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 you from near and far as you have gone about raising your children. You’re certainly a well-intentioned person, thus my reference to the above adage. And your kids are cute, reasonably well-behaved (albeit you obviously believe they have no faults), polite, and so on. They are undoubtedly fun to be around (albeit 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 seem to see past the end of its collective 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 — but 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 the least iota of 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 make no mistake about it, children need to know they are loved unconditionally — but proper parenting is also an act of love for one’s neighbor. You have obviously 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 naturally inclined to do self-serving things. When they do self-serving things, they need correction, if not reprimand. But reprimanding one’s child is a difficult thing to do when one wants to be liked by said child — which is obviously one of your goals. Is there something missing in your life that you are so dead set on being liked by a child?
And while I’m asking you 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, sooner or later, when people will not treat him as if he is UAS but just an ordinary human like the rest of us? What is likely in store for said 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. No doubt about it: It is abusive to raise a child such that he believes he is nothing but fault, foible and failing, but it is abuse of a different sort to raise a child such that he believes he is free of fault, foible and failing.
A very 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 all about being able to put other people’s needs before one’s own. The earlier that lesson begins in any given person’s life, the better for the whole world.
Best regards, JR.
Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com.