Sunday, August 07, 2011

Positive Deviant

Last year Nix was blessed with a very unusual science teacher. Mr. Piper was a college professor doing a study on how children transition between grades. In essence, teaching middle school is field work for him. He is a fantastic teacher. He lets the kids do cool science experiments, encourages independent studies on the topics they enjoy, and has an obvious love of the subject, which is infectious. This week, as we are getting ready to start 7th grade, I got an unexpected email from him. He has spent the summer studying the standardized test results of his classes and comparing them to their 5th grade scores. Generally, student's scores decline between 5th and 6th, however my daughter, as well as several others, saw an increase. He could find no obvious pattern to the students who did well, so he emailed the parents and asked for our insight. In the email he referred to this group as "positive deviants". I adore that phrasing!
Never have I heard such a great term to describe my parenting style. Last year, before school started, I broke the news to my daughter that I was raising her to be different in good ways. I told her that because of our lifestyle she would probably never be one of the popular girls in school. Then I proceeded to tell her why this was good news. It isn't that don't want her to be popular, it is that I don't want her to do the things that make most kids her age popular.
I'm never going to buy her jeans at the cool stores because they cost too much for what they are, some of the companies send out very bad messages for teens, and I honestly can not walk into some of those places because of the smell (I'm talking to you, Abercrombie). I asked her, which would you rather have, cool jeans or a college fund? If she makes it all the way through to high school without begging for status symbol clothing, I'm giving serious thought to buying her stock in a company like Gap as a reward. Then when anyone asks her why she doesn't buy from them she can smile and say, "I don't have to. I owe part of the company instead. Thanks for making me money!"
This might seem like an extreme thing to do, but I told her she couldn't wear a peace symbol until she could tell me where it originated and that she agreed with the philosophy behind it. I want her to understand that we don't blindly follow the crowd. "Everybody is doing it" will not be an excuse in my house. If you present a well reasoned argument, then we will talk about it.
Safety is a big concern for me. I am that overprotective paranoid mom and I'm unapologetic for it. You will not see my kids hanging out unsupervised at the mall. Some of that has to do with the number of kids I see there smoking, cussing, and dressing like...well, you know, but part of it is that we have had 3 serial killers roll through our town in the 10 years we have been here. Not to mention the number of people who are registered sex offenders. Our 12 and 13 year old girls are walking around in the shortest possible shorts and low cut shirts because it is cool and they "look cute". They look real cute to the creepy guy sitting in the bookstore pretending to read. In my book it isn't any better than the mothers who doll up their babies and stick them in beauty pagents. It is harsh, but you have got to consider it.
I remember 7th grade as being when we all expanded our vocabularies to include swearing and being vulgar. I like to think I skipped most of that phase. Not that I didn't ever cuss, it was just rare and not without meaning. Most of the time the level of swearing you hear from young teenagers is an indication of a limited vocabulary and a desire to prove one's maturity, though I think it has the opposite effect. I don't want my children ever using words without a true knowledge of the sentiment they are expressing.
I think a lot of this boils down to raising a Christian family in a secular world. Our faith makes us, not so much stand out, as stand apart.  What makes "mean girls" so popular? They gossip, lie, cheat, back stab, etc. to get where they are and to stay on top of the game. All of these are frowned upon in the Bible. Trying to live a godly life most often prevents popularity in the rest of the world. (I say trying, because, let's face it, we all fail daily, and it is important to remember that).
I'm not trying to say I know best, or that my way is the only way. I'm just happy to have a new term for my parenting style. I am endeavoring to raise positive deviants.

*There is an actual group called the Positive Deviance Initiative, which is some what different from what I am talking about here, but a very interesting study, with some interesting results. If you are wanting to know more about the academic aspects of the concept, you might want to google them.


Gaby said...

Lynn, this post really resonated with me. I agree with your wholeheartedly and it is moms like you I am looking towards as I raise my children. You all are ahead of me a few years, so I watch, and read, and learn. There are values we are trying to instill in our children early so, hopefully, the adolescent years are a little smoother. For example, we buy only one piece swimming suits for our daughter. Some say this is extremist but my thoughts are, when she is 16 and wants a tiny bikini, we can say: "when have we ever allowed a two piece?" We want to make modesty a lifestyle, not something we impose on them when they actually have something to flaunt or hide. I hope that makes sense!

Lynn said...

The swim suit issue makes perfect sense to me because we have the same rule. I always wear a one piece (always have) and so does my daughter. It is getting harder and harder to find, although Old Navy had a fair few this year for her. It hasn't been a fight for us up to this point because my daughter is pretty shy and relates a bikini to walking around in your bra and panties. I'm not about to discourage that line of thought.
Consustency is a huge part of parenting, or any other relationship for that matter. We wouldn't take it well of our boss suddenly drop new regulations on us, and our children don't want that either. It is smart to start at the begining. Then, as they get older, you can trust them to make the right choices when you aren't there to guide them.

Lynn said...

Oh, I hate it when I don't notice a mistype! I meant "consistency". I even took the time to look it up to make sure I was spelling it right. Oh well, I try. *sigh* :)