If I were to write a book of advice on raising children, I often joke, I would call it. “Don’t Be An Asshole.”
After watching Night at the Museum tonight (a two-drink funny rental), I had an alternative title (“Asshole” being a hard sell): Contain Your Young!.
Yes, I am quite aware of all my failures and flaws as a parent, but I’ve also had it with parents who let their kids get away with hitting, screaming, whining and generally acting like assholes. I don’t like belligerent adults; I don’t like obnoxious kids. Why do so many moms and dads let their kids get away with behavior that, if said person was an adult, would result in getting socked in the face? Or at least very few friends? I am all about saying, “yes,” instead of “no,” as often as possible; no one could doubt I love my kids more than anything else in this world and would go to the ends of the Earth to protect them; nonetheless, if they disrespect me or anyone else, the consequences rain down fast and furious. Lately I keep running into parents who remind me of the owners of untrained dogs:
“No honey. Stop that. No. Don’t. Really. Stop. That’s bad. No. Honey, stop. Don’t do that.”
“Spike. C’mon here, Spike. Spike! Come here now! Spike! Stop that! Spike, come! Spike!”
Meanwhile, said child or dog is acting like… an asshole. And ruining it for the rest of us who teach our dogs to come when called and our children that “Stop” means stop.
I create as many positive opportunites for my kids as possible. I cave in to their desires probably too often. They sometimes annoy the hell out of me and occasionally get into trouble at school or elsewhere. But when they do something wrong, I don’t respond with, “Oh, what happened? Were you feeling sad? Were you hungry? Were you upset because of insert some innocent child’s name here?” I get right in his or her face, look into those big, blue eyes and channel my meanest German ancestors: “What you did was wrong.” They damn well should feel ashamed for behaving badly and instilling that is part of my job as mom – having a sense of shame is a necessary component of having a conscience. Only some parents are so anti-shame, because that valuable emotion has been exploited by everyone from Catholics to evangelicals and they have their own deep childhood issues, that they can’t evoke that in their own kids. So we get kids who have no sense of guilt when doing something wrong; kids that nobody likes, that will grow up continuing to treat others badly without caring; adults that are lousy roommates and screw over all their friends and are the sort of people who abuse their waitresses over petty manufactured complaints because no one ever gave them a good shake and said, “Knock that crap off!”
Just look at our president. Would you want your kid to grow up to be another version of George W. Bush? Clueless and cavalier about the needs of others? Spoiled, with a skewed sense of entitlement? Unabashedly corrupt?
If the answer is no, then immediate consequences and an intimate understanding of how our actions affect others and why we should respectfully consider that is in order.
And then, yeah, tend to cultivating their little free spirits and whatnot.