What’s Wrong With…Parents today
Making the question What’s Wrong with Kids Today obsolete
By: J. Marlando
We keep hearing a question repeated over and over again—“what’s wrong with kids today” and the answer is: “Parents!”
Sure there are exceptions and it’s much more complicated than this. For one thing, these days, we have an entire system essentially creating problem kids too. However, those creating and running the system are probably parents as well so, by and large, parents are the cause behind the effects of America’s large population of arrogant, ill-mannered and self-centered children.
Historically, the famed Dr. Spock is probably at the roots of the modern dilemmas of simply raising children to become conscientious adults. Spock’s influence is probably at the root of a heck of a lot of poor parenting even into our own times. At bottom line Spock taught that parents should permit their children to experience their self-indulgences with understanding and tolerance; if they didn’t want to eat spinach they shouldn’t have to, if they didn’t want to do some chore, why should they—indeed, these days if they don’t want to leave their video games or television set to eat with the family, many parents simply stop eating at the kitchen or dining room table and indulge themselves in front of the TV set as well.
Another modern dilemma is that a great many parents say that they want to be “friends” with their children and sure, enough they attempt to be. This is such an absurd and harmful goal that such parents have, it is too obviously stupid and destructive to comment on. Purchasing the child’s love by being his or her best friend and playmate is, at bottom line, to gratify the parent not the child. Just look how wonderful and fun mommy (or daddy) is. Well, these kinds of mommies and daddies are merely showering their children with their own irresponsibility. They are in many ways permitting their children to raise themselves. While it may seem like the kids being left to their own discretions are just fine, what this actually does is place them in a complex maze that has no exit. And, the chances are, that the negative results will show up in their personalities persisting throughout their adulthood. And anyway, you simply do not teach a child the dangers of fire by handing him a box of matches.
In regard to the above, children need to have loving discipline—indeed to the child (loving) discipline is a signal of being cared about not abused or abandoned.
Before continuing, however, we need to take a look at the other side of the discipline coin by talking about what has come to be known as Tough Love. First of all, I have an insightful feeling that most kids—perhaps not all—but most kids sent off to a so-called basic training camp and other prison environments are victims of having “no parental love” or “non-nurturing parents.”
The idea behind nearly all “tough love” approaches is that harsh rules, callous treatment and confrontations are the best formula to “help” troubled teens. I guess the tough love advocates have never noticed that our prisons are overflowing with inmates who were raised by unloving and aloof parents. And so in view of this, as far as I am concerned, “tough love” tactics only serve the parents who have failed their kids and now want them, so to speak, out of their hair.
Most tough love programs by the way are very expensive costing thousands of dollars a month—if mom and dad can afford that they could have afforded more time and effort in their parenting but, let’s face it, parenting that is not motivated by love and caring will fail in any case.
This leads us into yet another topic. When parents are at the opposite end of the pendulum of “tough love” and permit their kids to virtually do what they want when they want, they are sending a similar message to their children that states: You’re on your own, kiddo.
Being on one’s own can be scary enough for adults but for young children and teens the feeling of being left on one’s own is to experience “abandonment.”
The abandoned child is most apt to turn to criminal behavior, drugs, gangs, sex and neurotic behaviors to take away the pain, despair and other feeling of unworthiness. Understand that the child who feels abandoned especially by his parents, mirrors him or herself as being the cause of the neglect. After all, the child or youngster is not capable of analyzing their parents as being emotionally immature or being victims of their own horrible childhoods or just as self-serving human beings. As already said, most commonly the child believes that he or she is to blame for being neglected, of being unworthy and therefore will often set out to prove that they are actually as unworthy as they have been made to feel.
So what do we conclude from all this. We absolutely offer that tough love is NOT the answer and, at the same time, we absolutely offer that the Spock approach of most basically permitting the child to “run the home show” is NOT the answer either. In other words absolute discipline will fail the child but so will little or no discipline.
So what does a conscientious, loving parent do?
Basic training for parents:
Parents must take charge as the authority in the home. This begins by merely making sure that the kids are eating meals and not surviving on snacks or living on fast foods. If the child refuses to eat his spinach, that’s fine, give him Brussels sprouts but that ends the choices. A child raised on a poor diet will, by all odds, eventuate into poor health and having an impoverished immune system in later adulthood.
Give your child the experience of responsibility. Let him or her earn some of the “stuff” he or she wants by mowing the lawn, washing the car or something else to earn some allowance money. If they happen to spend their money on some “B” item as opposed to the “A” item they were saving for, permit them to stew in their own despair. After all a vital lesson is that life has priorities and money is not easy to come by. On the other hand, it is just fine to toss in a couple of extra allowance dollars now and again just to say I’m proud or you and I love you. None of this, however, suggests paying the child for everything he or she does—it is vital that the child has certain chores as part of his or her contribution to the family unit. Indeed, this teaches the child to be conscientious to the community through his or her own altruism.
Take time to encourage your children. If they catch the ball, earn an “A” in school, paint a picture, ride the bike or accomplish anything positive. Be there to applaud and cheer them on since this builds confidence and self-assurances.
But what if the child misses the ball, earns a “C-“ in school, draws a lousy picture, falls off the bike or fails at something else? Be there to give him a hand up and a pat on the back for trying. Never…never say, you could have done better only that you will do better next time.
I have written this before but this article demands that I repeat it here: Never call your children names such as ugly, untalented, fat, skinny, lazy, stupid, clumsy, messy or bad. If you do this very often you will be permeating your child’s psyche with self-image. On an unconscious level the child will begin living up to the label. And more, as many doctors are saying today, that when you call a child lazy, for example, that child might develop a lazy heartbeat or liver. In other words the names you call a child can have biological effects.
