Friday, July 10, 2009

When Principles Collide

As an unschooling parent, I strive to live my life by principle as opposed to rules. I raise my kids to be the same way. It is agreed by many philosophers and social theorists that the highest level of ethical development is having a clearly developed set of personal principles that are logical, univeral, and consistent that one makes one's decisions based on.

Broad principles such as human life is more valuable than property may seem obvious, but when they filter down to every day decisions it can be anything but simple!

My thoughts today have to do with when one's child is making decisions based on a principle that one disagrees with. From an unschooling point of view, what is the right thing to do when principles collide? This can be a tricky situation, and I believe that the proper response is going to vary based on the child. This happened today, and I thought I would evaluate my behavior based on my principles without giving details that might violate my child's privacy.

First, I stood up for my principles. I have a principle that influences my life that says that I need to respond when someone does something that I feel is wrong. I do have levels of response. If it is something that I do not feel would be helped in any way by my direct involvement, I often respond with a general blog post. I am not responding to the person whose morals I disagree with directly, but I am putting my ideas out there in the hope that I might make someone think outside the box. If I do think that I could help directly, I will usually plant seeds. Most people do not respond to direct conflict, so I will very casually plant ideas in someones head so that they might think differently the next time. The third response is actually my rarest. If I am close to someone, and I know that they value my opinion, I will share my principle directly. My children fall into this category, so I did share my opinion. Because the principle being violated was one that I feel strongly about, I was honest and told her that I thought that she was wrong, and I told her exactly why. Note, there are others who might agree with her, but the issue was one that I felt strongly about, and I needed to know that she knew how I felt and why.

Secondly, I supported her. She was upset by this conflict of our views, so I held her and let her cry and did not express anything else that could be contrued as judgement. This was upholding my principle to support my children no matter what even if they disagree with me. Then I gave her time alone which I knew she wanted. This supported the principle of treating people as individuals and respecting their individual needs. At this point, being human, I was doubting my behavior. Maybe I should have said nothing. Maybe I should have planted seeds...

I thought that I needed to touch bases with my child and see how she was feeling and tell her once again that she has my support, and that I realize that people see things differently and that I will still love her even if this is something that we disagree on. I also talked a bit with her about why she may have the opinions and values that she does in a non-negative or threatening manner. The principle involved here was that it is important to have a close relationship with one's kids.

Now there is one more thing. I am ashamed to say that I didn't really listen to my daughter. Not 100%. So...the principle of listening and trying to understand others' points of view is coming into play...I am going to talk to her some more right now!

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