Hello Friends,

 

It's been quite a while since I've posted here, but I seize moments to come around and browse through discussions now and then.

 

Unfortunately, I do not have the time to write about anything moving or indepth tonight, but just enough to come before you all with yet another inquiry.

 

How does Quaker parenting differ from the parenting of any other Christian denomination?

 

I was raised very religiously... as I have mentioned before. So, I understand how to ingrain Christianity in a child. This is not a question of how to be a Christian parent.

 

I have searched for Quaker parenting forums (there are parenting forums for every other type of group it seems, so why not Quakers also, right?) but I haven't found a discussion forum specific to that. I've also searched for the 'How to be an Ideal Quaker Parent' go-to manual, and although I've found a few things, there doesn't seem to be the variety of information that a Baptist or Catholic parent might easily access.

 

Among the Quaker parenting books that do exist, are there some that are more recommended than others?

 

I tend to follow the Attachment Parenting, non-punitive discipline philosophies, but I do not necessarily believe that these are synonymous with Quaker parenting, although from my personal point of view, they seem to be.

 

Historically speaking, what is recorded about Quaker parenting? About disciplining children? And the hierarchical structure of the family? I was raised in the model:

 God>Father/Husband>Mother/Wife>Children.

 

But this does not support the spiritual equality of the sexes, and I am under the impression that Quakers disapprove of ageism, also. (I was taught that it was sinful for a woman to be a minister, which I know is not a Quaker belief, but maintained the model of man above woman.)

I also remember that "spare the rod, spoil the child" was taken very literally, and physical punishment was to be remembered for years to come. (I'll never forget the switch, the belt, or the wire end of the fly swatter.)

 

I was also raised with the belief that children are born sinful and through strict (but "loving") discipline, parents teach children how to be righteous. So each action from the time a child was young was regarded as either obedient or disobedient (obedience being righteous, disobedience being sinful), rather than a developmental phase that requires guidance but not force (which is how I prefer to view things). Seeing a child's actions as either "good" or "evil" seems badly superstitious and impeding to me.

 

I suppose in the end, the way I parent will be up to my own conscience and preference, but I would still like to know about general parenting norms within the Quaker faith, so I can not only understand it for myself, but clarify it for curious acquaintances, too.

 

Thank you for reading, considering, and/or responding. I'm looking forward to learning!

 

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Hello Lauren! I'll be interested to hear what folks say. I like Pendle Hill Pamphlet #396 "God raising us: parenting as spiritual practice" by Eileen Flanagan - a meeting library might have a copy if there's one near you. It's a short read and very friendly, about the author's learnings through parenting. I also like reading Quaker children's books for hints about how Quaker families might operate - "Thee, Hannah", and the Obadiah Starbuck books, for example.

We're attachment-style kind of parents in our family, but there is a wide variety of parenting styles within our yearly meeting (Britain Yearly Meeting ~14000 members). I have heard that Quaker children fifty years ago in our meeting used to be threatened with violence or hit in order to make them sit quietly in meeting (rejection of violence except towards children?!). I don't think anyone does that in our meeting now - I hope not!

Though the home I was raised in used fear to gain compliance, we are trying very hard to cooperate with our kids. I suppose we're "AP", though it happened pretty naturally. If you try to see "that of God" in your children, how can you hit and threaten them, or think them "sinful"? I can't speak about historical Quaker parents, and not being part of a neeting, I'm not much help either. But I would love to see more discussion (and support...please) about our journies as parents here on QuakerQuaker.

 

Today I was shopping for a baby shower card for friends who are first-time parents, and I found a card that added a spot of humor to my day:

 

"The Patron Verse of Parenthood:

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.

1 Corinthians 15:51"

 

Thank you for the book suggestions, Alice. I looked for Flanagan's books online this afternoon... have your read any of her others? I didn't find this particular book on Amazon, which is unfortunate since we already have an account, but I did find it other places, which is good.

 

Beth, I'm on the same wavelength with this - it seems like a conflict to see "that of God" in your children, then hit or threaten them, I agree. But I guess it's just a sign that we are not always in this world but not of it - I suppose we are all influenced by our times to some extent. For this reason, it wouldn't surprise me to hear that even Quakers used beatings or threats to discipline their children.

