I was talking to a father once about disciplining children and how things are so very different from when we were growing up. He told me a story about how his three year old rolled her eyes at him. He responded by telling her: “I will smash you and make another one!” His wife was horrified that he’d spoken to their child that way. He didn’t see the problem with what he’d said.
Why can’t all parents be like this? I pondered this while thinking back on an experience I had in a grocery store. A little boy about 8 years old asked his mother for candy. She said, “No.” He replied, “Mom, you’re being such a b!+ch!!” I immediately stepped back because I didn’t want to accidentally become collateral damage as Timmy’s mom laid hands on Timmy. But she did no such thing. She calmly responded “Timmy, I’ve told you before not to speak to me like that.” Oh, so Timmy’s cursed at his mother before? And since he still had all of his teeth and felt comfortable enough to do it again, he clearly understood that there were no consequences for blatant acts of disrespect.
Timmy should have been smashed and Timmy’s mom should have begun working on Timmy 2.0. But he wasn’t smashed and Timmy 2.0 is probably Timmy 1.1 with even more defects than the original. Had I lost my mind and said something like that to my mother, I would have almost certainly been smashed. Even today, I’m likely to get smashed for such disrespect.
Over the years, I’ve seen similar incidents again and again. When did parents start allowing their kids to speak to them any kind of way? It seems as though they’re taking this whole “I want to be my kids’ friend” thing just a bit too far. My mother isn’t a violent mother and never abused us, however, we had more respect for her than to curse at her or call her out of her name. That sort of thing simply didn’t happen in our house. When I see kids on TV shooting their classmates, committing (other) crimes and adopting a variety of vices, I think of little Timmy. But even moreso, I think of little Timmy’s mother (and father who I didn’t see) and wonder if she realizes that she’s “got next?” Does she know that she’s likely rasising the next idiot to be featured on the 11 o’clock news? Probably not. She’s probably of the school of thought that “freedom of expression” and lack of rules will lead to a more creative and successful child. I’m not buying it. I’m #TeamSmash!
This blog entry was originally intended to be an open letter to Huma Weiner the long-suffering wife of NY Mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner. I had all these grand ideas of sharing with her how incredibly weak and naïve she appeared “standing by her man” for the second time as he ‘fessed up to acts of betrayal committed during their marriage. I had plans of telling her how the message she was sending to young girls was an inappropriate one, blah, blah, blah. Then I realized that this woman has zero obligation to act as a role-model to anyone’s child except her very own. Furthermore, her marriage is really none of my business. Despite the fact that she’s chosen to live a highly visible life as a public servant, she has no obligation to be a role model to anyone.
“If your child has to look further than across the dinner
table for a role-model, you’ve failed as a parent.”
I believe that too often parents put unrealistic expectations on celebrities and other public figures. They overreact when their children see these individuals behaving badly. Then there’s the media with the talking heads asking, “What kind of message is s/he sending to his/her young fans?” I fully understand the temptation to respond in this way (refer to the first paragraph). But before we hop on our soapboxes telling people we don’t know how they should live their lives, we have to do a few things: 1) Realize that people are free to live their lives in any way they choose – even if it goes against our own fundamental values; 2) Realize that nobody is responsible for our children except us; and 3) Take full stock of the examples we’re setting for our children and ensure that they’re good ones. The people children encounter on a day-to-day basis have far more influence on them than anyone they’ll see on television or on the Internet. If parents are indeed doing their jobs, then children won’t feel the need to search elsewhere for the guidance of strangers.
“But I can’t stop my child from consuming the images of
wayward celebrities that litter the airwaves and Internet.”
No, you can’t keep your children from seeing pictures and “news” clippings of public figures displaying acts of questionable character. However, you absolutely have the power to establish yourself as a more important, more credible role model and source of encouragement than some person they’ve never met.
So . . .
Never mind. Carry on. After all, we don’t even know each other.