An article titled, “Spoiled Rotten,” by Elizabeth Kolbert, questions whether American parents are raising a nation of “adultescents.” She cites a flurry of books on the subject, The Price of Privilege, The Narcissism Epidemic, and (ouch) A Nation of Wimps.
I’ve never read a parenting book in my life because I can’t believe there’s a “right” way to do it. If each child has a distinctive personality, there can’t be a universal method of disciplining them.
A social worker disagreed. She told me that “one, two, three magic” was the only way to raise a child. I hear plenty of moms warning, “Nathan, that’s one!” What happens when they get to three? Do they take away a video game?
I couldn’t even recall how we disciplined our kids although I remember what we didn’t do. We didn’t give them time-outs. We never grounded them. We didn’t take things away.
I finally asked one of the kids what we did to punish them. “You spanked us,” she said, without any bitterness. Oh – the barbaric method. I asked her if it had worked. She said that it had.
I never liked hitting the kids. It was a last resort. I also tried to follow my father’s advice: Don’t spank them when you’re mad. So I did it coldly. It seemed like a necessary evil for keeping them in bed and from running into the street.
My dad also told me parents should maintain a united front – my folks always circled the wagons against us. But I heard the opposite from a pediatrician. He said that a kid needs at least one parent to be their advocate. So my wife and I played “good cop, bad cop.” I was invariably the “good” one, offering the suspect a cigarette and coffee during interrogation.
However, if the suspect became too defiant, I was the ultimate bad cop: administering a beating in the back room. I had a strong distaste for this, though, and finally declared a general amnesty. I announced to the kids that I would no longer spank them. They actually expressed disappointment.
So they were grateful for spanking. What else did we do right? One of them told us we offered them opportunities to try new activities, without the pressure of having to excel at them. Thus, they went through many fads and phases and found out things, such as they weren’t good at sewing.
Another thanked us for basically leaving him alone and letting him roam Forest Park unsupervised. I don’t know if Forest Park parents are still comfortable with this concept, but I think it’s a great way to grow up.
You notice I didn’t ask the kids what we did wrong. Who has time for that? I’m just thankful that none of them has turned into an adultescent.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.