Being a parent and raising a well-mannered, polite child is the perhaps the toughest job there is. And I say that having worked in some lousy places, for some even lousier bosses.
The thing with parenting is that, unlike your job, where there is, at best, a handful of people who give you feedback, everyone feels it’s their job to tell you what you’re doing wrong with your child. Which, as we all know, is simply their way of telling you that you are not doing in the way they did it.
It starts out when your children are babies with your neighbor questioning your clothing choice for the either too warm or too cold day. “Should she be wearing that?” Your neighbor asks, eyeing the sweatshirt you chose. You then question yourself as to whether or not the brisk fifty degree weather actually warrants a hat, scarf, and gloves along with the LL Bean jacket that is suitable for temperatures below zero.
As your child ages, everyone has an opinion everything from their clothing, to your choice of school, to bedtime. We find ourselved justifying our choices and explaining our reasoning, which shines a spotlight on our insecurities. And being a parent is the one place I don’t need to feel insecure. It’s tough enough to please the two mini’s I’m trying to raise. Never mind my parents, neighbors, and friends.
You’d think that with all this scrutiny, we’d do what we can to make things easier on ourselves, but we don’t. We do more and more for our kids, seeming to forget that our job is to raise an independent adult who is able to think for himself. Perhaps the one method of parenting that causes me to wonder about all of this is how we discipline.
It seems that over the past twenty years or so, there has been a shift in parenting style from consequences that are swift and firm to a style that is more feedback oriented. You know what I mean. It’s where the parent warns the child to stop doing a particular behavior. We may count to three, or ten, (or twenty!) and then explain exactly what will happen if said behavior doesn’t stop.
I can’t help but wonder if this method is teaching our children that the only consequences they should only expect are the ones that are specifally spelled out for them. By spelling out the consequences for them, do they learn to not think about what might happen on their own? It seems to me that after a lifetime of being told exactly what is going to happen if they perform a certain act, it may take away their internal caution barometer. Are they being taught over a lifetime that for each action, there is a specific effect? Does this somehow train our children not to ponder the countless possible consequences?
I have no idea. I do know, however, that if our children aren’t taught to think about everything that might happen, bad things occur. Take the child who has a couple drinks, then drives home. What about the child who is late to work on more than one occasion and loses his job because his boss in in a bad mood on that particular day. Perhaps the most horrific example I can give is something I watched many years ago.
It was one of those dateline specials and it showcased a water park. A group of teenagers decided to see how many of them could fit into one of those enclosed water slides. They started at the entry point and climbed in, one by one, back to chest, filling the slide. The weight inside the slide became too heavy and the slide fell into the water. More than a dozen teens lost their life that day. I can’t help but wonder why no one pondered the possibility that there is a reason only one person at a time is allowed into the slide. Personally, I can’t even fathom what it would take to get me to climb into a dark tunnel with water flowing through it.
This is a horrific example but life is full of surprises and many of them are unpleasant. What is scary to me as a parent is that I cannot begin to cover all that may or may not occur if my child chooses to perform a particular action. And if I don’t cover all the possible consequences, am I somehow not doing the best by my child?
I certainly don’t know the answer to any of this but I thought I’d pose the question. Parenting is always a hot topic!