The first quote that inspired my Montessori journey is one that made me re-evaluate how I practice respect toward my children. “Children who are treated with respect and who are encouraged to try new skills learn more readily to do things for themselves,” says author Tim Seldin in “How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way.” He continues, “Montessori taught that a child who feels respected and competent will develop a greater level of emotional well-being than a child who is simply loved and doted upon.”
And so it began. That paragraph inspired me to reconsider my parenting relationship, most notably deepening my understanding of respect. I thought I was respectful of my babies because of my overwhelming love for them, but I now know that loving our babies is different than respecting them. To respect them, we must do more than love. We must honor them as individuals. We do that in many, many ways.
How much do you share online?
One of those ways, I’m learning, is with social media. I am a storyteller not just by profession but at my core. It’s always been what I do; so joining in on “sharenting” felt more natural to me than not. “Sharenting” is the modern-term coined for when we as parents persistently and openly publicize our children’s lives online.
I have been posting about my children since approximately two hours after they were born, so whether or not I was ready for the permanency of this decision, I began their individual online brands. Their baby pictures and updates are nestled in easily searchable archives, leaving behind pieces of their private lives that will have some level of influence, yet to be determined, on their later lives.
I’ve always approached it with a lens of safety by way of keeping my social circle intimate, privacy settings secured, and additionally requesting that our loved ones seek permission before posting in their circles. But I’m realizing that sharing our children in this detailed, shareable way is much more than a safety consideration. While it’s undoubtedly rooted in our overwhelming love and adoration for our children, is it respectful to do this when they are intending to share these moments with us?
I am out of the baby days. No longer am I trying to capture the adorable monthly updates signature to those fleeting first 12 months. Instead, I’ve got an animated preschooler and an adventurous toddler, still wanting to capture their impressive strides. Yet, the more strides they take, the more I realize that treating them as individuals means I should not be the lead voice in telling their stories.
Ask before posting
The daily intricacies of their lives belong to them, and just because technology makes it easier to broadcast these moments doesn’t mean I should. Therefore, I am updating our family’s social media policy to be, essentially, child-led.
“Can I share this funny video of you with our friends and family?” I asked my son for the first time this week, following a hilarious rendition he sang of “Kookaburra.” It was adorable, but you will have to take my word for it.
“No. I don’t like that,” he responded as his cheeks grew a couple shades red. Granted, he wanted to watch it again and again, but for himself. No one else.
Wow. What a respectful change I made. It felt so good to actively practice the important lesson of consent with my impressionable three-year-old, but it also felt painfully humbling as I wondered how many other times I might have posted something he didn’t want others to see.
Do I regret posting from birth? No. To be fair, I think there is a practical middle ground to be found with social media and parenting. The gesture of documenting milestones and memorable family moments is a beautiful gift. I firmly believe that the art of storytelling generally brings way more good than bad. One of my most favorite things as a teenager was going back through family photo albums and finding baby pictures of myself and my siblings. There is something so special and grounding for us to have those sentimental visual keys to our past. If anything, I sometimes wish I had more tangibles to look back on. I am confident that what I have documented thus far of my children will be later appreciated.
Tangible photos matter, too!
I don’t think we should fear social media use, but we do need to be wary of over-stepping our roles. Social media storytelling is incomparable to Grandma’s annual family photo album that sits on a bookshelf. While it is still our role to capture and pass down beautiful moments of their childhoods, it is not our role to publish it. We need to find a way to keep it on the book shelf, so to speak, so that our children maintain control of their identity, and furthermore, so that they grow up valuing the gesture of consent.
When I flip roles, I can’t imagine how invasive it would feel to have my son taking pictures and videos of me and then never knowing who he was sharing it with and when. If I would not feel respected and secure in somebody following me around like that, then I should not be normalizing that to my children.
Ask permission – both before you hit record, and before you jump to sharing it. We have the honor of witnessing our children grow up and become the beautiful individuals they are destined to be. This is not a journey we are entitled to, it is a privilege. Our children may be our whole lives, but their lives belong to them. We owe them that respectful boundary, and we owe it to them from birth.
About the Author
Jenna Wawrzyniec is a writer and Montessori-inspired mother of two children under the age of four. Her two dogs also count as children. Read more of her work at itslittlebird.com.
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