OK, it’s time for you and me to have “the talk” about raising the kids, because I am reaping the consequences of your actions (and inactions). I realize that this is a tricky topic – especially in our current culture – but because it is so important, I will dispense with the burden of being politically correct and shoot straight.
In times past there was pretty much one rule in child-rearing: spare the rod, spoil the child. A parent’s only choice was to do the former or the ladder. Today, however, there are countless books pushing countless theories that leave parents adrift in a sea of advice, testing ports in a desperate attempt to find the one shelter that will keep their children from being battered by the cruel waves of the world.
So how do you decide which child-rearing approach to pick when there are so many philosophies to choose from? It’s a scary step because, let’s face it, we’re pretty much gambling with the outcome of a person here, and it’s not like the quest for the perfect Italian red sauce where you can dump out a flop until you find that recipe that transports you into culinary bliss. Because – oh hurrah – the one thing that almost all the “experts” do agree on is the importance of consistency. No pressure.
In addition, people no longer raise children with the mentality that it takes a village. Nope, we go it solo. Why? There are several reasons, but the most dominating one I have observed stems from the fact that everyone’s picked a different child rearing theory – and deep down most we’re insecure about our choice. Thus, if anyone else, from a grandparent to a dear friend, corrects a child this throws the parent into defensive rage (“How dare you presume to tell my child what to do!”) which stems from shame (“If I were a good mother, the children would always behave perfectly in public and never need Aunt Edna’s corrections”). It’s true. Recently I heard a story where an uncle asked his pre-teen nephew – nicely – to stop hitting the baseball where the toddlers were sitting. This resulted in an eruption of anger from the father of the little slugger that was so unreasonably defensive that the adult parties are on cold terms to this day!
In Dad’s growing up years things were very different. Anyone could deliver the swat of consequences upon any misbehaving kid. He tells about the first time a stranger spanked him at the Five and Dime when he got out of line. Afterward he went home to complain to his mother about it only to receive, instead of sympathy, a second spanking! In the future, if he got a thump upside the head by the druggist or a lady his family went to church with he kept it to himself. Was this ever abused? Yes. Still, it taught his generation to respect adults, and while I am not advocating that the chick in the bakery department be given the freedom to take a rolling pin to young Johnathan’s behind, it would be nice for society – and the kids – if they learned that all adults should be respected. Yes, it is super important that children empowered to tell grown-ups no when it’s appropriate, but seriously, there has to be a way to teach both.
So with all this conflicting advice and isolation, is there one universal truth of parenting? (I realize that this is an ironic statement as we just got through discussing how the book writers all claim to have the answer…but this one is from experience and is far from harmful if I’m wrong). The answer is yes. And I’ll tell you about it next week.
Love, Older Wiser You