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HONOR THY FATHER AND THY MOTHER
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We Are Attempting To Raise Our Children Differently, Why?
We Are Attempting To Raise Our Children Differently. Why?
Some folks have the most obvious reason of all. They want to break a trans-generational cycle of abuse. However, there are plenty of folks who are not caught up in such a cycle and still feel an almost instinctual ‘nod" to raise their children differently from the way they were raised.
Many of us were raised in a climate where, as children, we were to be seen and NOT heard. We had nothing to say about anything. We could not question. We certainly could never point out to Mom or Dad their mistakes, even a insignificant mistake, and when we did, we were told that we didn’t see what we saw because parents do not make mistakes, or perhaps we were punished to prove the point that parents are always right!
"Hey Dad, you turned right instead of left."
"Don’t be telling me how to drive. I know where I’m going."
You wanted desperately to ask him why he was making a U-turn, but you knew better!
The die-hard contemporary parents who hold on to the way they were parented, believe that the world is going to hell in a hand basket or a rocket ship because we have abandoned the traditional spoil the rod, spare the child approach! Yes, I know! I did that on purpose! Checking to see if you’re paying attention or if you even know what the phrase is! You got it, I’m still a rebellious little kid!
Now it is true, that in the last fifty years, we have tended to overindulge our children and consequently have given them a sense of entitlement. I think, in part, this is a backlash to many of us being raised in the shadow of the Great Depression. (I still don’t know why they call it the Great Depression. Some of the depressions I’ve been in, in the last two years, with the economy, are pretty ‘great,’ but somehow that era has a monopoly on the phrase!) So we don’t want our children to experience frugality for the sake of frugality, so we overindulge them. Our children have no clue that we did not get everything we desired. They think it is the norm. So, of course, they are not appreciative! And so we get really ticked off, take away a bunch of stuff from them, eventually feel guilty, and overindulge them one more time, hoping that this time, they will get it and be appreciative! NOT!
But you know, I think there are even "bigger picture" reasons, which I find quite interesting and even profound, why we are trying to raise our children differently. There is a connection between our desire to raise our children differently and what has been going on for humanity over the last eight to nine hundred years! Oh yea, this is much bigger than a fifty or sixty year thing!
I say eight to nine hundred years, because I think the move to raise our children differently has its roots at least as far back as the Magna Carta. Perhaps farther back than that, but I’m not a great historian, so that’s about as wide as my historical frame gets. Perhaps for those of you who are hung up with that Old Testament proverb cited above, the roots may be in the Gospels and in the Epistles. Lots and lots of references to children and how to treat them in the New Testament. And lots of references to the transformation of relationships between people because of the coming of Jesus. Put that in your fundamentalists, traditional, stick-in-the-mud pipe, and smoke it! Yep, I’m a rebellious and offensive little kid, and in a few paragraphs, you’ll say, "I know why you got slapped!"
When it comes to parenting, we somehow forget all the ways we, as people, are growing and evolving spiritually, politically, sociologically, economically, and psychologically. We have been going through major changes and shifts in the last eight to nine hundred years (or perhaps two thousand) in terms of the way we see people and the way we treat people. At some point, the internal dissonance between the way we live the rest of our life and the way we parent becomes like a pebble in our shoe, and we begin to take notice.
When a policeman pulls us over for a speeding ticket, we would be horrified if the officer demanded we step out of the car, drop our drawers, and right there in front of the entire eastbound lanes of the freeway, take any number of swats from the paddle that hangs from the rearview mirror, right next to his shotgun!
Of course, we don’t tolerate that kind of behavior from law enforcement and it’s gotten even worse than that. The poor ol’ policeman can’t even get away with beating or shooting someone he has been chasing at a hundred miles an hour through red lights and any number of close calls. I mean, we train the cop to defend us and to kill offenders. It’s a job that automatically results in one’s adrenalin pumping so crazily that it takes very little to move from civility to survival mode. In survival mode, no matter who you are, you do what your brain thinks you need to do to survive and, in the case of the cop, to protect the folks who hired you!
HEY! I think it’s great we hold the police to a high standard. I think it is necessary, but I also cringe inside when I imagine myself doing what I’m trained to do and then having to answer in court for it. I mean it’s not like I walked up to someone out of the clear blue and shot them. I was chasing them for thirty minutes and watching them nearly kill any number of folks in the process. I can’t even tell you why I shot them. I thought they were coming at me. I thought if I didn’t get them first, I was a goner. Yes, yes, I’ve watched the video over and over again myself. I can see now, when the adrenalin is back to normal, that the guy was simply standing up with his hands over his head and following my orders. What can I tell you? I was doing my job, I thought!
AND, no, I don’t know what the answer is. BUT, notice how we are insistent that the policeman answers to a higher standard than the criminal! But traditionally, we have not been willing to apply that high standard to ourselves as parents. We want to hold on to the archaic notion that our children are our property, and we can do to them whatever we want, the same way that slave owners in this country were not held accountable for the way they treated their slaves.
So that tidal wave movement, that is flooding through every institution in our society, and in many societies throughout the world, is finally trickling down to parenting and the way we treat children.
I think we want to raise our children differently because we are beginning to recognize that we treat everyone else in our lives much better than our own children. We are beginning to recognize that we treat our pets better than our children. We are more tolerant of our pets when we are training them. We are much more accepting of our pets’ "bad" behavior. When we come home from being gone all day, and we see all the trash cans turned upside down, we simply stare in amazement "Wow, that stupid silly dog actually has a heart and a brain." We reach down and pet the dog, "Oh, you silly little dog, you missed me, didn’t you?"
BUT when we come home from being gone all day and our children throw tantrums, we assume they are being manipulative and unappreciative of how hard we work to make a good life for them!
