Because I Said So

I have always thought discussing politics was the surest way to start an argument, but I think I’ve found an even more volatile subject–parenting.

On the blogging community Blogher, there is an article titled “I Don’t Like Spanking My Kids, but I Do It Anyway.” The mom who wrote the article discusses how she believes in spanking her children only when necessary, and that she was spanked as a child.

The resulting conversation is fantastically entertaining.

The vast majority of commentators are against spanking, and a lot of them refer to it as abuse.  Furthermore, I  kept seeing the phrases “explain to your child” and “discuss their feelings” and teaching their kids to “control their emotions.”

This got me thinking.

Paradoxically, I happen to have a very close relationship to my son, and we do discuss most things, because he is mature enough to do it.  It works very well for us.  Also, he was never one to have tantrums as a toddler, and I didn’t have a lot of trouble with him getting into things or touching things he shouldn’t.

That doesn’t mean we never had our issues.

The overwhelming tone of the comments is that you should parent with love (which is true) and that you should explain to your kids why certain things are the way they are.  I made a comment that I wasn’t really for spanking (I have never found it to really accomplish anything) but that I had smacked a hand that was reaching for a hot stove.  Someone responded that I should have just removed the child to a crib or high chair away from the stove.  And of course “explain” to a two-year-old that they shouldn’t do that.  Then we could discuss their feelings.

One mother believes that you really can reason with a tantrum-having toddler by discussing their “big feelings.”  She has had success with this method.

I’m happy for her.

From my perspective, there’s only so much reason you can share with a toddler.  They are NOT tiny adults–they are children! Their brains are developing, and so are their emotions.  If a two-year-old wants a piece of candy that he can’t have, he only knows that it is good and that he wants it.  He doesn’t know anything about cavities or diabetes, and he doesn’t care.  You just have to say no, and if they freak, you have to put them somewhere safe until they quit.

When my son was six, he was friends with a little boy who came from a very troubled home.  The father verbally and physically abused the mother, they used foul language, and they were into drugs.  Needless to say, he was never going to go to the little boy’s home.  But the little boy just kept asking.  My son wanted to go.  I told him no, that I didn’t know the parents.  He told me to go meet them so he could go to their house.  My son became very angry with me because was my answer was “no.”

Now, I’m sorry, but I didn’t owe my son any explanations.  My answer was no, and that was it.  He was not old enough for me to explain the reasons he wasn’t allowed to go visit his little friend.

I think that’s the heart of the matter–parents are more interested in being popular than being parents.  Even the very  best children will go through rebellious and challenging periods.  All teenagers think they know everything, and no amount of explaining and reasoning will convince them that you are right and they are wrong.  You just have to stand tough, even if they get mad.

The other thing that I found interesting was that everyone is convinced of their own superiority.  Not only that, but rather than accept other people parent differently than them, they go on the attack.  Their way is the only way.

I am certainly skeptical about a lot of these parenting strategies, but having never tried them, I couldn’t say.  Maybe they work great.  Or maybe they don’t.  I only know that parenting is very hard, and I know your children have to respect you and, yes, they must have a certain amount of fear.  It’s not a fear that you will beat them up or something if they mess up, but just that they will have to suffer the consequences.  That voice has to speak in their mind when they are faced with a difficult decision–“If I do this, my mom is going to kill me.”

I think if you raise your kids with love and respect and expect them to do their best, things will be okay.  If they know they have consequences when they mess up, maybe they won’t mess up as much.  Mostly, they model their behavior after their parents, so if you want your kids to be decent people, the best thing to do is be a decent person yourself.

That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?





If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Shoot ‘Em (or their laptop, anyway)

I have no idea why I continue to watch morning news programs, other than the fact they provide me with excellent blog material.  My personality, which is dubious at any time, is at its lowest ebb early in the morning, so I always end up getting mad.

Usually the source of my a.m. rage is a politician (usually Newt Gingrich) or some stupid commentator (usually Nancy Grace).  However, this morning my ire came from an unusual source: Dr. Nancy Snyderman.

