Parenting As A Living System
What does it mean to approach parenting as “a living system?” Aren’t all moms and dads alive? Aren’t children living? Yes, of course. “Parenting as a living system,” isn’t a description of the obvious; rather it’s a new understanding of parenting from a “living systems” dynamic. This new understanding radically alters our conception and implementation of family support methodologies, enabling professionals to skillfully and realistically meet the needs of parents. Parents coached and supported from a living systems perspective find solace, relief, and inspiration in this new awareness of self as a living dynamic being. Instead of treating themselves like robots with unrealistic expectations, they come to appreciate their humanness in profound ways, treating themselves with greater compassion and respect. Embracing their human limitations paradoxically inspires moms and dads to pursue greater possibilities, enhancing the quality of their daily living. Seen and regarded as dynamic, generative beings, parents appreciate the growth process in themselves and in their children in new and exciting ways. The mysteries of creation open up multiple views of children as unique, living beings inherently creative and talented by virtue of their personhood. Life with children becomes more adventurous than arduous as parents redirect their energies to orchestrate growth rather than impose it.
We are living in a time when the underlying paradigm for helping people is still largely a mechanistic one. Schools that rely heavily on tests to measure student progress are good examples of how easily it is to forget about the real needs of human children and focus too much attention on impersonal tests. These tests form the basis for funding sources in city and suburban school districts across the country—“good” schools have high test scores and “bad” schools have low test scores. Quantitative information determines important decisions, while qualitative information is left out of the equation. Do these tests measure the lights in the children’s eyes when they are learning? Do they measure the intensity of the arm waving to be called on to answer a question? Do they tell us who had breakfast the morning of the test and who didn’t? Will the tests tell us whose parents fought the night before and whose didn’t or other critical considerations for doing well in school? No. Measurement is a poor growth indicator, tempting us to pay attention to the trivial. If we aren’t vigilant we can get lost, forgetting the important questions altogether.
In Leadership and the New Science, Margaret Wheatley gives us food for thought: “It is important to stay aware to the realization that no form of measurement is neutral,” she encourages. “Every act of measurement loses more information than it gains. So how can we ensure that we obtain sound information to make intelligent decisions? How can we know what is the right information to look for? How can we remain open to the information we lost when we went looking for the information we got?” (Wheatley, p. 65)
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