Every few weeks or so an article comes out, purporting to finally tell it like it is and give us parents some tough love so we can all see what horrible failures we are and what rotten kids we’re turning out. You know, something totally different from those other articles that came out a few weeks before, telling us what horrible failures we parents are and what rotten kids we’re turning out.
These articles are usually met with overwhelming praise and comments, confirming that everyone else’s kids are awful these days- but not our own, never our own.
The thing that makes me want to pull my hair out every time I see yet another one of these articles is: 1) there is never any hard evidence to back up any of the claims, only anecdotes, and 2) the “experts” featured in them are almost always selling something. In the case of the article I just read, it was a book called “The Collapse of Parenting.” Catchy title- subtle and understated.
You know what I have noticed as a teacher and a parent far more than the perceived wave of entitlement we’re all supposedly drowning under? I’ve seen parents who nitpick their kids to death for normal childish behavior, especially in public, and especially in front of authority figures like teachers. Why? Because they are so afraid of being labeled as lenient or a pushover or the parent of a bratty kid.
So when their son feels shy about speaking to a stranger for the first time, they demand he give a greeting and a firm handshake, lest that stranger think they are a bad parent for respecting their child’s feelings and offering him an alternative.
When their overtired daughter starts crying in the middle of Target, they give her a harsh reprimand or a swat on the behind so nearby shoppers can be assured that no leniency is coming from their direction.
When their 4-year-old has an accident because he was so absorbed in his play that going to the bathroom didn’t cross his mind, he has his toy taken away from him until he can learn how to be a “big boy.”
My friends, we are not in danger of producing “the most selfish generation in history,” as one author so eloquently put it; we are in danger of genuinely believing that ridiculous statement to be true!
We are in danger of taking the old “give ’em an inch, they’ll take a mile” adage as gospel- of thinking that treating our children like humans instead of forcing their compliance at any cost is a recipe for disaster; that returning the respect we demand of them is the same as handing them our authority and the illusion of control on a silver platter.
We are in danger of believing that parenting books, advice garnered from the internet, and the comments of judgmental strangers trump our own instincts; that we can’t possibly be left to our own devices when it comes to raising kids, because just look at the mess that results from our doing so!
We are in danger of losing sight of the fact that balance is essential to raising the caring, hard-working, thoughtful children we want for our society; that all children need limits and guidance, and that they can and should be set with respect and love, not with fear and intimidation in the name of “being the parent.”
And above all, we should keep in mind that while bratty children may abound these days, they also abounded when we were their age, back when our grandparents were telling our parents the same things these “experts” are now telling us.