Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Parents as Pals

This topic was inspired by posts I have seen on another blog (Matthew Good's). My friends and I have had long discussions over the years about parenting and how much it has changed, and how we are trying to find a happy medium between what our parents and grandparents did and expected, and what we have learned the past decade or two. What am I talking about ? I am talking about the shift from parents being authority figures to being like a friend or buddy to their child. When my parents grew up, you listened or you got the belt or a smack. When I grew up, if I didn't listen I got a spanking. And now suddenly, if I spank my child I could face jail time or at the very least, an inspection from Family Services. Whoa, that is a lot of changes over only a couple of generations. My question is - is it working? Are kids better today? Are they more developmentally aware and mature? Are they more or just as respectful and responsible?

Holy Crap - NO!

My gramma was famous for her rants, but one she went on about the most is how in 'her day', kids would not bring a gun to school and shoot the hell out of their classmates. How in 'her day' kids would not be running the home and getting anything and everything they wanted; they had to earn it and they had to help the family, not sit on their arses. If their mom or dad said 'No' they had to listen with no questions.

Now we are told that is not the way to do things. That our children deserve explanations for everything and no punishments. "Reward good behaviour, Don't punish bad behaviour". Believe me, I have taken countless child development and child care courses over the past 17 years, I am not just talking out of my ass. That was my career choice right out of college and I was also working towards a Children's Mental Health Certificate before having my third child (and temporarily putting that off). I received exemplary marks in each course and paid attention. The problem? I didn't agree with half of it!

I get told from time to time that I am too hard on my kids, yet the same people will tell me how awesome my kids are. The same people that criticize me and say I am too over-protective turn around and tell me that my kids are super and they love to have them around. That they are about the ONLY kids they would want over to play with their own kids because my kids help, are respectful, and listen. Okay - so what am I doing wrong then? In fact, if I think of all the people I know with kids (and since I work in childcare, that is a lot lol), the kids who are the most well behaved and I enjoy the most, are the ones who's parents who have not bought in 100% to these new ways of parenting. They tend to lean more towards the past, or maybe a mix of Today and Yesteryear.

But some kids, oh my god. Their parents would come in and their kids would literally slap them across the face or kick them, and the parent would say 'Oh honey, don't do that. That hurts my feelings. Did something happen today that made you feel upset or angry and you're just trying to tell me that?". OH PLEASE. It didn't work the first 20 times you said it, so I doubt it's going to work now. And sure enough, the next day the kid slaps mommy right across the face again. Repeat Repeat Repeat. It drove me insane and only got worse over the years. But the parents who actually appeared to be 'the boss' and expected more from their children also had better 'control'. Why do I feel that I have to put the word 'control' into quotation marks anyway? Do I feel that it is wrong for a parent to say they should have control over their child? That is the kind of thing I don't like these days - feeling like you need to justify your actions or feeling guilty for parenting and trying to show your child that they are NOT the boss of all the world.

My daughter's soccer nights may be a good example. She is on the Under 8 team so all kids are between 5 and 7 years old. Their parents are always there watching, but I am the ONLY parent who gives their kid crap for not listening. This usually happens when the coach is on the field and the kids on the sidelines are running amuck. I watch them beating each other with water bottles, kicking and pushing each other, running all over and distracting their own goalie by kicking other balls around. I watch the coach yell over for them all to sit down, and none of them listen (or maybe a couple do, sometimes). I cannot stand that! Their parents just sit there and ladedaaa ignore it all. Well I'm sorry, I'm a bitch I guess. I do not accept that. Just last night I called my daughter to the side and told her to go back and sit her butt down and stay there, like her coach asked. I told her that she has to listen to him because he is her Team's leader and he is in charge. She said 'but everyone else is running around' and I said "I don't care because they should be sitting down too! But you are going to be the one that listens, not one that doesn't". She was ticked off at me but she went to sit. Finally, a grandfather took my cue and went over and raised holy heck with his grandson for not listening. But all the other parents just looked on. I don't get it. How can they just sit there and let their children blatantly ignore an authority figure - the coach? How is that setting a good example and teaching them about life? All I see is that it teaches them they do not have to listen if they don't feel like it. I will not accept that from myself, and I won't accept that from my children. Why is that so wrong?

