Parenting is a Tricky Business, But That's No Excuse.

Maybe I'm not very qualified to give advice on parenting, since I've never tried it myself. I am, however, in the process of experiencing it currently, and I thought I'd throw in my two bits about what's worked and what hasn't.

In raising children, you have to find that precarious balance between being a friend and being the boss. A lot of parents are too lazy to do this, so they chuck the friend part and just act as the boss. This method seems to work out OK, but kids with those parents sure as heck aren't going to go to their folks for support when they've got a crisis. Anyway, in my family the parenting has been pretty much left up to my mom. My dad is there, but he's basically a vestigial organ in the family organism. My dad the appendix. He's kind of like having a fourth kid in the family; he never really got into the parenting thing until my little sister came along. She's eleven years younger than I am, so I pretty much missed out. He blew it with my brother and I; I don't think it even occurs to us to talk to my dad if we're upset. We always go to my mom. But he is there, so I guess that counts for something.

Enough about my family. I've been pondering this a little bit, since I've just started having trouble dealing with my parents. Tonight at dinner there was a little spat and basically I ended up walking away from the table in the middle of dinner because I was so fed up with them. Later my mom told me to go wash my dishes. I said I would when I was finished with what I was doing, and kept working. Later she walked by and said, "If those dishes aren't washed by the time I'm done putting Jessie to bed, you're grounded for a week." Disgusted, I went and did it. But it got me thinking. I used to do stuff my parents told me because I wanted to please them. I was a pretty insecure kid and I wanted to be their favorite. My brother always got more attention because he never did what he was supposed to. Now that I don't particularly want their attention or care about their approval, I have no real reason to obey them except residual "good child" syndrome. I spend so little time with them now that it feels like they hardly know who I am now, yet they still treat me like I'm the same person I was when I talked to them about everything. (well, I talked to my mom and she told my dad.)

I guess what really bothers me is that most parents don't have their kids' respect, so they resort to "I'm your parent, do what I say" tactics like grounding kids. If parents want their kids to obey them out of respect, they should start by respecting their kids. No person, no matter their age, likes to be rubbed in the dirt. Unnecessary displays of how much power someone has over my life doesn't usually encourage me to love them, be it a parent, a teacher, a boss, or whatever. In fact, it usually makes me hate them, albeit temporarily in most cases. I know parent-child relationships are in no way equal, but if a parent constantly rubs it in that the child is basically their little indentured servant he or she is 18, that relationship isn't going to be one in which respect or compassion is a factor. It's like a vicious circle, because if your kid doesn't respect you, you resort to "I'm the boss" ultimatums, which decreases the kid's respect, which forces you to boss them around more.

Anyway, that's my feelings on that. Being a "child", I'm sure I'm missing the parental perspective (if someone wants to offer it to me, you can do so using my comment form), but that's the world as I see it. I just try to understand it as best I can.

Sparky's Brain - Writings - Sparkyville

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Written 01/17/98.