My son came home the other day with much excitement saying he received a score of 100 on his recent social studies test. I found myself get excited, too. Even though I was excited about his grade, I think what made me most excited was the maturity I see that helped him get that grade. It stems from something I call context parenting. I’m going to take a moment to distinguish context parenting and contact parenting.
When I use this phrase “contact parenting” what I am referring to is not just a highly involved parent, but also the kind of parent that knows every detail about their child’s life, including all the ins and outs of their school agenda, friends, internet usage, direct-tracking gps location, etc. It’s a bit like contact sports. Think in your face parenting. Most of us parents have some degree of contact parenting threaded in our parenting approach. Then others of us embody contact parenting in all things. Contact parenting is a bit like being suffocated by an octopus. Too many tentacles can close out our child’s sense of agency, responsibility, and creativity. Think helicopter parenting, with a twist of being more in your face. I think helicopter parenting though at least creates the illusion of some freedom. Full contact parenting has one goal – to rule the family world.
This style of parenting is all about environment. It has an air of Montessori to it. No worries if you are not familiar with Montessori. It’s all about the child and the parent provides appropriate environments for discovery. This kind of parent may know generally the homework assignments and agenda of their kiddos, but they don’t get enmeshed in the details. They are more concerned about the bigger picture of their human development than whether they’ve checked every box off the agenda list because they know one will follow the other.
I’m much more of a context parent. I don’t know all the ins and outs of my son’s homework agenda nor do I know every website he visits. When he was younger I used to look over his agenda for the day, but now that he’s in middle school I don’t do that anymore. I inquire about his day, generally ask about homework, and then I leave the rest up to him. Work hard, play hard. I love that mantra and lead with it ferociously.
I certainly put a lot of work into shaping his environment, giving him many exceptional opportunities to explore and discover. The most important ingredient I can teach him in addition to shaping his environment is heart.
Context parenting requires a lot of heart and trusting the process. Contact parenting requires a lot of fear and control. As parents, I get that we have to adopt an in-your-face philosophy sometimes. Yet, for truly healthy human development for our kiddos and the healthy relationships we desire to develop with them, context parenting is key. Our environment is ultimately a big factor in shaping who we are.
Which Side of the Fence?
We will have elements of both, of course. But some of us can get too entrenched in the kind of parenting that lead us to an implosion caused by suffocation. What can drive us from one side of the fence to the desired other? That is quite a process, but for now, the key is to act from your heart with your mind as your collaborator.
The grades, the triumphs, the failures, the lost homework (or not), whether you check the agenda or not, and I could go on, will work it’s way out as we live the process of life together. Contact parenting tends to squeeze the life out of us and our environments. When we are squeezed, we suffocate and dwindle.
Context parenting provides safe boundaries to explore, succeed, and fail with love, connection, and freedom as tenets. This creates the kind of soil where our kids and our relationships with them soar giving everyone the power to be – exactly who they are – unedited and full of life.
Om Shanti Om ~ Athea Davis