Thursday, October 18, 2007

Parents these days

We all hear, at one time or another, the exasperated mention of "kids, these days!" I am just as exasperated with the "parents, these days!"

So I am at the orthodontist yesterday (yes, at 37 years old, I have to go to the orthodontist now and then), and the room in which the orthodontist works is one large open space with about 15 patient stations. This configuration, as opposed to individual private rooms, allows the orthodontist visibility to all his patients at once and allows the orthodontist's hygienists/assistants to call upon him if quickly needed. As a result, as a patient, you are about 4 feet apart from your fellow patient.

So, there was a young man -- probably 15 years old -- in the chair next to mine. I saw/heard him take a phone call on his mobile phone. His mother was sitting a few feet away on what I call the parent bench (so parents can be in the room with their child, who might be scared/uncomfortable with the ortho work). She walked over to him after her son was done with his call and asked what was going on, saying that she had heard the phone call. The boy started rubbing his eyes with his hands (obviously as a way to not look his mother in the eyes) and said, "It doesn't involve you."

WHAT!!!??? What did I hear come out of that child's mouth? Surely his mother will take him to task for his disrespect, not to mention he has the audacity to respond to his mother like that in public!

Right?

Hello?

Her response?

"It involves my house."

Oh, great. Nice comeback lady. Has parenting come to this? A child can be a jerk to his mother and her rights as a parent, homeowner, and, oh, I don't know, provider of everything in this child's life (as well as the decision to give him life itself) are limited to "It involves my house."??!!!!!! What the? Get some backbone lady. Here's how:

  1. Remove mobile phone from child's possession. Immediately. Like, right now. Yes, in the orthodontist's office, in front of everyone. Embarrassing your child (or yourself) is not a felony, or even a misdemeanor. If he wants to make a scene, let him go ahead and try. He'll just make a fool of himself if you keep your calm.
  2. If you feel you must provide your child with some communication device, replace said mobile phone with one of these spiffy three-button phones (one button for 911, one button for Mom, and one button for Dad. Up to 20 more numbers can be programmed into the phone by the parent, but in this case, those three are enough. Plus it doesn't hurt that your 15 year old kid will look like an extreme dork to all his cool friends because he can't be trusted to behave responsibly with a regular mobile phone.)
  3. Take away all other privileges (television, video games, radio, after-school activities) until further notice.
  4. As child becomes more respectful, add a privilege back.
  5. Repeat until your kid stops being a jerk.
I'm sure all the touchy-feely types out there are appalled at this style of parenting. Is there a time and place for a soft touch when it comes to parenting? Absolutely! This is not one of them.

Many parents have become so worried that their kids will not like them that the parents will lose their own self respect in order to please the kids. The job of a parent is not to be the child's best friend; the job of a parent is to raise children who have character, respectfulness, and manners.

The bottom line of any decision a parent needs to make when it comes to disciplining any child who is old enough to reason is for the parent to ask him/herself, "would you put up with this from anyone else?" If the answer is no, then you know that discipline is in order. There is no need to subjugate yourself to your child(ren) in exchange for harmony at home.

Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness.
- C. S. Lewis

1 comment:

Ted M. said...

Beth -- I found your blog through StlBiking.com, but I most enjoyed this post. As parents to 2 girls ages 8 and 11, my wife and I lament the number of parents who have seemingly abdicated their parental responsibilities in teaching their children respect and manners, esp. in public. We frequently see kids who are 'old enough to know better' that obviously don't. Restaurant manners is a big one - kids eating with their mouths open, eating fork food with their hands, arguing with each other - while the parents eat their meals in oblivion. Teaching needs to start early and be reinforced throughout childhood - that parent in the ortho office lost the battle long ago. People often comment on how well-mannered our kids are, like it's some unusual feat. It's not rocket science!