The new parenting paradigm

Healing yourself, loving the world

I’m reading a fascinating history of parenting called Parenting for A Peaceful World by Robin Grille, available at the great site The author describes the evolution of parenting over time in cultures around the world.

The history of parenting is rather brutal, with children once considered non-entities that could be discarded, killed, and used at the parent’s whim. He takes us through the different modes of parenting and shows us where we are today.

He sees our collective approach to parenting as evolving and developing, which is good news indeed. He also sees how we collectively parent as the leading force that shapes how we are as a country, whether we perpetrate violence or encourage peace. It’s a fascinating read, I don’t normally enjoy social-history books, but this caught my attention.

We collectively are in a shift from the socializing mode of parenting to the helping mode of parenting. The socializing mode of parenting tends to see children as good or bad and the goal is to make them productive members of society (which one of the original purposes of compulsory schooling in the U.S.). The parent is concerned with raising a child that fits in and follows the rules and sees herself judged by how well her children do. In the helping mode, the parents are concerned with what the child needs developmentally and recognizes that this will include periods of altruism as well as selfishness. In the socializing mode, selfishness would be seen as a sign that the child is “bad”.

(It’s easy to see how homeschooling parents include both socializing mode and helping mode parents.)

Reading this book (I’m not done yet), I was struck by several points that were very encouraging to me …. I feel less guilty about how I parent and appreciate the incredible journey we are on.

  1. The myth of the perfect parent, warm and nurturing, is just that, a myth. Parents are products of their culture and humans have the potential to be the most brutal of the animal kingdom or the most loving. But being human is not a guarantee of parenting well.
  2.  Parents need community and social support to be effective. We are so fortunate to have the online world to serve that need when we can’t fully find it in person. Think of all the amazing moms and dads who connect virtually to encourage and support each other as we shift to this helping mode.
  3.  Parenting evolves. So it’s perfectly okay that what our parents did doesn’t work for us as parents.
  4.  Parenting truly shapes the world. As we treat children with respect and love and model being a democracy, we bring democracy to the larger world. And if we model violence and control and fear, we’ll bring the same.

I imagine if you are reading this, you are drawn to the helping mode of parenting. Thank you. I am so glad to be in community with you.

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Deborah Donndelinger

Deborah Donndelinger

I'm writing from Maryland, but my heart goes out all over the world. I'm cheering you on as you tackle the hard stuff, embrace the easy, and show up to help others.