Today’s Moms and Dads confront a bewildering array of contradictory, endlessly repetitive, unworkable and on occasion, very dangerous advice from the “professionals” you’d think would know better. A farrago of rules, measurements, checklists and recommended therapies, diets and nostrums, clever or not so clever stratagems, even suggestions about mood altering medications to slow their children down.
This is because there are two flawed and closely related nineteenth century theories still confusing these “professionals.” The first is that childhood is some sort of disability or psychologically perilous condition which must be treated. The second is that having a child has no purpose higher than the care of that child.
Neither is true. Childhood is a normal and natural condition of life for which Providence has prepared children very well. Indeed much better than most young parents realize. And insofar as the second point goes while we love our children and would give our lives for them caring for a child is not a purpose, instead it’s a means – the means by which we create a family.
And it’s with the idea of family that you see just how ridiculous these two theories are. Because in the former case what they advocate is not a family but some sort of home based mental health clinic and in the latter a bizarre relationship in which parents have all the responsibility, children none and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and close family friends – no role at all.
Which is why you see more and more grandparents moving on to some retirement village somewhere while grown children never stop living at home and demanding things of their parents. And/or blaming them for the deficiencies and lack of future in their own lives.
With never a way out because these two, essentially insane, theories, reinforced by any amount of medical sounding mumbo-jumbo, insist that any attempt by parents to exert any authority, say by requiring children to embrace some degree of personal responsibility, is unfair, even abusive. Because they tell us, again and again and again, that a child’s psyche’ can be irreversibly damaged by being told what to do or pushed out of the nest. At any age.
Yet even a five year old understands that children should grow up, that parents and children are on a journey together and that a ship without a captain is never going to reach port. Indeed both common sense and the experience of millennia teach us that it is only through the use of natural authority or some combination of leadership skills, encouragement and trust that anything truly worthwhile ever gets done. Including as Will Durant put it the very important task of “civilizing” a child.
So in the interest of getting the worthwhile done, and parents producing exceptional children, it is my hope that the series of bullet point provocative short essays in What Sort Of Parents Should We Be inspire Moms and Dads everywhere nwith a more comprehensive view of what their role is. And of their powers.
Richard F. Miniter
Richard F. Miniter