As we do move into raising our children differently, we are faced with the fact that our children no longer fear us. That’s because we are not threatening them with corporal punishment or death. I always tell participants of my parenting workshops that when I grew up, I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if I got out of line, I would end up in the backyard, right there next to Jimmy Hoffa. I didn’t know who Jimmy was, but there he was in our backyard, DEAD!
I USED to laugh when I told this next story. When I was about 11 years old, my Dad had to go to a business meeting after dinner. That was really unusual, and on this particular occasion, he decided to shower before leaving for the meeting. My sister was at the kitchen sink washing the dinner dishes, and you gotta to know that the kitchen sink shared the same wall and plumbing as his shower! So, my Dad instructed my sister not to use any hot water until he finished his shower.
When my Dad had left the kitchen, I WHISPERED to my sister laughingly, "turn on the hot water!" To this day, I have no idea how my Dad heard my whisper, but he did, and he came flying out of his room and shouted at me, "What did you say?" I really thought the entire situation was hilarious, especially him flying out of his room with his bath towel wrapped around him. I started to laugh, and I could not stop laughing, no matter how many times my Dad told me to wipe the smile off my face and to stop laughing. At some point, I saw his hand raising and had no idea that he was about to strike me, so hard, that I thought I would see, as in a cartoon, my teeth flying out of the side of my mouth. And being crazy as I am, I continued to laugh, even after the blow. He finally turned around and left the room in what looked like disgust.
Well, as I was saying above, I have told this story any number of times as a humorous example of old school parenting. And a good example of why we feared and "respected" our parents. And I’ve been sharing this little piece of my growing-up years for about twenty six years. Well, about a year ago, I was telling the story, and when I got to the part of Dad striking me, I began to cry. I was so caught off guard, but it finally "hit" home for me. It was not funny at all, and perhaps was a significant moment in my relationship with Dad. He became unsafe, someone who was unpredictable, someone who could not see the humor in a situation, who was more concerned about being revered and in control than he was in having a good laugh with his son.
So here’s the rub, When we take away the fear and the so-called respect–it’s not respect at all, it’s just more fear–then our children are not as compliant as we were when we were kids.
Of course, it’s not rocket science! But is that what we want?
Well, I have the answer, and so do you. It’s the same issue with the policeman. We have yet to learn how to hold our children responsible for their behavior and accountable for their decisions. And worse, we have very little internal confidence that our children will follow us and be compliant when it is is absolutely necessary for them to be compliant. They sense our lack of confidence, almost unconsciously and consequently, don’t take us seriously.
I tell many folks to take Karate where you can learn to have confidence in yourself and learn how to exude that sense of confidence. It’s not about threat or fear. It’s about being grounded. It’s about knowing in your entire body, in every muscle, that you really mean what you are saying. It means believing that what you are telling the child to do is in fact going to happen, no matter how much tantruming they do.
Some of you still get off track with the tantrums and having to stand your ground. But we forget that this is how free human being operate. Even as adults, we are always testing the limits. When our children test the limits, it is our job, NOT TO THREATEN THEM, but to hold the line, to mean what we say, to follow through, to hold them responsible and accountable. When children begin to experience such a pattern in their relationship with us, they will stop testing for the most part. On any given occasion, they will give testing a shot, to see if we still mean what we say, but that is how it is with all of us. Think about it. Think about all the ways you test the limits every single day and you never expect to be killed for it or even punished and you become incensed when you are punished, for example, a speeding ticket, or a warning from your boss for being late one too many mornings.
Now some of us think that the solution here is to talk more to our children. The fact of the matter is, at the moment of push comes to shove, we talk way too much. Once we draw the line, we simply become a broken record and repeat ad nausea. The following day, when you are both in a good place, then a conversation about the hard time you give me when I tell you it’s time to go to bed can be quite useful, quite resourceful, and quite rewarding.
Many of us get so flustered that we do not take advantage of all the natural consequences that are available to us in drawing the line. You don’t go to bed when I tell you to, the next day, the television goes off an hour early or doesn’t go on at all. No, not for the rest of the week. Just for the next day! And here’s the kicker. You don’t threaten the child with this consequence. You don’t even warn the child. It just happens the next day, and you let the child figure it out for him or herself. Our children are pretty intelligent and they will figure it out without us screaming it at them.
Particularly when children are under six years old, we need to stop telling the child to do something from a distance. The more physical space there is between you and the child when you give a command, the higher the probability that the child will not hear you. Of course, they hear you, but they don’t hear you. It works well to simply motor a non compliant child through the activity or if necessary to pick up the child and take physical control of the moment. When you do pick up a child to take control, be soothing and calming so the child can get him or herself back into physical control.
Heavens no, it is not this simple. Believe me, I know. So we have room for another blog, and share with me your most difficult situations with your children, and I will offer you some alternatives. Actually it’s all quite complex. It involves a heightened awareness of all the patterns that are already established between you and your child and some of these patterns do not serve you at all. So again share with us, some of those difficult moments, and I will follow through with another blog specifically to address those impossible moments!
Hey, thanks for hanging in with me. This was a long one. Hey, and don’t forget to LAUGH!
OOPS! I forgot one more thing. Why did I entitle this Honor Thy Mother And Thy Father. It is very simple. When we choose to live our lives differently or actually use our knowledge and talents that we inherited from Mom and Dad to take our lives a step beyond theirs, we are honoring them in the most precious and sacred way possible. I surely hope that my son will raise his children differently than the way I raised him. Not that it was awful or abusive, but he knows a lot more about kids than I did when he was a little guy. Even with a license to practice psychotherapy, it took me till he was ten years old to begin putting all of my knowledge into practice. He has some good stories! I wasn’t a good Dad on more occasions that I want to admit. As I mentioned in another blog some weeks back, I did my own version of sacrificing him to the gods.