Author: Norlita Brown
Journal Topic: A Lesson in Life
WHERE FEAR FIRST STRIKES
Society is making many attempts to save our sons and daughters from drugs, alcohol, pedophiles and predators but who is making the attempt to save them from reckless upbringing? The words may sound harsh, and honestly, they were intended to. This question is not just posed to the obvious abusers, the ones who hit their children unmercifully, abandon or neglect them; it includes the parents who have fought their whole lives to insure they would never repeat the child rearing of their parents; the ones who try to do everything right but find that they are doing everything wrong. We shake our heads every time we see disrespectful teens, intolerable children with pants worn at their knees versus their waist, or another teenager pregnant entering yet another statistic. While we wonder what has happened to our children, many times, we neglect to acknowledge there has been a shift in parenting. The behavior of our children did not change overnight but is the direct result of the lack in proper parenting, the absence of discipline, and the decrease in community involvement. What is oddly ironic is that many times fear first strikes in the home, the one place where they shouldn’t be fearful at all.
Lack in proper parenting rears its ugly head in many forms to include the single parent who works multiple jobs, the absentee parent who chooses to remain absent, and of course the teenage parent who will not accept guidance, to name a few. “A child with problems does not necessarily have problem parents.” (Turecki & Wernick, 1994) Though this is a valid point of fact, it does not negate the fact that proper parenting can lessen the amount of improper children because “it’s also true that most parents could improve their behavior toward their child and help him more. Knowing it’s not all their fault, but that they could do better. They can then move forward in a way that’s practical and constructive.” (Turecki & Wernick, 1994) After all, isn’t that the bottom line? The intent is not to place the blame solely on the parent, but it is to shift some of the weight that has been given to the children. “In order to effectively solve any problem you must first identify what the problem is and where it lies,” Jerry Day points out in his work How to Raise Kids You Want to Keep: The Proven Discipline Program your Kids Will Love (And that Really Works!)
If a child is not securely attached or bonded to one or both parents, the child learns to trust only himself and will not submit to authority. In some children, an insecure attachment is the result of difficult or traumatic experiences suffered under the care of one or both parents. Neglectful or inconsistent parent care may also produce an unbounded child. A child under the care of a rigid, harsh, or abusive parent cannot safely submit to the authority of his parent, so he learns a system of elaborate avoidance and rebellion (Day, 2007).
In order to save our sons and daughters we must put strength back into the family unit. Having a home with both parents is ideal, but not necessary. Putting strength in the family unit is not meant to insinuate that the structure needs to be there, but more that the role does. The mothers need to be mothers and the fathers need to be fathers. Where ever their place is in life should not deter them from being the parent they have agreed to be the moment that child was conceived and brought forth into life. Although “a happy nuclear family is the best environment, [it has been] repeatedly seen that children can be brought up successfully under many familial arrangements: by a single parent; by an unmarried couple; by a divorced mother and father who share custody” (Turecki & Wernick, 1994). Therefore, it is not the structure that is the issue but the role that is. Too many times children are telling the parents what to do as well as what they’re not going to do. The roles are drastically reversed to the point that it is damaging to the healthy mentality of the child.
The absence of proper or correct discipline is playing a pivotal role in choking the life out of our children; well the productive life. Many may argue that each child is different so there is no way to define what is proper or correct. Yet, too many times children are spanked, punished or “disciplined” while the parents are still angry at the situation or circumstance. Barbara Coloroso, author of Kids are worth it! Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline, makes a statement so wise with regard to effective discipline and parenting as she says, “I will not treat a child in a way I myself would not want to be treated. If I wouldn’t want it done to me, I have no business doing it to my child” (Coloroso, 1994). That is a pretty good gauge. Of course there will be those who believe that the punishment fits the crime and therefore may argue that they didn’t do the crime so therefore this rule wouldn’t apply to them.
There is an old African proverb that says “it takes a village to raise a child.” Though this statement has brought the ‘poe tay toe – poe tay tah’ mentality to the forefront as Kari Hulac Bowers points out in her article, It takes a Village “conservatives say it means the government is trying to take over the family. Advocates say it’s all about reaching out to one another and lending a helping hand” (Bowers, 1996). The conservative belief is most likely the reasoning behind walking away from a philosophy that was so beneficial to our children, but the advocate’s way of thinking is what we need to return back to. The mere change in our children’s behavior from the times when this was instilled to the time when it is no longer a factor, should be evidence enough in the strength of the community working together as a whole. Turecki and Wernick attest to the influence of community involvement, understanding that “Youngsters experience difficulties for many reasons that have nothing to do with their families. For example, school may be a source of stress for a child” (Turecki & Wernick, 1994).
Influence on a child does not begin and end with the parents or the teachers but with every person that child comes in contact with to include neighbors, hence the understanding behind the village that we must return to. Bowers’ article was written in 1996 during a time when “Families young and old, black and white, single and married help[ed] each other raise the 11 or so children” in their Lincoln neighborhood. In this article, Bowers quotes Kim Fitzke, mother of four as saying, “it’s an unspoken neighborhood rule that if anyone’s children get out of hand, the adults have the right to correct the behavior and report it to the child’s parents” (Bowers, 1996). This concept was stolen at the hands of the abusers and the pedophiles, but it was also stolen at the hands of the parents who have lost their direction.
Some may say that these words are an over exaggeration to a simplistic situation. Yet there is nothing simplistic about parents who feel restrained or restricted from parenting properly because they fear their children. Gone but not lost are the days when the children feared their parents.
Parenting comes with many questions and for each question there are a million different answers. Though it may prove difficult at times to decipher what is good and bad advice, the ultimate deciding factor is the behavior of the child. The children we raise today very honestly are the leaders we will have tomorrow. Therefore, children become a huge lesson in life because our lives depend on how we nurture theirs. Finally, before you choose proper discipline for your child, ask yourself if your goal is to have your child fear you or love you.