That was the implication of a set of questions I was asked by the Express this week. Stacey Dooley had stayed with the Allen family, well known for their off grid parenting regime, and had expressed uneasiness towards some of their choices, such as not vaccinating their children.
I want to set the record straight. My thoughts on off-grid parenting are fairly neutral as I am feel so long as the child is loved and feels safe and secure how can any of us judge anyone else on how they parent! And who decided the rules and standards that we are meant to adhere to anyway?
So here are the original questions and my responses. Oh and in case you are wondering .. I am a "she" and not a "he" as the article states!
Off grid parenting
1. What is off-grid parenting?
Different form of parenting that doesn’t fit within what a society defines as conventional. Off-grid seems to be defined at the extreme so you adopt an alternative parenting style to all aspects of parenting.
For me all parents find a style to nurture their child that suits them and their child’s needs. If that means you share a bed with your child, is that off grid? Or you breastfeed for more than 12-18 months? Or you home school or un-school and not the conventional methods? Or you have a home birth? Or you don’t use vaccines? Some societies may see this type of parenting as quite normal, focussing on the needs of the child rather than the parent or following a narrow set of societal “norms” to determine how we raise our kids. So by what societal norms are we defining off-grid?
I would argue all parenting is off-grid as times as each child is different and their needs are different so we adapt parts of our parenting style. Is that off-grid or is it a parental instinct to ensure your child feels safe, secure and loved?
2. Why do you think people are drawn to off-grid parenting?
Again it depends on how you define off-grid. Check my response above. However if you are providing an alternative way for every aspect of parenting this may say more about the parents and the choices they are making is a reflection of themselves. It may be a narcissistic attention seeking need in them to prove they can survive outside societal conventions and norms, whatever they are. Or simply a reflection of their own values to unselfishly provide alternative ways to raise their kids in a safe and loving way
3. What are the benefits for children and their parents of off-grid parenting?
New learning opportunities. Our education is a traditionist treadmill of a pre-defined syllabus geared to produce the skills and knowledge to support industry…..!! Agreed there is a place for this but surely there is also a place for off-grid learning which seems to be about learning when your child is ready to learn, fending for themselves, learning about nature and the world around us.
Spending time together – the most attractive part of off-grid parenting for me is having the space and time to be together with your children, learning and being together until that natural point your child wants to do things on their own or with other groups.
4. What are the consequences of off-grid parenting? Can it have long term effects on a child’s development?
The key danger is if off-grid parenting includes not vaccinating your child. That can have health implications for the child and perhaps other children when they play together. The implications of the MMR issue is now impacting the 20 somethings as the rates of measles has increased.
The children may have issues with their social skills and fitting into new groups. Being part of other groups and acceptance is an important part of our sense of belonging and identity as we grow. We learn important skills of resilience and self confidence through the ups and downs of being in different groups and social settings. This includes the development of language and how we learn nuances and the impact of words on ourselves and others. This maybe be lacking depending on the style and extent of off-grid parenting.
5. If a child is damaged by off-grid parenting can they recover?
The essence of the question suggests that off-grid parenting is somehow bad and on-grid parenting is good? By what standards is the question being posed? Off-grid parenting is probably no more damaging than some children are and can be by on-grid parenting.
So long as the child feels safe, loved, learn resilience and self confidence in themselves to be able to adapt to society and live within it if they choose to, as kids or as adults, and not feel rejected or feel at odds with the world around them that might turn into fears or anxieties in later life, we should nurture by whatever values as parents we have. If you don’t, as a parent want to be restricted by what society deems as good or bad, you shouldn’t have to so long as you put the needs of the child, and the adult he/she will become, at the heart of your parenting and not let it be about yourself.