I grew up with a mix - my mother trying to demand that I never do anything, but without giving me any explanation at all other than "The bible says it is wrong" or "Don't do it because I said so". I don't agree with that stance either, and believe me, it did not work. I was perhaps the worst out of all my friends and I am lucky I did not end up raped, pregnant, or dead. I am actually quite surprised none of that happened to me because I lived a very risky life that I am completely embarrassed and ashamed of now. And to top it all off, I got married at age 19 to an abusive man who even beat me while I was pregnant with my first child. How lovely. My dad did not really get involved either (and I only found out years later why), but the times he DID put his foot down, I listened. One time in particular was when I was caught drinking underage. I had to pay a fine and the police officer came to the house to talk to my parents. My mom was falling all over herself apologizing but my dad refused to come upstairs to talk. Deep inside I was thinking "WOOOHOOO my dad doesn't give a shit that I was drinking! HA HA mom and cop, take THAT!". Well... I was wrong.... After the officer gave up and left, he appeared upstairs. He said one sentence to me... "If the police EVER come here again becasue of something you did, YOU ARE OUT". Then he went back downstairs. I just sat there in shock. And the police never came to the house for me again. My dad didn't have to explain it to me. I am not stupid, I knew he was horrified that the neighbours saw this, and that he was severely disappointed in me for being so dumb. That was all I needed never to bring the cops to the house again... He exerted his control, threatened to throw me out, and I believed him. The end.

So why is it so wrong to do that today? Look around for goodness sake. It is NOT WORKING to be all nicey nice to kids and not make them responsible and respectful! I know of job places now that refuse to hire anyone under age 25 because they don't want to listen to them bitch and whine all day long whenever they are asked to do something that is required. watch those companies get ratted out and be done for Age Discrimination or something now, instead of people saying "you're right, things are getting pretty bad". I am so tired of hearing a teen *Sighhhh* when I ask for a napkin at A&W or roll her eyes when I ask for my meat not to be packed with my bread. I can't even count how many teens amd young adults I have felt like slapping over the past few years. But THESE are the children of this new way of parenting.

Just before I entered high school is when all forms of Corporal Punishment were abolished and when parents started to shift to this "spanking your child for hitting someone only teaches them that violence is okay" philosophy. So that was when I was about 10 which is 25 years ago. Don't you think it is a little bit odd that the people I am finding terribly disrespectful these days are all under 25 years old? Hmmm,,,, 25 years ago major changes in child rearing ideas went on, and now those kids are 25 years old or younger and they are shit heads!

Of course, that is being very general! There are a LOT of good kids out there but I would like to know how they were parented... impossible to track down of course. And I also know there are other factors involved. Over the past 25 years, more women are in the work force than ever before. More are returning to work when their children are still young. More single parent families and dual-income working families... I do think that has an impact as well (IE - less time that parents have to spend with their children). But I still think the over-riding impact comes from how the parents conduct their Parenting. I would say that all of my close friends spank their children when they deem it is necessary and to date, ALL of their kids are considered 'good kids'. All of those kids are respectfull, seem to be well adjusted and happy, and are really lovely great kiddos. The ones I know who's parents are more like pals and big on this long talk business instead of being more strong on the I AM THE PARENT, NOT YOU issue are the ones with kids who I can hardly stand to be around. The ones who's kids come to my house and open my fridge and help themselves to treats, or beg me for some of my son's birthday cake that we haven't even had yet because it is not party time and then pout and throw a fit when I say no, the ones who make a giant mess and refuse to clean it up when they leave and then cry and bawl to their mom and say I am mean, etc. All of the kids like that who I have come in contact with are ones who's parents are hardly involved or do not think they should be an authority figure to their child.

It is hard enough being a parent without people telling you left and right what you should or shouldn't do, but all I can see over time is the deterioration of basic morals and values and a complete lack of respect coming from teens and young adults. It seems to get worse every few years and I worry what it will be like when my youngest gets older. But I am not going to change how I do things unless I discover that my methods do not in fact work. My oldest is approaching pre-teen age and then the teen years. So I guess I will see what happens during that crucial time. But yes, I am going to say that I think my children SHOULD fear what my reaction is going to be to their actions. After all, they live under my roof and eat my food and I pay for them to exist in a healthy manner, so I think they can fear what the repercussions will be if they make terrible choices, or at the very least - fear my disappointment in them. Why exactly is that 'wrong' these days? Because the supposed 'right' way has not proven itself to me yet.

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These are my views and opinions. If you don't agree or think I am sadly misguided, that is your view. Feel free to share your thoughts but I also reserve my right to moderate content (IE foul language, excessive flaming, etc).