Quite a few parents I've spoken to recently have raised the concern that our modern parenting style is too permissive and wimpy and we're going to end up with a bunch of mini dictators on our hands. Our kids will be unable to deal with rejection and they'll be completely self-obsessed. They'll most definitely be a complete pain in the ass.
I was quick to brush these concerns to one side. I mean every parent wants his or her child to be happy. The examples they proffered up of 'giving my kid a smartphone to play with so they'll stop shouting at me,' or 'picking raisins out of cereal because they look like ants', sounded reasonable. You want your child to be happy. You don't want to be one of those grumpy parents that says NO all the time.
Then I started reading this book called 'Hate Me Now. Thank Me Later,' by Dr Robin Berman (it's an interesting read but I've only read a bit so far as it's making me feel like a bad parent). Anyway Dr Berman argues that we've moved away from a generation who thought the odd smack was okay to one who is too scared to assert any discipline. She isn't advocating smacking but says we have to follow through with our threats whenever our child misbehaves. If they kick up an almighty stink at a party then...leave immediately (I thought this sounded good until I realised she meant take your child with you). This way you send out a clear message - I SIMPLY WILL NOT TOLERATE THIS. Anyway like I said I've not read the whole thing so I'm over-simplifying. But you get the jist. And I agree. It's important for children to grow up with boundaries. I don't want my daughter to be a tosser when she grows up.
I remember the comedian, Richard Pryor, doing a terrible (and funny) sketch where he talked about the ordeal of being made to get a branch from a tree so his mother could then beat him with it. He describes the agonising journey there and back in great detail. It sounded medieval. And of course it's a good thing we know it's not okay to beat our kids. But what do we use to discipline them instead?
When I think back to my own parents they were following Berman's advice years ago. They were never scared to toss me over their shoulder, head home and send me straight to bed if I misbehaved. I remember feeling totally humiliated especially if other people were around. Then once in bed I'd cry and contemplate how much I hated them and how I was going to grow up to be a complete sociopath. But I was fine in the end.
And my daughter is pretty good. If she goes mad there's usually a reason. But now and then I see the glimmer of a mini-dictator. She sometimes has me running about like a demented lady-in-waiting. Then, when I put my foot down and tell her NO, she gives me this look as if to say - 'IS THAT ALL YOU'VE GOT?'
And is that all I've got?
Anyway I'm going to finish this damned book. I was having lunch with a close friend recently and she told me she wanted to read this book too because she was worried that she was being a namby-pamby parent. Then one of her kids had a mini-meltdown (and I mean mini) and she said, 'Oh please don't write about this. Look at me I'm being a crap parent!' (Just so you know she was scraping all the mayonnaise off of a sandwich so her child would stop crying and eat it). And the reason I've told you this is books can't teach us everything about parenting. My friend was improvising. Thinking on her feet. Her child ate lunch that day. And it's okay to have days when you're being wimpy. Some people might say it's being inconsistent. To me it's just being realistic about what you can achieve in any given situation.
But now and then try and take a step back. Ask yourself:
Is your child turning into King Joffrey from 'Game Of Thrones'?
Would this behaviour have warranted a smack around the chops years ago?
What would your parents have done? (unless they were nut-jobs)
And finally are you being made to feel like a lowly servant? (actually forget that...we probably all feel like a lowly servants some of the time).
If the answer is YES to some of the above it's probably time to put your foot down. Make a stand. If you have the guts then leave the party and take your child with you. Put them straight to bed. Or if that feels too scary take their raisins away and make them eat spelt crackers for a week.
Then see who's boss heh?