For those of you who don’t know, the usually benign Dr. Snyderman is the medical director for NBC news.  Apparently she’s expanding into the field of social commentary, because she was on a panel with a couple of others this morning offering opinions about various topics.  Right at the end, with like one minute left, Matt Lauer asked what they thought about the dad who shot his daughter’s laptop.

Now, for those of you who haven’t been in touch with the world much lately, I’ll give you the highly abridged version: a teenage girl blocked her parents from Facebook, then wrote a letter on there about how horrible her life was because she had to (gasp!) do chores without pay.  She criticized her mother, father, and used foul language.  Naturally word got back to her dad, and he reacted by posting a video on YouTube.  He read her letter, made a few remarks, and then proceeded to shoot “her” laptop with a pistol.

So anyway, the reaction has been huge and mixed.  With only seconds remaining, Dr. Snyderman said, “CPS should be at their house today.

Lots of arguments have been made about whether this was good parenting, bad parenting, genius, psychotic–I’ve seen it all.  I’ve entertained myself for hours by reading the comments of others.  But nothing, nothing, has got under my skin like this comment by the good doctor.

CPS?  Really?  We could all have a good debate about whether not this dad overreacted.  It’s possible.  Obviously, temper is a genetic issue in that family.  But CPS?  Calling this man a bad father?  He didn’t threaten physical harm to his daughter, or even call her bad names, although if I was in his shoes, I can testify that both of these things would probably cross my mind.

People like Dr. Nancy Synderman (said with no irony whatsoever, I assure you) are what is happening to our kids.  Have you looked around at kids lately?  I don’t want to sound like one of those old people who talk about “kids today,” but really, I think the fact is most kids have a total disconnect with reality.  I know my own son does, and I know it’s my fault.  He, too, feels as though he should receive some compensation for doing chores or helping out around the house.

Here’s a crazy thought for all of you poor kids out there: you do your chores because you are a member of your family, a member of the household, and mostly because your parents told you to!  How can a child be raised to be a contributing member of society when they can’t even be taught to be a contributing member of their own family?  How can they learn selflessness and empathy when they think it’s “unfair” to be asked to take out the garbage?  Guess what?  There doesn’t have to be a reason.  At the end of the day, I’m the parent, and I call the shots.  That’s it.

I’m also not a big preacher of all of that “real world” stuff, because I think kids are exposed more and more to the real world than they should ever be at an early age, but has anyone else noticed that it’s usually the kids that are handed the most that are the most ungrateful?  One of the comments I read about this video even had something to do with destruction of property and respecting a kid’s things.

Destruction of property? I wonder who bought that computer he shot?  I wonder who pays the cell phone bill, or who pays for the Internet service provider?  My son and I had this rather hot and brief discussion a few weeks ago.  He password protected his phone.  I told him to take the password off immediately.  He said, “It’s my phone.”  I said, “Um, actually, I bought it and I pay the bill.  So I think that makes it my phone that I’m allowing you to use.”  There was some huffing and puffing, but guess what?  There is no damn password on the boy’s phone.  And the day he blocks me on Facebook?  That will be the last day he uses Facebook. (I wouldn’t shoot the computer, though–I paid too much for it.)  If he wrote some dirty-mouthed letter on Facebook about me?  I can’t say what I’d do, because I don’t know.  I know I’d be mad.  I’ve seen comments from people who say they don’t get mad at their kids.  They talk reasonably to them, then they go outside and feed their pet unicorn together.  The point is, kids are not entitled to these fancy things–they are a privilege, and privileges have to be earned, and can easily be revoked.  We just have to have the guts to do it.

So do I agree with shooting a computer?  In a word, yes.  I wouldn’t do it personally, but I will never judge the man who did it.  He was fed up.  He wanted to make a strong point, and I think he did.  We are always threatening, “if you don’t do blah blah blah I’m going to blah blah blah.” And we never do.  We never take the phone or the computer.  Or maybe we do, then we give it back the next day.  We lack the courage of our convictions.  It’s wimpy parenting, and while Dr. Snyderman thinks it’s okay, I think it sucks.

Worse, I think it’s ruining our kids.  Maybe somebody should call CPS about that.


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