Dear American Parent (hopefully, you will recognize yourself):
It’s high time someone reminded you of the adage, “The road to (Hades) is paved with good intentions.”
I have watched as you have raised your children. You’re a well-intentioned person, thus my reference to the adage. And your kids are cute, reasonably well-behaved (although you obviously believe they have no faults), polite and so on. They are undoubtedly fun to be around (although not as fun as you obviously believe they are). You’re doing a good job, at least from the point of view of a culture that can’t see past the end of its parenting nose. In other words, if the measure of one’s child-rearing is how many positive experiences one creates for one’s children, you get an A-plus.
You — and you are not alone in this regard — seem to believe that your job is to create happiness for your kids and minimize if not eliminate anything that might cause them discomfort. That is not your job. Your job is to prepare emotionally sturdy, self-responsible, respectful future citizens. The proper goal of raising a child in America is to make America a better place. You seem to think that parenting is or should be all about demonstrating love for one’s children — and yes, children need to know they are loved unconditionally — but proper parenting is also an act of love for one’s neighbor. You have lost sight of that, assuming you ever had it in sight.
You appear to think your children can do no wrong. That’s not true. They are human; therefore, they are inclined to do self-serving things. When they do self-serving things, they need correction, if not reprimand. But reprimanding your child is difficult when you want to be liked by your child, which is obviously one of your goals. Is there something missing in your life that you are so set on being liked by a child?
And while I’m asking questions, let me ask several more: What is the enduring value to a child of being treated like he is uniquely and amazingly special? Is it reasonable to suppose that the day is coming when people will not treat him as if he is uniquely and amazingly special but just an ordinary human like the rest of us? What is in store for the child when that day comes?
The most difficult thing for a person to come to grips with is the truth about himself — his faults, foibles and failings. It is abusive to raise a child so that he believes he is nothing but fault, foible and failing, but it is abuse of a different sort to raise a child so that he believes he is free of fault, foible and failing.
A wise person once said that while correction never feels good at the time, it eventually results in all manner of benefit (assuming it is accepted as intended). Likewise, never being corrected eventually results in all manner of detriment, but the detriment is never localized to just the person in question.
It boils down to this: Being a good citizen of the world is about putting other people’s needs before one’s own. The earlier that lesson begins, the better for the world.
Best regards, JR.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website, Rosemond.com.
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