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Sometimes I Wish That It Would Rain Here

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

the cure for what ails society

everyone seems to think there is one core issue that is the root of all that is wrong with our country/society/world and, if resolved, will remedy everything that ails society. granted, this is quite a generalization, and in reality most people don't think there is only one issue but rather put the majority of their emphasis on a single issue. not to be left out, I, too, will choose an issue.

I choose parenting. what will influence this society more than those who will be the next to compose it? obviously, I don't mean to imply that every single problem can be remedied by good parenting. furthermore, I certainly don't purport to assume that their is a single golden standard by which one can determine the "goodness" of any given parent. it's a complicated, difficult, all consuming job, and it doesn't come with a manual. however, I do believe that general guidance can be given. I also believe that the root of all societal change begins with the next generation of the society, and who has more influence on that next generation than the adults with whom they live, i.e., their parents.

Orson Scott Card recently published an article in his Ornery American column entitled I Give You Permission, which in short encouraged parents to actually be strict with their children. not being a parent, I may not have any license to say anything about the way parenting works, but I plan on being a parent someday, and so have at least given it some deal of thought. a large bit of what he says makes sense; things like actually asking your child to be responsible, not giving a child everything he or she asks for, and giving more trust and freedom (though not total) to the child who merits it. most of it seems like reasonably sound advice.

although there were a couple sentences I'm not sure that I agreed with, one idea in particular threw me. he has this idea that kids aren't capable of self-control and need parents to teach it to them by telling them what they can and cannot do. when they get older, they realize that their actions have consequences and so are then able to exhibit proper self-control. I know that certain self-preservation drives are either not present or not as strong in young children, such that kids will often do risky things because they don't have the mental processes in place to stop them. however, I don't think that kids are totally without judgment. I remember what it was like to be a kid. my parents taught me some of what I should or shouldn't do, but they couldn't force me to repress my desires or delay gratification; I had to learn to do that for myself. furthermore, I knew other people who had very strict parents that, when they moved out or went to college, had absolutely no self-control, discipline, responsibility, or ability to delay gratification. it seems like this occurred because the self-control they had when younger was actually an
externally imposed substitute for self-control from their parents. if they had been allowed to develop their own self-control with the guidance of their parents, they would have been better equipped when parental control was removed.

one of the biggest things I advocate in parenting is that no two children are alike, and no two parents are alike. often times, a parent must adapt his or her parenting style to fit the specific, possibly
idiosyncratic needs of his or her child. to that end, it's entirely possible that my parents gave me the room to develop my own self-control at a young age because they realized that I would, but that might not have worked with another child or for other parents.

ultimately, I'd say that parenting is mostly (but not entirely) relative, both to the parent and the child. while some of OSC's comments are good advice, I'm not so sure that taking them as absolutes makes sense. it's quite possible that the relativism of parenting is an implicit assumption that comes to bear on the remainder of the article, but I would have liked such an assumption to be stated explicitly.


  • And what about parents who take their overweight children to eat at McDonalds (and the like)? This really annoys me. Don't get me wrong, I love my parents, and they were great parents, and the only fault I find with the job that they did was that. I was overweight, not obese, but not exactly healthy or active. Now part of the problem was severe allergies which made exercise a nightmare which I refused to engage in... but part of it was going to frikking McDonalds. I realize its hard to cook at home and its more expensive to cook healthy food. Its certainly must easier to make things taste good by loading on the fat and sugar. Now, on my parents defense, they did eventually and by eventually I mean within a year or two, realize that something was wrong and helped me change my diet and get healthier. And (now this is my real pet peeve) parents that reward their children with food!! There are two big problems with this... food becomes associated with love and approval. This is aweful, if your kids are behaving you should make it clear you love them by telling them and if they're not you should still make it clear you love them by telling them! The second problem is that they don't stick to it. "You'll get a snickers if you're good while we're at the grocery store" and then they don't behave and they still get the snickers half the time.

    Also parents shouldn't vote Republican in front of their children... it does things to them. hahahahahaha

    By Anonymous Justin, at Thursday, May 12, 2005 2:37:00 AM  

  • Man, this blog is obviously way smarter than mine. Parents, who knew !

    By Blogger James, at Sunday, May 15, 2005 5:27:00 PM  

  • Heh... I think my mom might have voted Republican in front of me once. Reagan, even. And everyone knows how messed up I am.

    I'm in agreement with your major points here, though I think I should point out that OSC would probably not advocate diversity in parenting. I used to read his column until he turned into a freaky fundamentalist demagogue during his review of The Passion of The Christ and more-or-less advocated Christian secession. Yikes. He's not that open-minded when it comes down to it.

    Definitely, parents need a LOT more social support than they get. Have you taken a look at some of the parenting books out there? They seem more-or-less designed to make moms have a nervous breakdown if their kid doesn't get into the bestest preschool or if they eat soft cheese during pregnancy. Rather than support parents, there is a great big cultural meme floating around telling them they have to be perfect and they have to do it all on their own. Ugh.

    Dude... how about better maternity leave? How about equal paternity leave while we're at it? How about not treating dads like they have a full-time stay at home wife and expecting them to pull 60-hour work weeks? How about affordable day care? How about state certifications for above so you know you're putting your kid somewhere safe? How about not pushing suburban communities as the best place to raise kids when they actually isolate your family more... oh and those kids are likely to grow up more overweight because you have to drive everywhere. And schools, and health insurance, and blah blah blah.

    Oh right... we were too busy attacking video-games, the REAL danger.

    Parenting is super-important, but I'm gonna get all ranty feminist on you and claim that parenting issues are political as well as personal, and we as a society, for all the lip service we pay them, really shit on families.

    By Anonymous metamanda, at Sunday, August 21, 2005 8:17:00 PM  

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