I do not have children myself.
But, as a teacher, I do come into contact with a plethora of them, and I think we can all agree that many of our societal problems would go away if we just required better parenting (wouldn’t it be a dream that every parent go through a Parenting 101 Course prior to the arrival of their sweet little cherub, and in that course, parents learned that not holding their child enough, talking about how horrible the other parent is in front of the child, and posting too many pictures on social media may cause that child to have some inept behaviors and attitudes? Think of all the societal ills we could solve–littering, traffic accidents, abuse and neglect).
We revolutionized teaching when we began ‘backwards design planning’; this means that, rather than pick daily activities that seem “fun”, I think about the end product, and I build my lessons backwards in order to get to that final product. For example, if I want my students to write a flawless sentence, then I think about all the skills required to write that sentence: spelling, knowledge of subjects and verbs, punctuation. And, I design my lessons to target each of those skills separately, so that in the end, my students produce the final product: a complete sentence.
So, why not do the same thing with raising our children? (the end goal here, of course, being a completed adult who can function properly in the world).
When we say, “I want a baby”, I think we sometimes miss the fact that someday, that baby WILL grow into a child, and a teenager, and eventually, in its most advanced form, an adult, and instead, we think about how fun it will be to take the baby hiking and post pictures at the top of a 14-er, or how cute it would be to dress the baby up in a bow and matching tutu and pose it in a field of flowers, or how fulfilling it will be to look back on our Facebook feed to see all those “candid” pictures of our baby gazing lovingly up at us (as Michael refers to it, as an InstaGram Prop). To liken this to teaching, when we think of our baby as this InstaGram Prop–we treat our baby like this daily lesson plan–we do whatever is “fun” and “entertaining” for the day, and we neglect to consider where this “fun” and “entertaining” activity (or InstaGram post) will foster in our baby later on.
I am sometimes afraid of what kind of adults my generation is going to produce. Like, we are so preoccupied with posting pictures in matching outfits and having these InstaGram Props (aka babies) that I do not think we always consider how snapping all of these cute and fun and hipster-ish pictures will impact the child. When I walk around my yard with my phone and tell my InstaGram Prop, “Do something cute so I can post it to my story!”, will this encourage my child to want to show off when the camera is out, and to feel insignificant when the camera is away? When I strap my InstaGram prop onto my back and hike up a 14er while a lightning storm ensues so that we can snap a picture at the top, will this teach my child that gaining ‘likes’ on a post are more important than their physical health and safety? When I spend all this money on my InstaGram prop so that we can have matching outfits and matching hairstyles and matching hair, will this enforce materialistic and vain behaviors in my child?
I often wonder how many of us want to have a child, not because we hope to pro-create in order to bring goodness into the world, but simply because we think it would be cute to have something to take a picture with. And, I wonder what would happen if we re-focus our desires to wanting this InstaGram prop–err, I mean “baby”–towards cultivating a “human”, perhaps we might re-think some of those pictures we take.
For example, if I am backwards designing my to-be-adult, then something I might want to teach is the skill of budgeting. Money, for most of us, is not unlimited, and in our adult lives, even though we work jobs, we probably are not able to afford EVERYTHING we want, so we must learn to budget. Now, when I am just thinking about raising the in-the-moment InstaGram prop, I might buy everything off the shelf that he/she says, “I want!” (and then, of course, use it to take pictures with/of later). However, when I am thinking about raising a potential-adult, then I might say, “Buying everything he/she wants will build a dysfunctional spending habit later on; so instead of buying everything he/she wants, even though he/she may scream, throw a fit, and/or a tantrum, I will say he/she can have ONE item from the dollar section”, and I may take he/she through a set of reasoning questions to rationalize the purchase: is it close to something you already have? how often do you plan to use it? will you share with your sibling? The act here is not simply just to fulfill an activity (and an InstaGram picture), but rather, a lifelong skill.
Or, perhaps I want to teach my to-be-adult the importance of self worth (right, when he/she becomes a teenager, how many emotional breakdowns can we save if he/she just knows they are loved and worthy?). When I am just thinking bout raising the in-the-moment InstaGram Prop to have self-worth, I may create an individual account for he/she and make it a goal to post one picture a day (and write captions that encourage other people to post value-ridden comments back). Then, I turn to my InstaGram prop and say, “You got 150 likes today! and Huggies wants you to enter into the cutest kid contest!” and give he/she a kiss for this accomplishment. This, inherently, teaches the InstaGram Prop–err, I mean kid–that validation comes from outside sources. However, when I am thinking about raising a potential-adult (to which InstaGram and SnapChat may no longer exist in he/she’s lifetime), instead of posting a bunch of pictures, I may encourage my child to seek self-worth in other ways–love and logic, positive reinforcement, meditation, Sources of Strength, anti-bullying, etc. (and actually, not post those embarrassing pictures that my to-be-adult will look back in 20 years from now and question their whole upbringing).
Instead of wanting an InstaGram Prop–err, I mean a baby–we should remember that we are raising a to-be-adult, and the things we do now will impact that to-be adult later on.