I have come to realize my earlier post about how hard unschooling can be at times didn't explain what was so difficult.
So, what exactly is so hard about what we're trying to do? It's the peaceful parenting part. For us, unschooling and peaceful parenting go hand-in-hand. We couldn't have one without the other. We have made a commitment to treat the boys with respect, as equals. To trust them to be the masters of their own lives. To trust that only they know what is best for them and to support them in every way we can.
We are trying to teach the boys about self-ownership and liberty. We want them to be free thinking individuals. We want them to question things and find answers for themselves. We don't want them to be bullied or put down or take anyone's crap. We want them to be confident in themselves and trust their gut. How do we try to instill these qualities in them?
First, we try to teach them they own their own bodies. No one else has a right to touch them, push them, hit them, poke them, physically force them to do something, etc. And we teach them to respect other people's bodies in the same way. We hope that by empowering them and allowing them to feel comfortable speaking up about what they want to do with their bodies now, with us, they will feel confident speaking up and defending themselves if they were ever in an inappropriate situation with other people (God forbid). And we hope in the future they will not allow themselves to be part of an abusive relationship.
We try to teach the same respect for people's property. We ask permission to use other people's things. We respect their right to say, "No". We don't grab objects out of someone's hand (you can see how this comes up a LOT with siblings). We don't make them share. I know I have things I don't want the boys messing with, and I have to respect they have things they feel about the same way. We try not to pull the "I bought that for you so it's mine" card. As parents it's our responsibility to provide them with things, and once its given it's no longer our property, but theirs.
The next goal is the hardest for us to adjust to. We try to parent without punishment or reward, without trying to control them. The three manipulative actions we try to avoid are physical force, fear, and coercion. Instead we try to reason with them. If we can't effectively communicate a good reason to do/not do something what does that mean? I find it usually means we need to rethink our want for them to do/not do it in the first place.
Please understand, these are our goals, certainly not our reality. Believe me, there are countless times every week when I want to grab Josh by the arm and MAKE him go to bed. Or when I get so frustrated I want to yell, "because I'm your mother and I said so!". Or when I want to bribe the boys with treats, or manipulate them with guilt. There are plenty of times when I still do these things, but when I do I recognize that it wasn't the best choice. I apologize and ask forgiveness, and ask for help to avoid it in the future. I grit my teeth every time Josh points out when I break "the rules", because I know he's right.
It is hard to hold yourself to the standards you set for your children. Really, really hard.
When I need a reminder to treat the boys with respect, as equals, I quote Horton from Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who. "A person's a person, after all. A person's a person, no matter how small."