Praxis: Liberation Parenting

While in the process of developing a workshop for the Rethinking Education Conference held in Dallas, Texas each labor weekend. I had been thinking about my parenting process and what it meant to me, as well as re-reading Paulo Freire’s work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I came upon the idea of “Liberation Parenting” as my workshop title because it expands Freire’s work beyond educational settings to the parent-child relationship.

Freire writes, “Liberation is praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it. Those truly committed to the cause of liberation can accept neither the mechanistic concept of consciousness as an empty vessel to be filled, nor the use of banking methods of domination (propaganda, slogans – deposits) in the name of liberation.” (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p. 79)

Liberatory parenting is also praxis. It requires action and reflection in order for us to leave behind our dominant socialization to develop authentic and respectful relationships with the children in our lives. For me, discomfort and conflict are signs that I am not engaging in liberatory parenting.

At the time I write this, I had been struggling in my relationship with the youngest child in my life. I have written about the oldest quite often, as she has been my teacher in becoming a more reflective parent. She was the first to help expose the hypocrisy of my thinking and actions as a parent. Much of this awakening process became more prominent around the time the youngest was born.

Now that the youngest was becoming more verbal while experiencing the natural limitations of being in a 3-year old body and being part of family unit that includes an older sibling, I felt more conflict in our relationship. I found myself in intense struggles (internally and externally) with the way in which he has been expressing his true self.

In many ways, I felt as though my learning process was starting all over again. In effect, it felt like I was at the bottom of the spiral working my way through the same issues (yes, MY issues) that I faced with the oldest. Although it is an exaggeration to say that I was at the bottom of the spiral, it did feel as though I was looking at the same issues within myself, hopefully from a different point further up the spiral.

What I found over that month was that I was not engaged in the praxis of liberation. Instead, I was acting (or reacting) without reflection. I decided to spend more serious time reflecting upon my actions, in particular those that created discomfort for me and/or the youngest.

I had fallen into autopilot, acting and reacting, and as a consequence, frustrated at the outcomes. Without taking the time to reflect and come back to the relationship with new perspectives and actions, all I was doing was recreating the powerlessness and marginalization for him that is the hallmark of childhood oppression.

I am SO much a work in progress. Each day brings opportunities for me to challenge myself to overcome my early learnings and socialization. I feel grateful that both both children are strong-willed enough to call me out in their own ways to ensure I stay true to my values and principles and continue to practice becoming a liberatory parent.

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