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American childrearing

  • Avatar of dotrichter


    [1]May 11, 2008
    • member since: 11/28/07
    • level: 1
    • rank: Weatherman
    • posts: 11

    I was born in the 1950s, an era where children were expected to have manners even at the dinner table and respect their elders. Although I realize that people as long ago as Plato have been complaining about the younger generation showing no respect, I am appalled at the lack of respect i see shown to parents every single day. I realize that nowadays both parents normally must work but my mother was divorced shortly after my birth and always worked. I was a latchkey child from age 5 and was disciplined to come home, notify the neighbor who knew I was home alone, go into the house not to emerge until my parents came home (except in case of fire), call my mother upon my arrival, then do my homework which was expected to be completed upon my mother's return home in 2 or 3 hours. I was not the perfect child. I made mistakes. I disobeyed but there were consequences to disobedience and I knew they were not worth the momentary pleasure of disobeying. Privileges were taken away such as playing with friends, watching television, or playing with my favorite toys like riding my bike. I was never physically abused (occasionally a little smack on the behind to get one's attention is not abuse - I'm not talking about beating, just a swat and that so rare I can think of only 2 or 3 occasions). My parents listened to my input more than most in that age (perhaps because I had to get used to my mother remarrying which is difficult for any child) but tolerated no more argument once the decision had been made. Considering that after my mother remarried (I was 7 years old at the time) both my parents worked, my family situation could not have been so dissimilar to that of the children I see nowadays so blaming bad parenting on work schedules and divorce/remarriage is an invalid argument. In those days the schools were NOT expected to pick up any of the slack save a bit of instruction in etiquette when the occasion arose. Parents today expect the schools to do the parenting as well as the scholastic instruction. Why is it impossible for parents to teach a child something as simple as to say "excuse me" or "yes/no sir/maam" when addressing an adult? I see this so infrequently that I always compliment the child on his/her manners and usually am told that "I'd get in trouble if I didn't" which really lights up my day.

    My all-time pet peeve is those parents whose children throw tantrums in public and the mother in a half hearted sing-song voice will repeat "Now stop that...." without even noticing whether the child heard her. Although I do not remember my own (I'm sure I did it too), I do remember my younger brother and sister each throwing a tantrum in a store at one time or another. My mother said absolutely nothing and walked away (observing from around the corner of the aisle) and waited until the kid discovered nobody was paying any attention and got up off the floor then she would come around the corner and act as if nothing had happened. It only took once or twice for this technique to work. Then of course there was the inevitable tantrum in front of the cashier usually over a candy bar denied. Again, Mom ignored the screaming and inevitably the cashier would try and calm the child only to be told by Mother to leave him/her alone. She would pay for the groceries and if the kid was still screaming when she left the lane with the cart, she continued to walk out as if unaware the child was still kicking and screaming on the floor. Of course she rarely made it farther than about 20 or 30 feet before the child in question gave up, got up, and followed. The incident was not mentioned and it never happened again. Once the child realizes he has made a fool of himself for no gain he usually won't repeat the performance.

    There was no negotiation when it came to table manners. We asked permission to leave the table. We asked for things to be passed. We said please and thank you and we NEVER watched TV during dinner as it was the only time the family had all together during the day. The conversation was the usual what happened at school, etc., and sometimes we just ate but as long as we acted politely and respectfully we were treated in the same way. Dinner was time to discuss family decisions such as the one I remember the best - when my parents had decided to buy a house rather than rent. Our input was welcomed and they listened to how we felt about things with as much respect as if they were speaking to adults. We were expected to help with chores, especially dinnertime with even my very small brother and sister old enough to take their plates to the sink as soon as they were old enough to sit in a regular chair at the table. For completing our chores for the week, we earned our allowance. For not completing chores, we got allowance either deducted or completely withheld. To earn extra money we could ask for extra work like washing the car, etc., As young as 6 I would earn extra money by ironing small items, edging the yard with hand clippers, and in a year or so shining the family's shoes and ironing my little sister's dress for church. Why do parents today seem to think it cruel to make a child have chores? Our alone time came at bedtime. Each of us had one or both parents to himself for a few minutes before bed and that was time to discuss anything we needed to discuss alone with a parent. Of course that wasn't the only time but that was ALWAYS the time we could count on.

    And television!!!! Of course in the 50s we didn't have video games and hundreds of TV channels but all the same, television was rationed. We were allowed to watch after dinner until bedtime if our homework was completed. We were allowed to play outside until dusk (if dusk was before bedtime). As a latchkey child and later as latchkey guardian for my brother and sister, TV was only watched after homework was completed and I as keeper of the television was accountable if TV were watched before homework was done and I knew about it. I wasn't blamed if they pulled a fast one on me though but since they were they didnt' do it often.

    Was I put upon as a child? Absolutely not. I was very proud of the fact that my parents trusted me with such a sense of responsibility that I was even considered able to care for my brother and sister in their absence and I wanted never to betray that trust. The first time my parents left me alone for a weekend with my brother and sister I was 16. And although I had full trust there was a next door neighbor who checked with me to make sure everything was OK. I had just started driving so I was very proud to be able to chauffer my 7 and 8 year old brother and sister to after school functions and felt very important. Of course the first thing my brother did was injure himself badly. I was at the neighbor's (the one helping me) after making sure "the kids" were home from school when my sister came running shouting that my brother was bleeding. I figured she was playing but one look at her face and I knew she wasn't. My brother had taken his go-kart out to the playground and run into a baskeball pole, hitting face first and broke his nose. My neighbor helped load him into the car but had to stay because her children were due home soon and were too young to be alone so I carted him to the family doctor. I was terrified I would be blamed because he was hurt on my first watch! But not only did the doctor praise my action, he offered to call my parents - an offer I refused. I knew I had to call them myself. My heart was pounding. I was so afraid they would be angry. Instead, when they heard the whole story and had spoken to the doctor, they called me back and told me how proud of me they were for showing such responsibility! The proudest moment of my life!! Now of course things are much different in the world and this type of responsibility given to a teenager is proabaly inappropriate nowadays but the point is that my parents went out of their way to make me a responsible person and to tell me they were proud of me when I acted responsibly. I wasn't the perfect kid. I didn't make straight A's. But I was never arrested, never wanted to hang around with kids who were into drugs, nor did I care to get into trouble. I, like all children, wanted my parents to be proud of me. I wanted them to say "This is my daughter and we're so proud of what an upstanding responsible person she is!" All children want that so why are the lessons we were taught as children so taboo today? Maybe I'm just the wrong generation but I refuse to allow children to run herd on me and that includes my neice and nephew. I was not blessed with children of my own but I certainly would have used my parents' lessons in childrearing as guide if I had. Of course not all children are able to handle that much responsibility but given a chance these idiot parents who insist on giving bottles to 5 year olds and sleeping with school age children would be very surprised how much they can handle.

    It's very sad that we have to have reality shows which show children screaming obscenities, throwing things, hurting their siblings and parents physically, and even sadder that these images are not the exception from what I have observed of my neighbors and coworkers' children. As a child if I damaged a neighbor's property I was expected not only to apologize but to earn enough money or complete the work to fix whatever I broke. My neighbors come over without the child (at least they come) and hand me money and say the child is too traumatized to talk to me. That's a cop-out! My brother and sister don't put up with that stuff from their kids either!! The world isn't that different but now parents are all about their own feelings and how rearing children seems to interfere with their own personal space rather than the welfare of the family!!!!

    Responsible parenting and insistence on manners does not equal abuse!!!! Why is this such a difficult concept?

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