Parenting Backward?

Backward Parenting?

I’m a teacher, by trade. I taught in public school for 6 years (more if you count the few years of subbing). The thing about teaching is this-it’s exhausting. Summers off? 7 hour work days? Snow days? Holidays? Weekends? Pshhh. A mere carrot dangling to trick me into thinking it was a good idea. Teaching is all consuming-IF you want to do it right (and believe me, lots of teachers don’t).

And teaching is taxing. Because just when you think you’ve got it right, someone is there to tell you you’ve got it all wrong. Just when you think you’ve mastered the latest, newest, best way of doing it right, it’s replaced by the next latest, newest best way of doing it right. And so it was with a thing called UBD and then a thing called LFS (education world does one thing great-acronyms). In a nutshell, they mean this:

  1. Determine what you want the outcome to be
  2. Decide how you’ll know you’ve reached the outcome
  3. Plan all the tiny parts that will get you to the outcome

They (the know all’s that sue one another over who had the idea first) call it “backward design”. And the not so detailed explanation is this:

  1. Figure out what you want the kids to learn, the big ideas
  2. Then figure out how you will know they know the big ideas
  3. Then, finally, write and implement the activities, lessons, etc. to get the kids to learn the big ideas

Easy enough, right? Well, that’s a different post.

I have determined, through nothing more than my own experiences and folly, that backward design doesn’t really work for teaching any better than anything else that was supposed to work. But backward design just might be a great way of looking at parenting.


When you become a parent, you’re tricked into thinking the hard stuff comes first. You’re new at parenting with this totally, helpless bundle of joy, both of you just trying to survive, right? And then, over time, it get’s easier, until *POOF* they turn 18, go off to college and you can relax and marvel at your handy work. It’s a steady, upward hill challenge until they become self-sufficient somewhere in the early teens, and then you coast as they mature into adulthood. It’s like gradually filling up a bucket of water or gradually letting out a leash until they no longer need leashed. That’s what they (whoever “they” are) tries to make you believe.

They’ve got it backward. I think it looks more like a wild ride of ups and downs, twists and turns, level areas and then one big, giant hill at the end (teenagehood), in which (hopefully), you climb up with incredible exertion, one last push of all your energy, and enjoy the down hill decent with your arms up and a big smile on your face. Such is real parenting.

It’s backward parenting!

What is it? It’s about taking stock, when you become a parent, on what it is you want and need from that little bundle. What do you imagine the end to look like? What do you want from parenting? What do you want from your children? And then creating a path (like a 20 year path) to getting there. Maybe modifying it along the way, but sticking to its essence in every decision you make. Never giving up, never letting your guard down. EVER.

What if we put as much (or more) energy into parenting when they are 10, 15 and 20 as we did when we first brought them home?

What if we stopped worrying so much about breast feeding or formula, Nuk or no nuk, Potty training at the right time, Organic baby food recipes, etc. and started being more deliberate about the real stuff that lies ahead? TEENAGEHOOD! It’s the real “make or break” in parenting, folks! And we ought to be planning for it when they are babies!

  • Can you stay at home with them even for a few years? Then do it when they are teens. Work when they are babies!
  • Do you want them to have a moral code? Then figure out what that looks like and start working on it when they first learn how to walk and talk!
  • Do you want them to have a network of responsible adults in their lives, whom they can turn to in an emergency? Then forge those relationships when they are little! And foster them over time!
  • Do you want them to understand the value of money, education, sports, integrity, honesty, hard work, or any other value you deem important? Then ditch the here-and-now behavior charts and time spent on scrapbooking their every move, and start a long term plan for instilling those values in them BEFORE they actually need to use them!

Teenagehood is NOT about your teen forming his/her identity, all by him/herself.  It’s about knowing what that identity already is supposed to be (because you helped create it over time) and allowing them to pursue it with tools you already established for them since they were little.

We need, no we must, do parenting better. We cannot continue to buy into the hype that parenting is tough at first, and then gets easier. NO! Parenting is ALWAYS tough. It’s always new. It’s always crazy. It takes hard work, focus and an end in mind, ALWAYS. It is not about controlling your kids- wait, maybe it is. And that’s not a bad thing. Because if you don’t control them, I guarantee you someone else will (media, school, teachers, other parents…and their closest friends-the horror!).

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

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