Parenting Principles Final Project


In the summer of 2012 my wife Jen and I had a baby shower. Some baby showers are parties for the expecting mother and her (primarily female) friends, but this affair was co-ed and all of our close friends and family were invited. It was a BBQ in Seward Park. Jen is a poet and a book maker, and I’m a musician and performer, so almost all of our friends are also artists of one kind or another. Some of them also had (and have) kids, and they came too, sometimes playing in the water. Instead of eating melted chocolate out of a diaper (a common game at baby showers), we ate a lot of good food (I think it was a potluck, actually), and hung out with our tribe and talked about the exciting unknown future that lay aheads of us. At some point Jen and I got up on a picnic table to address the crowd. We thanked them all for being here and supporting us, and we thanked from in advance for all the future support we knew they’d be giving us as parents. Then we read them our Baby Vows. It was a ritual in some ways similar to the part of our wedding ceremony where we read to each other the vows we’d each written in the presence of these dame friends and family.

In our Baby Vows, we tried to articulate a set of principles that we hoped would govern our approach to parenting. This was something we’d been thinking about for a while. We were taking the project seriously. (Though we weren’t particularly “serious” people.) We’d been reading a lot of books, talking to our friends who were parents, and thinking a lot about the ways that we were raised — which parts we were thankful of and which parts that, um, could have been done better. It was a good opportunity to make sure that Jen and I were on the same page about how we wanted to parent. (We were very fortunate that we were, (and still are) on the same page about 99% of the time. Lots of parents aren’t, and that’s something they have to work through.) The document was framed as a letter to the not yet born child. These were commitments we were making to the child as much as to each other and our tribe, since it was the child’s life that was at stake.

If you want to read our baby vows, I’ve put them here: Baby Vows DMN-JBF.docPreview the document (warning: there might be some swear words and references to sex and masturbation and drugs.) Also, down below are some student examples from last quarter. They will be a much better example for this assignment. (My baby vows were just the inspiration for the assignment, not a good model for what I want you to do.)


You’re going to write your own baby vows. We’re calling them Parenting Principles. If you don’t have kids, just pretend that you will have kids one day, and you’re writing this for them. If you already have kids, you can pretend that you’re writing this right before your first child was born.

(Note: Another way of thinking about this assignment: The questions that you’re trying to answer in this assignment are probably equivalent to the question, How do you wish you’d been raised?)

(Another note: This is not advice you are giving to your future kids. It is about what, specifically, YOU are going to do as a parent.)


You have to take the assignment seriously. (Though this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not written with humor. If you like writing with humor, if that’s your style and how you’d do it, then do it that way.) If it looks like you’re just BS-ing, not taking it seriously, writing it at the last possible moment, then you’ll probably lose some points.
You’ve got to take on at least some potentially controversial aspects of parenting. You can’t just only say, “I’m going to love my child!” I mean, that’s great, but it’s not like anyone is going to disagree with that. But there are lots of important choices that parents make, and parents don’t all agree about them. So make sure some of those are in there too. Take a stand. Or figure out where you stand.
Be as specific as you can. “I promise to be a great parent!” is nice, but doesn’t tell us much how you actually want to parent, and it doesn’t show me that you’ve read and thought a lot about this.
Look at the Parenting Principles Topics for ideas about topics to write about. (And, as you’re doing this, if you think of more topics, add them to that discussion board so that others can see your ideas too.) All of the big parenting topics that we talk about in this class are of course available to you.
List some of your overall parenting end goals and values. Do you want your kids to be independent? caring? ethical? creative? obedient? etc. If you’ve succeeded in being the kind of parent you hope to be, what will the result be, with regards to your kid?
You’ve got to have at least ten separate specific things that you talk about — ways that you want to parent, commitments you make to your future kids. It’ll probably be a lot more than that, but it also depends on how much you write about each one. (You can number them if you wish — that’ll make it easier for me!)
With each of these, you need to both (a) be clear and specific about what you’re pledging to do (feel free to use concrete examples), and (b) explain WHY YOU THINK THAT’S A GOOD THING TO DO. Different people can sometimes make the same parenting choice but for totally different reasons. I want you to be clear about why you’re making these choices. So make it clear in this document. (If you want, you can even label these parts, (like with something like “WHAT:” and “WHY:” for each topic), so I can clearly see that you’re doing this. That’ll probably help your grade, I imagine.) Your reasons will often make reference to your parenting goals or values; i.e., “The reason I want to do [X] as a parent is because it will make it more likely that I will achieve [parenting goal G]…”
The majority (if not all) of your decisions will be based not just on some gut feeling, but on solid evidence (data, studies, research, etc.) about the effects of certain parenting choices on the life of the child. So cite those studies or the books or articles you read. These sources should be primary sources as much as possible. For example, instead of getting using an article from a popular news source that just mentions some studies that were done, go check out the studies yourself and (if they’re good ones) use those studies yourself in your bibliography and in your citations. These need to be RELIABLE sources, not just any old BS you can find on the internet. (Show me that you can tell the difference! 🙂 ) There need to be a lot of citations in this paper to your reliable sources. Usually these citations occur in the “Why” part (see #7 above). You’ll want to have footnotes that point us to the particular pages in the article or book that back up the point you’re making. For example, you might say, “The reason I will never spank my child is that the research shows that spanking has all kinds of terrible outcomes for children7”. Then there will be footnote 7 at the bottom of the page that might say something like, “See Johnson 2012, pp. 14-17, where she lists some of the negative outcomes of spanking that her study found: worse grades, more social problems, worse self-esteem, more likely to abuse their own children, and more.” (Notice how the citation refers to page numbers not just a whole work.) Then, in your bibliography, you’d have a full bibliographic reference (either MLA or APA or Chicago style references is okay, just be consistent) for the work (Johnson, 2012, pp. 14-17) that was cited in your footnote.
You will have a bibliography, with at LEAST 5 credible, reliable sources (not just crap you find on the internet.) If something is in your bibliography, that means you’ve read it. I may ask you questions about it. The point of a bibliography is so that readers can go check out your sources. So they need to have all the information I would need to find them. If it’s a source from the web, make sure you include the full URL.
If, in a couple of places, you’ve got no evidence to cite, at least make your reasoning clear about why you think this is a good idea. (Imagine you’re trying to explain it to someone who disagrees.) Make an argument.
Because it’s a college class and it doesn’t hurt to practice your writing skills, your sentences need to have relatively good grammar and be relatively free of spelling errors.
This should be a minimum of 1500 words. There is no maximum. The typeface and font size should be readable. The spacing between lines doesn’t matter much to me. If you want to put your citations to studies or books in footnotes, that’s fine. Endnotes are also fine. You need to include a bibliography. I’m not particular about the style of the bibliography (either AMA or MLA is fine), as long as it is readable and has all the information I’d need to track down the sources. For instance, if you’re citing a source from the web, make sure to include the URL so I can go check it out.
You can either write it as paragraphs, or as a list (e.g, bullet points or numbered.) But sentences should generally be complete. (My primary concern is being able to understand you, and complete sentences are usually easier to understand than sentence fragments.) If you have creative ideas about alternative approaches to this assignment, please ask!
Some students in the past have made the mistake of assuming a particular gender for their future child. For example, some male students have written as though their child is male, and some female students have wrriten as though the future child will be female. Try not to do that.
HERE IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF A STUDENT ONE FROM LAST QUARTER (used with permission). You should absolutely look at this. This one got a perfect score.

StudentX – Parenting Principles Final Project.docxPreview the document

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