 

It reminds me of the "Circle of Moral Consideration" that is sometimes discussed in ethics classes. The more groups that you bring into the circle, the broader the circle becomes, slowly bordering and eventually including even outlying groups. The early Quakers expanded their circle to include moral consideration for women and other races - this was progressive for their time. I think it is only natural that the circle has grown, and that now so many Quakers would be concerned with the moral consideration of groups such as children or animals, also. It seems the more you're able to grow your circle, the more sensitive you become to these issues. And we see that the moral consideration for children has improved significantly in the past 100 years, with things such as child labor laws, groups to intervene in child abuse situations, extending the length of childhood, and so on. I guess what surprises me most about this subject however, is that white people have never been black, and men have never been women, and humans have never been dogs - so to not give moral consideration to a creature that isn't like you seems possible, since when you don't identify with someone, you can feel a sense of removal from that creature's plight. But we have ALL been children at some point. So the fact that this has been addressed this late in the timeline of the struggle for human rights is a little surprising. But then, children do not have strong voices or direct influence in society or politics, so I suppose it does make sense.

http://www.amazon.com/Quaker-Parenting-Beliefs-Testimonies-Practice...   -  I also want to recommend this book, Paths to Quaker Parenting. My husband and I are working our way through. It doesn't offer the nice "do this, not that" of a lot of mainstream Christian parenting books, but it's exactly what we were looking for.

            I agree completely! Trying to remember what it was like to be a child informs a lot of my parenting. But I know many people, raised the same way I was, who take a "I turned out just fine" view of things. I was actively taught that my parents spanked me because they loved me, and that parents who don't spank were neglecting their kids!! I guess a lot depends on how deeply you internalize that sort of message. If you love your children, you will do what you believe is good for them, and often what is reinforced in your culture.

 I was actively taught that my parents spanked me because they loved me, and that parents who don't spank were neglecting their kids!!

 

I was taught this too, but let me tell you, I never felt loved in those moments, nor afterwards when recalling them. I felt oppressed and angry. Even today, those punishments are humiliating and frustrating to relive in my memories, when I think back on them.

Oh, Paths to Quaker Parenting is now on the wishlist, btw. :) Is it more of an exploratory guide?

Hello all! I'm another one looking for how to match my beliefs and my parenting. I struggle with losing my temper with my boys (older one is 5, younger 9-months), especially when trying to get everyone out the house in the morning! There's always a conflict between wanting to provide a discipline framework, but not wanting to control/force etc. I'm not under much pressure to use spanking, but I do get a lot of comments about me not disciplining my children. 

I've found the attachment parenting (Sears and Sears) ideas helpful for babies, and for older children - "How to talk so kids will listen..." provides useful skills that are compatible with my beliefs. "Simplicity parenting" by Payne and others was useful too - it relates a lot to a Simplicity Testimony; although I didn't entirely agree with all it said. 

A very useful book is "Playful parenting" by Cohen. It even has a section on how a pacifist should deal with boys wanting to play with guns, which was very refreshing as it came at a time when my older son got 3 different toy guns (from school friends) for his birthday! I liked Paths to Quaker Parenting, but it did tend to raise questions rather than suggest solutions!

All these books have been helpful, but I still feel parenting is the hardest thing I've done... and that's before we begin the question of what I should teach them about my faith.

My daughter is 8 now, and I remember in my pregnancy hungering for writings of early Friends that would touch on parenting (or of any Friends, for that matter). The only info this search turned up was the importance of a supportive partner if you want to parent and have a ministry outside the home—and I did not need a book to tell me that.

I want to second the Eileen Flanagan pamphlet mentioned above. Harriet Heath also wrote a very good one that addresses nurturing Quaker approaches to spirituality (I know, an overly broad category), "Answering that of God in our children."

I am drawn to read books that fall under the attachment parenting heading, and also books that "educate for freedom." actually, John Holt's books on unschooling have been very helpful in terms of how to guide and teach skills within a liberatory framework.

Eventually I reached out to a Mennonite congregation near me, because my meeting had no other parents of young children. I needed to be able to ask a peer, "What do you do when..." or "How do you approach...." and at least know that an orientation toward peacemaking would be at the core of the response. Of course, older meeting members could tell me what they did when their kids were younger, but I felt a strong need  to have peers with whom I could share.

I'm not a parent, so grain of salt ;)

I maintain the opinion that setting a good example from the earliest age is what's important. Consistent rules probably have the best chance of being followed. That's not to say "when you're 8" or "when you can reach it safely" can't be part of a rule, but Irish twins (two kids, one year) being treated differently because one's a boy and one's a girl? You'll have a rebellion on your hands.

