THIS IS THE REAL WORK OF PARENTING
What makes you a “good” parent?
Watching Puberty Blues reminds me that “bad parenting” was all the go in the 70s. Getting whacked across the head; going beer runner for Dad; careening around without seatbelts; being allowed to wander after dark without a mobile phone.
How did we survive?
Perhaps one day our kids will look back at this generation of parents – on Twitter and Facebook 24/7, judging other parents – and wonder how they survived.
However, there is one aspect of parenting in which I am vitally interested – it involves mothers, fathers and entire families – and that’s how we ensure our children grow up to be useful.
Will they contribute to the wellbeing of their family, neighbourhoods and society? Will they participate to the best of their ability? At the very least, will our children understand that they have basic, human obligations to others and strive to fulfill them?
These are the life lessons my husband and I are trying to teach our children, just as our parents taught them to us. This is the real work of parenting. The stuff that comes after we’ve left the battlefield of the so-called “mummy wars”.
And it doesn’t come naturally.
I am reminded of this because of a thoughtful article I read recently in The New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert entitled: “Spoiled Rotten: Why do kids rule the roost?”
In it she writes of the life of a girl who lives with the Matsigenka, a tribe of some twelve thousand people who live in the Peruvian Amazon. The little one goes along with her family to gather leaves down river and having no real role to play but “asking for nothing”, sweeps the camp, fishes for crustaceans, cooks and serves to others in the party. She’s just six years old.
The author contrasts this with the new American tribe of “adultescents”. A generation of young people who are lazy, entitled and rude. Their parents have worked hard to give these kids the world and they, ironically, are the ones who ask for nothing back.
How did American parents come to be so “kiddie-whipped” asks Kolbert? Why do offspring who are so indulged feel no need to contribute in any way – right through until they are adults? Why aren’t they trained to assume responsibility?
Parents have only themselves to blame, she concludes.
They fear their kids will be damaged if they are frustrated, bored or told “no”. Parents seek the approval of their children, and have given them unprecedented authority.
“Letting things slide is always the easiest thing to do, in parenting no less than in banking, public education, and environmental protection,” she writes.
“A lack of discipline is apparent these days in just about every aspect of American society. Why this should be is a much larger question, one to ponder as we take out the garbage and tie our kids’ shoes.”
Never do for your children what they can do for themselves. That saying has always stayed with me, so why am I still making toast for a 14 year old?
I admit that, like a lot of mothers, I’m a soft touch for a pair of sad eyes and so I’m very grateful that my husband is the one who pushes and pushes our children.
I can only think that going to boarding school aged 11 has a lot to do with his resolve.
Example: Weekend before last was bloody cold in Sydney. Windy and overcast. The youngsters and their friends had been playing video games until after midnight.
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