Take time to listen, to really listen to your children. No, not as their playmate friend but as their advisor and caretaker! After all, you are the authority in their lives. Your responsibility is to never be a false authority or an uncaring authority, however.
In regard to the above, children do not really know what they feel and think about life because they have experienced so little of it. It is the parent’s duty to prepare the child for the experiences that he or she will eventually encounter in their life without creating cynicism, fear or uncertainty in the child. Self-reliance is the key here.
One of the most difficult challenges for parents is to teach their children to respect authority. This is difficult because not all authority is respectable and smart parents know this. Yet, defying authority is, in most instances, a one way ticket to a life of problems and that of course is the last thing you want for your children.
I believe the answer to this rather unique challenge is to simply teach your child to be respectful to everyone. And, you need to teach this, as with all else, with your actions as well as your words. (Some moms and dads are not even respectful to each other so make sure you are as there is no better teacher than example).
This brings us to one of the most important lessons a (good) parent is obliged to teach their child: The importance of kindness.
It is surprising how many children grow up without any real instruction and so knowledge of simple, human kindness but there is no greater tool for building character than this. Indeed, parents, good and bad, tend to be anxious to tell their children what is right and what is wrong but “right” and “wrong” changes in every era while what is kind and what is cruel remains the same forever.
We do not hear much about character in our modern times. It is as if the importance of character went away with high button shoes and whalebone corsets—but there is human dignity in keeping one’s word and being honest; completing a job that one starts and not going along with the crowd simply because everyone else is; for refraining to gossip and refusing to bully others or be bullied and finally to stand up for what one believes to be the truth. Incidentally, these values are not outdated they’ve just been given no priority in most of today’s home life.
It isn’t all just parents of course—our school system has for a very many years now been teaching children sex education which hasn’t reduced teen pregnancy or back-seat love affairs one iota. What school kids should be taught are the responsibilities and obligations that arrive with relationships but then again how many couples with kids are there who should have taken a marriage course before walking down the aisle and jumping into the sack together?
And this is yet another lesson kids should be taught at home—self-control! Far too many of today’s parents give in to their children’s tantrums; it’s simply easier that way. Permitting a child to always have his or her way, however, is to send a message that will end in depression and disappointment in adulthood. Know that kids are not the only ones to throw tantrums: Some parents too can cuss, scream, rant and rave because of not getting their way about something. Such parents need to consult a professional or…grow up themselves…for their children’s sake if for no other reason.
It is also worth mentioning here that in some instances children who do not learn self-control will end up in serious trouble at one juncture of their life or another. The thief, for example, seeks immediate gratification and this is why a lot of kids will end up taking things that don’t belong to them. In this regard, the old ways of parenting kids to know that they couldn’t have everything they wanted and that stealing is more than just taking “stuff” that belonged to another person, it was taking away that other person’s freedom as well.
Striving to give a child everything that he or she desires is to create a dependent adult in a world that is neither generous nor giving!
In view of all this, it is vital to understand that children believe that their parents’ world is THE world. How the parent response to life and living it, the child will respond to either by mirroring those responses or rejecting them but his or her life will be greatly influenced by the acts and attitudes of his or her parents. This especially is true during the earlier years of a child’s socialization—if the child’s parents are conscientiously nice to others, don’t make fun or point fingers the child is most likely to become aware of other’s people’s feelings and treat them with respect and kindness too. In this regard, among the most precious gifts that parents can gift their child with is self-esteem, self-reliance and self-confidence but not without the ability to empathize with others. Empathy, however, is seldom, if ever developed in the child whose parents are not empathetic and loving themselves.
While there are always exceptions and some kids grow up to be troubled regardless of how devoted and conscientious their parents have been, I am convinced that poor parenting and/or the lack of parenting is at the roots of most troubled children today. Indeed, the absence of parents in the home is common these days but also parents can be “absent” even when they are at home. Watching television with the kids, for example, is not participating with them. Permitting them to lose themselves in their rooms a lot of the time playing video games or making calls on their cell phones is not being a lenient parent its being a lazy parent.
With the above in mind, am I saying here that all parents are bad or poor parents? No, there are many conscientious and loving moms and dads. What I am saying, however, is that most troubled children and children in trouble are products of bad or poor parenting. Bad parenting incidentally is not only treating children psychologically and/or physically cruel or neglectful. Bad parents can also spoil their children; give their children too much freedom and a lot of stuff but not enough of themselves.
No one will ever be the perfect parent—every parent will make mistakes and fail their kids along their way. There are a few mistakes that parents must avoid however. Among the worse things that parents can do, for example, is lay their own problems and troubles onto the child. While the child must always feel that he has a parent to go to who is always there to put on the bandaids and wipe the tears away. The parent who turns to the child for such relief is harming the child and creating a neurosis of insecurities.
The child must be able to TRUST his or her parents to supply a secure of home life. It doesn’t matter if home life is in a shanty in the valley or a mansion on the hill, home to the child must represent comfort and safety. Parents who fail to do this much, corrupts the child’s childhood. A corrupted childhood most generally evolves into a problematic adulthood on one level of consciousness or another.
I believe in view of all of this, there is then a basic or fundamental responsibility belonging to all parents and that is to instill in their children the most important and vital realization of all. That is, to fortify the child with the knowledge that he or she is both loving and lovable.
Any child, who has grown up knowing this, will have had parents who have done their jobs!