October 23, 2006

Childrearing: Trick or Treat?

I was at an INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) oath ceremony watching my husband become a U.S. citizen, when a screech erupted in the packed courthouse. A child, bored and restless, started wailing and flailing nonstop. When his mother tried to calm him, he started hitting her in the face with a ring of keys.

Everyone turned their attention to these embarrassed parents who were unable to calm their son. An elderly woman beside me whispered,

"That boy's going to leave bruises. He needs a smack."
I suspect that most of the people in the room that day would be inclined to agree, having been raised by parents in the old country who didn't hesitate to discipline their children in public.

This couple didn't dare, knowing that to do so in front of 100+ people and a federal judge might prompt a visit from social services. So stoically, they endured, as did we.

Later in the week, we were dining with a middle school teacher who agreed that it was impossible to raise a child in the manner she was raised. Three of us at the table were childfree; the other was a Brit who had raised his children decades ago. All of us acknowledged that we were glad we didn't have to raise a child in America today.

It wasn't just the discipline issue; it was the school violence, the crazy-making schedules, and the keeping up with the Joneses.

Is parenting too hard these days? Or do the childfree conveniently justify their decision making by pointing to a world that seems increasingly scary?

[Image: Trick or Treat Halloween Flat Note Card, originally uploaded by thesoulofhope.]

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4 comments:

Tiara Lynn said...

I think parenting in America today requires parents to be more creative, which many don't realize. The parents in my life who have thought of creative punishment and reward systems and have stuck with them vigilantly have amazingly well-behaved kids, while the parents who have horrible children say things like "well, I can't punish them" and leave it at that, or threaten punishment with endless "don't do thats" and "stop its" with no real consequences.

My siblings and I were never physically punished and neither is my 7-year-old niece, being raised by my parents. But we had a creative mom who was consistent. That's more than many parents are willing to be these days, in my opinion.

alpahgirl said...

Parenting is hard because they make it hard. Kids need the same thing these days as we did growing up: Love, boundaries and limits, and the understanding that we are a part of the world at large, and it does not revolve around us. The current wave of pop psychology over the past 20 years has stressed a child's need for "self-expression" over learning decent public conduct.

I don't agree with the practice of smacking a noisy child in public,either but I do agree with the practice of removing the kid from the situation until they can calm down. My mom was a master at this. I was four years old, in the grocery store, and tired. I fell out. No other way to describe it. She grabbed my little arm, took me outside, and said under no uncertain terms, "These nice people who are shopping are not interested in hearing you scream. Calm down now or we're going home."
Sounded fair to me.

Scheduling and keeping up with Joneses are matters of choice. It isn't written anywhere that parents MUST have the latest and greatest things for their kids, and to have them in a slew of expensive, time-consuming activities. I haven't heard how Precious or Myrakle will fail to thrive if they aren't carted around in a $500.00 SUV stroller with more options than most cars.

Parenting is a lot like anything else: It's as hard or as easy as one chooses to make it.

Robin said...

I think parenting these days has gone way overboard to the point I'm surprised there aren't written rules on how to be a parent. Society is so judgemental and I think a lot of parents are really afraid in general. I don't blame them but it makes me glad I'm not a part of it.

Teri said...

Hi Laura - Please pass my congratulations along to your husband ! This is a big deal. My Dad became a citizen only 5 years ago.