Or be an awful example and make your kids go "ugh, I do NOT want to be like my mother!" so they do the opposite and behave well ^_^  (joking! Only mostly-grown kids will recognize "mom's behaving like spoiled brat. How embarrassing. Note to self: don't do that")

Thanks for the replies and recommendations! I have read some of the Sears' AP books. I also am reading a book by Aletha Solter, called Helping Young Children Flourish, which has a section on sexism (thanks for bringing that up, Mackenzie, it really is an important consideration). Lisa Rand, you brought up unschooling and I am finding that Quaker values are influencing my search for an education system for my daughter... for me personally, it has drawn me to the Montessori system, and I'm exploring the possibility of starting a Montessori co-op where I live (because there are no Montessori schools for hundreds of miles, even if I could afford a private one). Unschooling definitely makes sense in a Quaker context. Emma Woolliams, I agree, parenting is the hardest thing I've ever done! Certainly the most serious commitment I've ever made. And how to teach faith is a big question... I think they begin to pick much of it up through osmosis, at least the parts that speak loudest. I think what is most important in our faith to us, we have no trouble sharing through our lifestyle and actions, or casual conversation.

Pacifism is very difficult to explain, especially when some of the playmates come from non-pacifist families. There are a few little boys who taught my daughter about guns and swords, and explaining to her that we don't do that without saying anything that she couldn't fully process and yet could potentially say back to offend the parents... is difficult, and it's a delicate situation. I don't know why so many parents resort to warfare-play to satisfy the action/adventure impulses in their children, especially their sons. Recently I was reading about the 1925 "Great Race of Mercy", on which the children's film 'Balto' was based, and I thought that it had all of the elements that attract children to war-play... danger, adventure, challenge, and heroism. So there are definitely pacifist scenarios that could be adapted for action/adventure play without compromising on the attractive aspects of pretend violence and warfare. Anyway, I am slowly trying to instill non-violent values in my daughter. Simplicity is a little more difficult... she already wants a pink car and a castle, and I can't say those are really terrible things to have... if used for the right purpose... but I think it's obvious that she's been exposed to materialism, and that's mostly the fault of her parents.

 

Lisa mentioned many of the books I turn to. I too wanted some quakerly books but didn't find a lot to turn to. I did find one that called to me while at a retreat but I failed to note the name. I find respectful patenting to be the most logical. I also really like P.E.T.: Parent Effectiveness Training and feel it is the best at incorporating faith into everyday learning lessons as well. Parenting is hard and I am finding daily prayer to be one is the strongest tool at my disposal as I parent my toddlers and teen. 

Lauren Smith said:

Thanks for the replies and recommendations! I have read some of the Sears' AP books. I also am reading a book by Aletha Solter, called Helping Young Children Flourish, which has a section on sexism (thanks for bringing that up, Mackenzie, it really is an important consideration). Lisa Rand, you brought up unschooling and I am finding that Quaker values are influencing my search for an education system for my daughter... for me personally, it has drawn me to the Montessori system, and I'm exploring the possibility of starting a Montessori co-op where I live (because there are no Montessori schools for hundreds of miles, even if I could afford a private one). Unschooling definitely makes sense in a Quaker context. Emma Woolliams, I agree, parenting is the hardest thing I've ever done! Certainly the most serious commitment I've ever made. And how to teach faith is a big question... I think they begin to pick much of it up through osmosis, at least the parts that speak loudest. I think what is most important in our faith to us, we have no trouble sharing through our lifestyle and actions, or casual conversation.

Pacifism is very difficult to explain, especially when some of the playmates come from non-pacifist families. There are a few little boys who taught my daughter about guns and swords, and explaining to her that we don't do that without saying anything that she couldn't fully process and yet could potentially say back to offend the parents... is difficult, and it's a delicate situation. I don't know why so many parents resort to warfare-play to satisfy the action/adventure impulses in their children, especially their sons. Recently I was reading about the 1925 "Great Race of Mercy", on which the children's film 'Balto' was based, and I thought that it had all of the elements that attract children to war-play... danger, adventure, challenge, and heroism. So there are definitely pacifist scenarios that could be adapted for action/adventure play without compromising on the attractive aspects of pretend violence and warfare. Anyway, I am slowly trying to instill non-violent values in my daughter. Simplicity is a little more difficult... she already wants a pink car and a castle, and I can't say those are really terrible things to have... if used for the right purpose... but I think it's obvious that she's been exposed to materialism, and that's mostly the fault of her parents.

 

I see I may be preaching to the choir with this one... but I've found an excellent talk on parenting practices by Dr. Gabor Mate (with erratic amplification, sorry!)

which seems to also tie into other discussions here re punitive 'moralities of order'-- why they have their psychological appeal, & where they fall short.

Why & whence the widespread modern fears of that we're 'losing control,' not just of our kids, but of the whole situation of human life?-- and why do I find so many Quakers, when it isn't our own kids at stake, so readily primed to frame the discussions in ways that frame the victims?

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