So here I was today, about to review a lovely little gem of a book I read last week, when instead I came across a blog post that piqued my interest. This gal is fabulously confident in who she is, and I love it. Her post today got me thinking about my own discipline memories as a child and how it is hands down the one thing my husband and I disagree on most often.
FreePlayLife’s post today was Bullies Are Bullied First Usually By People Trying To Be Good Parents, go read it. I then headed over to the CNN article she was discussing called Permissive Parents: Curb Your Brats, read that too. Yikes. I think the title says it all.
Coming from a household in which I got the ‘look’, I can tell you I never felt good about it. It never said just, “Stop doing that” but it also subtly added in, “You are evidently a moron for even thinking that, doing that, or saying that”, whatever ‘that’ was at the given time. It also added in “What the hell is wrong with you”.
And you must also know, that the ‘look’ doesn’t work unless you have done something they should be afraid of, hauled off and spanked your kids, brought the belt out on your kids, or done some other humiliating form of corporal punishment. They change their behavior with the ‘look’ cause they don’t want to be humiliated, have their space invaded, or be physically hurt, again.
Now my parents did the best they could with the tools they had. They did what they knew. They did what most parents in that generation did. Judging by conversations I have had with others of that era and articles that shed such light as the CNN one does. HOWEVER, if you can look around at the world and tell me that it is so fabulous, perfect, that many, not all, people are not selfish, completely insecure, on lots of anxiety and depression meds, power hungry, basically unhappy, narcissistic, blind consumers, or cranky, over eaters or under eaters, or oblivious, lack compassion, or some other of the myriad of issues people have, then you just continue on living in the bubble that you are perfect, you are raising/raised perfect children, that the ‘look’ works and is supportive to a child’s well being, after all, it happened to us and we turned out ok…cough, cough, cough…hack.
For the rest of us who are more sensitive to the subtleties in peoples behavior, we will move on and discuss how important it is to let children express themselves. That obviously we don’t want our kids to be assholes around you, but that we also are purposely NOT raising them to always tow the line blindly. That we want them to explore themselves, create passionate lives, have opinions that are valid and not discounted, feel that they matter and are not second class citizens, understand that they have feelings that are important to deal with just not make go away cause they come up at inopportune times. I like to think of it as purposely NOT trying to raise stormtroopers, robotic people that move to the same drummer, but instead dance to their own music, even if the social norm is different. For crying out loud, kids spend more time reading text messages than books, does that mean I want my kids to do that too just cause it is the social norm?
I think the reflection of society in this argument is that many actually still harbor the idea that children are second class. Is it somehow part of the whole idea that they are ‘interrupting’ how we would otherwise live our lives? I know as a Mom, I get frustrated with my own people when I am trying to do something and they are arguing, making a mess, what have you. But I am genuinely trying to work on this completely self absorbed aspect of myself. If you are out to dinner and some kids are being loud, is it disturbing you because now your dinner isn’t living up to your ‘expectations’ and you are too inflexible to change them?
Are we blaming kids because we are too busy to practice patience? That we are too stressed to remember how it was to travel on an airplane when we were five? Are we so plugged in and checked out that we forget that kids are actually…kids? Children? Little human beings that need love and guidance not boot camp? Would we seriously give our own friends the ‘look’ and expect them to change their behavior that we don’t happen to agree with? What about our boss?
Ah…no easy answer. I could spend all day thinking about why kids are less than human beings in so many peoples eyes. Instead I am going to continue to surround myself with other parents who are just trying the best that they can. That are honest about their zillions of mistakes. That look at children with eyes of compassion and love, not contempt. Yes, yes, our future lies in the hands of these little people, I will do anything not to let them watch life pass them by because they are too afraid and insecure they are not good enough to grab their dreams because my form of discipline was the ‘look’.
A poem that might shed some light:
When Angela was very young,
Age two or three or so,
Her mother and her father
Taught her never to say NO.
They taught her that she must agree
With everything they said,
And if she didn’t, she was spanked
And sent upstairs to bed.
So Angela grew up to be
A most agreeable child;
She was never angry
And she was never wild;
She always shared, she always cared,
She never picked a fight,
And no matter what her parents said,
She thought that they were right.
Angela the Angel did very well in school
And, as you might imagine, she followed every rule;
Her teachers said she was so well-bred,
So quiet and so good,
But how Angela felt inside
They never understood.
Angela had lots of friends
Who liked her for her smile;
They knew she was the kind of gal
Who’d go the extra mile;
And even when she had a cold
And really needed rest,
When someone asked her if she’d help
She always answered “Yes”.
When Angela was thirty-three, she was a lawyer’s wife.
She had a home and family, and a nice suburban life.
She had a little girl of four
And a little boy of nine,
And if someone asked her how she felt
She always answered, “Fine.”
But one cold night near Christmas time
When her family was in bed,
She lay awake as awful thoughts went spinning through her head;
She didn’t know why, and she didn’t know how,
But she wanted her life to end;
So she begged Whoever put her here
To take her back again.
And then she heard, from deep inside,
A voice that was soft and low;
It only said a single word
And the word it said was… NO!
From that moment on, Angela knew
Exactly what she had to do.
Her life depended on that word,
So this is what her loved ones heard:
NO, I just don’t want to;
NO, I don’t agree;
NO, that’s yours to handle;
NO, that’s wrong for me;
NO, I wanted something else;
NO, that hurt a lot!
NO, I’m tired, and NO, I’m busy,
And NO, I’d rather not!
Well, her family found it shocking,
Her friends reacted with surprise;
But Angela was different, you could see it in her eyes;
For they’ve held no meek submission
Since that night three years ago
When Angela the Angel
Got permission to say NO.
Today Angela’s a person first, then a mother and a wife.
She knows where she begins and ends,
She has a separate life.
She has talents and ambitions,
She has feelings, needs and goals.
She has money in the bank and
An opinion at the polls.
And to her boy and girl she says,
“It’s nice when we agree;
But if you can’t say NO, you’ll never grow
To be all you’re meant to be.
Because I know I’m sometimes wrong
And because I love you so,
You’ll always be my angels
Even when you tell me NO.”
~Barbara K. Bassett