Although Plato had devoted the fifth chapter of his Republic to this, Aristotle addressed the issue of raising and educating children as a matter of public interest in his Politics and Hegel pointed out the problematic of seeing children as objects belonging to their parents, parenting still remains an incomplete subject for the world of philosophy. However it is a perilous thing to relegate a field that has the power to determine the World’s future only to individual consciences or personal preferences.
The concept of Sustainable Good Parenting, proposed by writer and thinker Gulus G. Turkmen in her book Map of Motherhood, has been a subject of interest in academic as well as social circles since 2016. The recently released title “Sustainable Good Parenting” (Dec.2019) begins with Self Determination Theorist Richard Ryan’s foreword, saying that the approach “starts a communication and it makes it move in the right direction.” In fact, arguments put forward by a collective study of parents and experts come across as a modern parenting approach sprouted between East and West, at a place as meaningful as the intersection of Asia and Europe. Instead of giving advice or precise rules to people, this approach addresses the concept of parenthood in its general framework. “Balance”, “moderation”, and being “meridian” are concepts that are emphasized both in Sustaibable Good Parenting and in philosophy in general. Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics refers to the virtues of character, describing virtue as mesotes – the mean between two extremes. Let’s take a philosophical look at it:
What does the word ‘good’ in Sustainable Good Parenting stand for? Turkmen, in various interviews, points out that that it has nothing to do with moral evaluations and that it stands for “beneficent” rather than “right”. This reminds us of Aristotle’ words in his book The Nicomachean Ethics: “Every art and every investigation, and likewise every pursuit and every action, aims at some good. Therefore, the good has been defined as the object at which everything aims” above. The “good” here refers to a state that is beneficent to everyone, that everyone desires. It is beyond Nietzsche’s “good” in Beyond Good and Evil.
Then emerges the importance to link the words “beneficent” and “sustainable”. Because what is desired and “good” for all must also not compromise any need in the future. It should be noted that sustainability here doesn’t solely refer to “maintenance”: One can also maintain a damaging behaviour! Therefore, we can’t break “sustainability” away from “beneficent”, for it would mean suggesting to maintain any action or belief that suit each one. Instead, this approach states that sustainability is possible by determining two frameworks: That of the parent’s area of responsibility and freedom and that of the child’s area of responsibility and freedom.
What could be better than freedom for everyone? Freedom where responsibilities are fulfilled! When a parent who is aware of all these responsibilities and protects the child’s space of freedom, the child will naturally learn of this behaviour as a model just as he/she learns of other behaviours. Sustainable Good Parenting therefore proposes to put parenting on a realistic ground that can be sustained under “parental responsibility”. It also draws attention to viable and beneficent features that can be continued not only by the parent but also by the child.
The English word parent comes from the Latin verb parere which means “to produce, to give birth”. But a more general definition is a group from which another arises and to which it usually remains subsidiary. Therefore, the word covers not only the mother and father who produce or give birth, but also the close family circle like grandparents. In many cultures today, the effort to involve fathers in childcare and child development is only just emerging. However, the father is not a person added later to parenthood. The fact that Sustainable Good Parenting treats the ‘‘parent’’ concept without separating the father from the mother is also suitable for the origin of the concept in this respect.
There are so many statements, ideas or features opposed to one another that parents get naturally confused. Gulus Turkmen has asserted that dichotomous thinking in parenting leads to the same unwanted results: For instance, extreme control over the child results in the loss of control over the child. “Parents often miss the balance they want to achieve by switching from one extreme thought or behaviour to another” she observes. It is not a secret that many modern mothers are diagnosed as “overprotective”, “helicopter” or even “paranoid parent”. Maintaining an overprotective attitude and -on the contrary – giving free rein to the child don’t seem to be beneficent and sustainable approaches. Sustainable Good Parenting suggests a form of relationship in which the balance of the relationship between parent and child is central.
As those who talked about the philosophy of parenthood passed the subject by a few sentences, the need for a deep philosophical inquiry into parenting is more and more felt in this era. It may be difficult to predict whether parenthood will be treated as a sub-branch of philosophy but I think it will definitely end up being included in Political Philosophy, Social Philosophy, Ethics or Concept Philosophy. In this respect, I care about the work being carried out within the scope of Sustainable Good Parenting and I hope it sets an example.
PhD. Ibrahim Yildirim, Philosophy Science Specialist