carolina families, consensual living is an alternative parenting model in which kids are equal partners in family life. In these non-hierarchical families, it is all about understanding each other's feelings and finding mutually agreeable solutions where everyone's wants and needs are addressed. In a consensual family, the smallest child's desires are equal to those of the parents and, unless it involves safety, nobody makes anybody do anything they don't want to.
Hmmm. Lets learn more...
Per the Consensual Living website (warning: there is annoying music when you click the link): There is no such thing as "have to" in the consensual living world. If your kid hits somebody on the playground, you can discuss with him what you would do but he does not "have to" apologize. Rewards and punishment for good and bad behavior are considered "tools of manipulation." And there are testimonials and sound bites about about how much more free and pleasant the family dynamic is once the parents give up traditional notions and structures of authority.
Wow. It's like some sort of Walden Pond utopia movie writ small to fit into a household. Communism for the suburbs? One the one hand, the idea that my 3 year old has the "self-determination" (a consensual living buzz word) to decide whether he wants to eat his broccoli does dovetail with the current approach we are taking to the horrible eating habits we have let him develop. We are now presenting him with food at proper times and letting him decide if he is going to eat, as opposed to trying every trick in the book to get him to take one measly bite of food. Is this a "consensual living" approach? We are done telling D. he "has to" eat his dinner. Consensual living?
But let's go further. There are certainly things that D. does "have to" do. While we are probably on the lax side of the parent-strictness-spectrum, I truly cannot imagine how certain events (e.g., D. going to bed) would happen unless there was an axiomatic line in the sand, an authoritative mandate that This Has To Happen Now. Haven't we all heard time and time again that children need boundaries? I accept that as true primaly--do we need to re-examine that idea?
No, I don't think so. I mean, seriously? I am 31 years old and I still do things out of deference to my parents. At this point I think it's the way it should be--as my dad would say, "Love the young, Respect the Old."
It's interesting and almost novel to think about a family model that involves respecting the opinions of everyone equally. It seems very p.c., like discussing with you child his view on toilet paper ("pro? con?"). But, here it is... I am going to hold out till D. can do things like wipe his own butt before I give equal play to his ideas of how the world should work. Cue the violins, here comes the Czarina...!