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Establish boundaries in all situations

POSTED: July 17, 2009 1:19 p.m.

Q: You’ve often said that parents should not be "involved" with their children, but rather should establish a clear boundary in the parent-child relationship. I agree in principle, but as a homeschooling mom, I have no choice but to be highly involved with my kids. Can you help me resolve this conflict?

A: In relationships, boundaries are essential to respect. One of the stumbling blocks in contemporary parenting culture is the general lack of a clear boundary between parent and child. The symptoms include the so-called "family bed," married couples who are more involved with their children than they are with one another (in terms of attention paid to, time spent with, interest shown in, and so on), and families that are organized around children’s activities. The underlying problem is that today’s parents are more concerned about being liked than respected by their kids.

This modern social fashion is by no means confined to the parent-child relationship. The need to be liked by children has infected the teaching profession (in some school systems, for example, students actually rate teachers on "likeability"), and manifests itself more generally in such imprudent things as adults wanting children — even very young children — to call them by their first names.

But I’m beginning to digress. To your question, homeschooling does not, should not, require a high level of involvement between parent and child. The best home-school curricula facilitate a considerable amount of independence on the part of the student and foster a clear boundary between parent-as-teacher and child-as-student. The recognition is implicit that effective teaching requires just such a boundary.

The most effective homeschooling generally takes place in the context of a collaborative effort on the part of two or more homeschooling parents, each of whom accepts certain teaching responsibilities, and the children in question are usually involved in extracurricular activities (e.g., sports, band, clubs) through the local public school system. The notion that the "isolation" of homeschooling is antithetical with learning to deal with real life is belied by the consistent finding that kids who’ve been homeschooled score as well or better than their peers on measures of social adjustment.

Parents often ask me what I think about homeschooling, to which I reply, "For whom?" In other words, homeschooling is by no means a one-size-fits-all option. It should not be embarked upon without considerable forethought, investigation, and conversation with other homeschooling parents. Some parents are suited to it; others are not. In any case, selecting an appropriate curriculum is key to the overall success of the endeavor. I strongly recommend against homeschooling for a parent who is experiencing significant discipline problems with the child or children in question.

Any parent interested in learning more about homeschooling can begin by contacting their local or state home-school association. Also, consider attending a national home-school conference. In the final analysis, the best resource for a homeschooling parent is other homeschooling parents.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site at www.rosemond.com.

 

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