Monday, November 02, 2009

Diversity in parenting is a good thing

A reader writes that he lost custody to his ex-wife because of differences in child-rearing approaches, in part. She was more religious than he was, among other things.

I have heard similar arguments being given in favor of sole custody, as if they were self-evident.

In fact the research says the opposite. In most families, the parents have different approaches. The difference may be a little or a lot. Maybe one parent is the disciplinarian, and the other is not. Maybe one parent is more religious. Maybe one parent emphasizes academics while the other emphasizes sports. Maybe one is ambitious and the other is not. Maybe one is more nurturing than the other. These differences tend to give the child a better and more balanced upbringing, and are not usually harmful.

Maybe the parents belong to different religions. Bill and Hillary Clinton attended different churches, but Chelsea did not seem to suffer from it.

Yes, the kids may get some mixed signals, but kids get mixed signals anyway. They are exposed to teachers, babysitters, other kids, and other parents with other views and practices. Again, such diversity can be a good thing.

In an extreme case, a child might attend Sunday School one week with one parent, and attend a Jewish synagogue the next. That sounds wacky and harmful, but it is not. People like to believe that their religion is superior to the others, and maybe it is, but there is no proof that a child suffers from being exposed to a second religion. It is no worse than the millions of parents who change their religious views, and become more religious or less religious, and teach their kids accordingly.

It is none of the court's business to even inquire into these childrearing approaches.

I do think that it is bad for one parent to directly undermine what the other parent is doing. But even in that case, the court's ability to help is limited. However bad it may be for one parent to undermine the other parent, it is usually much worse for the court to undermine the parents.

The family court bases a lot of its actions on a lot of principles that have no scientific basis, and are completely false. I say that the court should have to express the basis for what it does. If the judge is picking a religion, then he is acting unconstitutionally, as well as being unwise and unsound.

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