Parenting…or something resembling it…in 2016
I know it’s been forever since I’ve posted. There has been a lot going on in the world that made me want to spew, fume, vent, and rant, but I’d be another voice in the crowd, another soul screaming for common sense and lucidity in the maelstrom of insanity.
I think there’s a part of me that’s just tired. I’m tired of the constant xenophobia, homophobia, racism, bigotry, discrimination, and plain hatred that pervades our society. I’ve almost become numb when I hear of another transgender person being murdered, or a gay kid who committed suicide, violence perpetrated on people of color. There’s an inordinate amount of guilt that comes with that numbness because in truth, my heart does break for each and every victim. But it gets harder and harder to stand strong against the hatred and violence when it just seems to wash like tidal saves over our kids.
And maybe that’s why parenting becomes, in my opinion, such a paramount topic right now. Strange to think, perhaps, but not if you really think about it.
We come into this world with no hate, no bigotry, ho prejudice. In the realm of social conscience we are, indeed, tabula rasa. It’s parenting that teaches us right from wrong, but also the nuance of acceptance versus intolerance, good from bad, trustworthy versus suspect. Am I blaming parenting for the world’s current problems? In short, yes. I am.
When people teach their children that’s acceptable to use violence to get “respect” from others, it sets a clear tone for future behavior. As a public school teacher, I saw it time and again. A fight breaks out, we pull the bloodied combatants apart, and ask the inevitable query. “Why?” “He [or She] disrespected me.” This type of encouragement can only escalate to weapons, and we see it everywhere. Social media has photos and articles that glamorize weapons and their accessibility, not for self-defense, but for the illusion of strength and intimidation.
Children who are hit learn that hitting is the answer to their problems. It’s been proven repeatedly. But I’m not going to get into that fight today. Instead, let’s take a step to the side and look at the verbal education that children receive instead.
“Are you stupid?”
“What is wrong with you?”
“I’m going to kill you.”
“Do what I said or I will beat your ass.”
“I don’t care what you think. Do what I tell you.”
“You’re just like your worthless [other parent].”
Exactly what do we expect our children to learn when this is what they hear from their caregivers? The people in whom they should have absolute trust? And yet here we are, surprised when a fight breaks out in a girls bathroom in a high school, and a young woman dies as her peers laugh and video the altercation on their phones. This is not advanced calculus, people.
Children need limits, and they need to be taught how to live as civilized people within society. But this does not need to be accomplished with derision, violence, or abuse. On the flip side, it also doesn’t require us to “never say no” to children. For whatever reason, proponents of the current failing parenting methods seem to latch on to the idea that if we aren’t hitting kids, we are letting them run wild through the streets with super soakers full of fox urine and glitter. I’m not sure why this is, but the concept of rational middle ground is nearly impossible for them to grasp. Children are quite capable of learning the natural consequences of their own actions and how to handle them. [And before anyone throws their favorite counter “argument” at me, no, this does not mean we let our children run into the street when a car is coming so they “learn what happens”. Let’s have some modicum of common sense here, shall we?]
When kids are treated with respect, and they see their caregivers treating other people with respect, they will model it. No, they are not perfect. They will mess up. And then it’s our job to guide them in righting the situation. It is our job as parents to be guides and teachers, models and mentors, not prison guards and bullies. We can teach empathy, compassion, kindness, generosity, all while still being good parents. So why aren’t we?
We as a society have failed this generation in so many ways. Maybe, instead of ramming ahead with the old ways, which have so clearly failed, we need to step back and look at what needs to change.
This photo is of the Ambassador, face down on the ground with a young man with whom he’d collided in a soccer game. It took over 20 minutes for the emergency crew to arrive, so he tried to offer comfort and distraction against the pain in the meantime.
This photo makes me more proud as a parent than any award he could receive.
P.S. This post has absolutely nothing to do with prayer in schools, etc. Religion is a spiritual path that can and should be guided by parents, but the lack of forced religion in a school environment is not even remotely the cause of the violence we see every day. Please don’t insult either of our intelligences by claiming that it is.