Lately, I’ve been tossing around the idea of Existential Parenting—that is, parenting from an existential philosophical base that, ideally, will instill a sense of existentialism in children as they grow. It is my belief that children who are raised in such a way will be better prepared for the challenges and joys of living as they are taught from an early age what to expect and how to navigate those waters.
One essential aspect of this philosophy is responsibility. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you’ll know how essential responsibility is to my worldview because I believe it is the bedrock of a sound character. When one assumes responsibility for his or her own life, there is no room for excuses, blame, or victimization, no matter what the circumstances.
Parents are saddled with the enormous task of shaping young minds into well-rounded adults. We have a 24 hour, 7 days a week on the job supervisor in the form of a child who is learning from our words but mostly by our actions. They learn how to cope with anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, joy, happiness and all that life brings by watching us live it. If that sounds like an enormous job, well, it is. Make no mistake that parenting is one of the most challenging things in this life, but also one of the most rewarding.
As a parent, we are tasked with setting aside our own desires for the best interest of our children. To be clear, I’m not saying we become self-sacrificing martyrs because as I was recently reminded, life doesn’t stop when parenting begins. In fact, one of the best things to model for your children is self-care and meeting your own needs by making healthy choices.
Instilling a sense of responsibility in children comes in many ways such as creating schedules, giving reasonable chores, and having expectations. Responsibility is also taught by how behavior is managed—my children know that they are the “boss” of their own attitudes, actions and behaviors, and they are given the freedom to make their own decisions in many things. Blame and fault are not words used in our home, but rather choice and responsibility. We all own up when we make bad decisions, hurt someone’s feelings, or make a mistake, but we also keep it in perspective. Usually, a small mishap is addressed with our family motto—It’s no big deal.
Although there is insufficient data to determine whether this parenting philosophy actually works, I can’t imagine how it could NOT work. I am proposing raising children who know how to make their own decisions (good or bad) and can bear the weight of the consequences of those decisions—children who know that they are the creator of their lives and responsible for their feelings, reactions, and ways of being, and who are not afraid to say YES to life—children who will someday, all too soon, become adults who will carry those same characteristics into their adulthood. These children will someday become our voters, politicians, rally starters, change agents, wave makers, professors, therapists, doctors, and leaders. What better foundation is there to build on than personal responsibility?
— Lisa Vallejos