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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Let's Become Good Parents

I have noticed that some of my readers come from distant countries such as India, Latvia, and Russia. I thank them for taking the time and encourage all my visitors to leave a comment or e-mail. For example, the mother from Florida who was concerned about her children, now adults, who don't know how to act as parents and blame everybody else for their problems (See my article on a permissive society). Indeed, the "job" of making children is a lot easier and a lot more pleasant than educating them. As a teacher, I have to deal with parents on a daily basis and some of their observations sadden me enormously.

There is the grandmother who cares for three children because the father is in jail and the mother has a new "boyfriend." The State takes away parental privileges in these cases and a judge will eventually place the young siblings in foster care; I usually applaud the measure, though I am a bit concerned about a bureaucrat making such a crucial decision. Some adults do business with foster kids and fail to provide them with the most important element: love. Children who grow up without love and affection will usually fail to develop self-esteem. How can you love yourself when the important people in your environment don't? It means that you are not the kind of human being that can be or deserves to be loved.

In many cases, however, there is no gross negligence, no drugs, no jail; among affluent neighborhoods, some parents are too busy enjoying the social life to care for their children. The mother has her clubs, her friends, her charitable activities, the father must attend meetings till late at night, and while the kids lack nothing physical, they lack everything that counts: affection and loving care.
Children must eventually become responsible adults, a difficult task in a very permissive society. I have 18 year old students, too many, who still behave like 6 year old kids. They don't see the need to become responsible because they have everything they need (they think). The best way to make them age very quickly is unfortunately the military. I say unfortunately because they will be exposed to great danger. Why don't we ask ourselves why the Armed Forces succeed where we failed. Soldiers have to care for each other's back; they didn't learn that in civilian life. Soldiers have learned to obey orders, even if they disagree with them (with the exception of orders that clearly violate morality).

When I joined the Army many years ago, I knew that it wouldn't be easy to get along with so many different personalities, cultures, and races. I knew that some sergeants would abuse their power; but that's what real life is all about. When you learn to live in relative harmony with thirty men in the barracks, when you learn how to share responsibilities and dirty jobs, when you know that their life may be in your hand and vice-versa, you become a man.

Parents, while not sergeants, must heed that lesson and educate their children by instilling civic values, social mores, and a sense of personal responsibility. They can add what my top sergeant never could or wanted to give me: love. If you have to punish, make sure the child understands that you do it with love, not with anger. Be proud (and show it) when they do well; scold when necessary; teach always what an honorable man or woman is expected to do.

How can I not love my granddaughter?

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