I adored The Waltons when I was young. If you are under a certain age you may not remember this remarkable series and if not, believe me, you are worse off for having never having experienced it.
At the time of course, I delighted in the family banter, the comfy-cozy stories and the more often than not happy endings. Blissfully unaware of the socio-political comment or anything that grown-up, I simply dreamed of being sibling number eight and had a secret crush on John Boy.
Lounging on my brother's sofa recently, enjoying the luxury of satellite television, I flicked onto an old episode. Settling down to watch, nostalgia washed over me. As with so many situations, observation through more mature eyes provides a whole new perspective.
Watching Olivia and John Walton deal with the trials and tribulations of their seven offspring, it occurred to me that I should probably buy the DVD box set and use it to fend off future attacks of mumfail.
Also, heady with access to a zillion channels, I found myself watching Supernanny. Fighting the urge to grab a pad and pencil so as not to forget any crucial tips, I admit to having sporadic daydreams about setting Jo Frost on my daughter for a day. Or possibly a week.
Studying The Walton technique though, the naughty step and the daily planners stuck to the fridge were conspicuous by their absence. Come to think of it, even the word "naughty" was seldom used. Children were fractious, willful or just a little headstrong. Not really naughty.
In the particular episode I happened upon, Mary Ellen threw an out of character wobbler, insulted her mother and stropped outside to sit on the swing. Ma Walton shot off after her and I expected some kind of strife. But no. A short chat in which Mary Ellen admitted her failings, encouraged by nods of sympathetic understanding from Ma and all was rosy again before supper. That looked easy enough. I made a mental note for the years to come when my five-year-old hits her teenage years. I assumed the swing was optional.
Comparing the two seemingly different approaches to parenting, I suspected there were, in fact, more similarities than at first met the eye. Admittedly no naughty steps or mind-maps or gold stars, but lots of communication and most importantly respect. Respect from all parties concerned.
Despite what past generations (or Hollywood) may wish us to believe, children have, of course, always misbehaved. The difference these days I suspect, is the lack of respect some children have for their parents.
When Pa Walton got his angry face on and put his foot down, the children did what was expected of them no questions asked. Usually muttering "yes Sir" if they had been really
naughty recalcitrant. I think many parents are scared of disciplining, afraid of the dreaded "I hate you!" and worried they might lose connection with their children.
Well, Ma and Pa Walton were worried about no such thing and I don't think we should be either. I imagine Ms Frost would also be of a similar opinion, though I doubt she would give up her naughty step without a fight.
So, inspired by the goings on in Walton's Mountain Virginia, I shall be hanging up a swing over our apple tree and encouraging my daughter to call me Maam when she has been, shall we say, obstreperous?
What do you think? Is respecting you, the parent, the key to bringing up happy children and enjoying a good relationship?
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