Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Your Choices Are My Business - On Bad Parenting

Recently I've come across a variety of sources and individuals discussing the relationship with society and an individual's choices. In particular I'm interested in parents' choices.Working in a school gives me a front row seat to parental choices and the long term impact they can have.

Needless to say, I've become concerned - even bothered.

It *really* bothers me when someone says, "How I raise my kid is none of your business!" Actually, it is *very* much my business - and I'm not just speaking as an educator but as a human being and a concerned citizen.

All choices made impact others. If you choose to formula feed because you want to keep your breasts perky and so sabotage your child's well-being, that affects me. It affects me in medical bills and services spent, the relationship or less bonding that occurs between you and your child, as well as the impact formula companies have on society and the environment.

If you choose to hit your child that affects me. Abused children are more likely to become abusers. Even if they don't abuse, they will have issues that need to be resolved with therapy and counseling.

If you choose to give your child soda, chips, and Twinkies instead of fruits, vegetables, and nuts it affects me. Not only will your child not get the nutrients they need and therefore have more illness, but they are more likely to be overweight or obese. This increases their chances of all manner of illnesses which my tax dollars will likely be spent on. Perhaps doctors' time will be taken away from unpreventable illnesses.

The list goes on.
And I can think of numerous examples.

So no, everyone's choices impact everyone. Because your choices impact me, yes, they are my business. I want some control over these situations. I want laws and educators and interventions. In the long run, I expect prevention to be a better course than damage control for someone else's poor choices.

I realize not only does this make me conservative (in the traditional sense of the word) and brand me as a bit of a socialist, but I also come out quite unpopular. Yet again I'm preaching against that core American value of unadulterated freedom and individualism - this untouchable sacred law that regularly causes harm...

But there's a reason.

For those of you familiar with my family, you know my brother is adopted through fostercare. He is an awesome guy and I love him. And he was lucky. A series of choices led him to a loving family who was prepared and able to support and provide for him. But many children who go into fostercare are not so blessed. Poor choices on the part of parents lead the rest of society to pick up the tab. The result is there are more foster kids than homes to take them. Many of these children have emotional and physiological issues that require extensive treatment and care.

This has several causes. Part of it is purely cyclical. Their parents made poor choices and their grandparents made poor choices and so on. Poor choices were a learned and repeated behavior.

Another factor is a lack of education. I know some of us (the Hermione Grangers out there) do their research, but most do not. Classes are not required. Manuals don't come with babies. Counseling and support groups are not guaranteed - which leads to our last problem; support isn't always accessible or intuitive.

Because our society is so individualistic, parents are often left to fend for themselves. Without help during the course of typical parental stresses, small problems can become big issues leading to choices with disasterous consequences (hitting v. talking, or junk food v. balanced meals). The combination of these factors encourages poor, misinformed choices.

And we all have to pay for them.

That said, the next time you prod someone about nutrition or discipline and they bite your head off, they're probably feeling guilty or sleep deprived. I'd try to be a little kind, even while being firm in your questioning their choice.

Because deep down we know the truth - our choices are not just our own. And that truth is painful when we know we're making bad choices for worse reasons.

I don't know about you, but that makes me want to research and think carefully before taking any action.

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