FROM THE DOWNHILL SLOPE

COMPLAINING ABOUT YOUR PARENTS?  MAYBE THEY TRIED TOO HARD.  LISTENED TOO CAREFULLY TO THE EXPERTS.   My Granny-nanny-goat side shares her views on how the experts mislead parents in the sixties, and a rant about why it goes on and on and how we are all hurt by the well intended parent advisors.

For a long time I agreed with the experts who said “Siblings Without Rivalry”.  I even bought into Thomas Gordon’s idea that parents need to be like therapists.  It took life with my many, many, many foster children, all in some degree of  trouble with the law, to teach me otherwise.

Siblings without rivalry is a myth, the bible preached that with the cautionary tale of Cain and Abel.  Parents can reduce the pain that sharing with  siblings can create, but the rivalry is a fact of life.  Jerome Kagan believes shame develops just when a toddler becomes capable of killing his or her younger sibling who most likely have  become able to mess with the older sibling’s toys.  Nature created shame to combat the sin of Cain, but the parent experts blamed parents for creating shame.  Sadly parents then set out on a mission to not only keep their beloved children from feeling shame, but also from feeling any negative emotion.

The experts and loving parents made keeping a child happy the pinnacle of good parenting.  See this article.  It stresses what has become one of my core beliefs.  Parents are not therapists but a child’s first guide to surviving life’s inevitable slings and arrows, pebbles and stones, mosquito and cobra bites, scratches and slashes.

A Nation of Wimps | Psychology Today.

Helping children withstand the stings, bruises, scratches, and slashes of life is not easy for two reasons.  First nature has endowed us with a nervous system that  feels pain when a baby cries.  A crying baby makes surrounding adults anxious, raises everyone’s blood pressure thus signalling the need to tend to baby.  Any care-giver who has struggled with a baby who cannot be comforted knows how acute the discomfort can become.  When a caregiver succeeds in keeping a baby from crying nature rewards the adult with a surge of feel good chemicals.  This is nature’s way of making certain babies get fed and otherwise tended to.  A program of comforting our children gets established and in Western society is hard to break, but mainly because the soft love parent advisors have convinced us an unhappy child or teenager is our fault and a bad thing.  More problematic is that many adults now feel the same way.

NOT TRUE.  UNHAPPINESS IS PART OF LIFE. AN UNHAPPY CHILD IS A CHILD LEARNING ABOUT REALITY.

Second reason:  Having all been children and felt how parents can hurt, we don’t want to hurt our children; moreover,  we feel pain when our children or any child hurts; we pacify when it might be more important to strengthen the child’s to handle negative feelings.  Many of my students looked daggers at me when I said you only became an adult when you became a parent.  An exaggeration, but one the parents in the class always understood, while those who had never had 24 hour responsiblity for a child did not.

So what should those of us who love children be doing?  We should comfort babies as much as we can.  Then as soon as baby becomes a toddler we need to teach four rules:  Respect yourself, respect others, respect property, and respect the law.  The teaching starts with keeping a toddler safe and preventing hurt to other living things and slowly moves on to the other two rules.   The question of unreasonable laws should only come into play as the child enters the teen years.

The balancing act between punishment and praise makes the difference between abuse either by too much love or too much punishments and good parenting.  The research on what makes good marriages stresses that there must be five positive interactions for every negative.  That has become one of my rules of parenting.  Don’t be afraid of punishment, it is not a dirty word, but it must be counterbalanced with lots of love, praise, and mutual fun.

To read more about Granny-nanny goats parenting advice, particularly about good and bad advice, click here.

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