Imperfect Parenting

A favorite parenting book that I used extensively in my classes when I taught is “How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk,” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Later, the same authors put out a teen version of the book, “How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk,” which I bought and read. My first career was working with teens and was pleased to see that I’d done a few things right, not so much with my own teenagers, but with other people’s teens.

Striking to me is how communication can achieve discipline in ways former generations of parents never imagined. It wasn’t unusual in past years for parents to used corporeal punishment even with their teens for misbehavior of almost any kind: not doing chores, not honoring a curfew, doing poorly in school, being disrespectful, or leaving things around. Even for breaking rules that were never really articulated until after they were broken. Parents also used verbal abuse as a means to shame their children into compliance.

Such methods rarely achieved what parents wanted from their kids. Instead of kids learning responsibility, thye learned to shut up and comply when in the presence of their parents while sneaking around behind their backs. Many broke out in rebellion doing the opposite of what they knew their parents wanted them to do. They didn’t learn responsibility as hoped. Being accustomed to being told every little thing to do, many lacked the inner strength and self-esteem to do what needed to be done after they got out into the world.

All I have said, I have said before in former blogs. What I want to highlight today is that most parents, especially those in the more recent generations as child psychology was blossoming, tended to raise their later children differently. This is much to the dismay of the earlier kids who will tell their parents, “You are spoiling them,” when in fact, they learned from the older child what does not work. I like to say, kids are raising the parents while at the same time the parents are raising the kids.

If you are an oldest child, have a little mercy on your parents for their early ignorance…and yes it is ignorance since it was about incorrect information. If you are a parent who is conscious of the difference in your methods over the years, forgive yourself. You did the best you could with what you knew at the time.

As for the younger children, know that your parents probably made mistakes with you, too, just a different kind. No parents are perfect. You won’t be perfect at parenting either.

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2 Responses to Imperfect Parenting

  1. Marie Zapf Taylor says:

    I have heard from some of my childhood friends, and they speak the same as me. The discipline was harsh and cruel. A lot of the parents took their kids to the nuns and let them use physical abuse to ‘keep them in line.’ My father used the belt and my mother would take the rubber band and ball off of our paddle and smack us with it.
    My parenting was nothing like that. I loved, loved, loved raising my kids and have said many times; if I could turn back the hands of time and raise them again, I would do so gladly. We had so much fun and laughter. Now we love to remember those good times. I believe that I used my parent’s as an example of what not to do and was favored and blessed by God with wonderful kids. Some parent’s mirror what they experienced growing up, and the cycle has continued. ‘Product of parent’ was the term used back then. And today, I feel there is less communication from parents with their children due to the excessive technology. The ipads and iphones and tablets have become the parents. The kids of this generation have no social skills and the parent’s have become lazy. Sad times I’m afraid.

    • Judy says:

      I did not experience any abuse as a child, though my home was surely dysfunctional which felt normal to me. As a parent, I never hit my children but I know I did things that hurt them. I expected perfection, for one thing, when they did chores. Now I know that children learn how to do things and noticing what they do right encourages them to do more. I also overreacted to their fighting. I felt like their fighting was a failure on my part as a parent. Now I know that siblings will fight and they learn how to get along by having to work through their differences. So I have some regrets. But our family has loads of good memories, too. I love listening to my adult children reminisce knowing that we provided the opportunities for good times to happen.
      As for kids of this generation, social skills take time to teach. I don’t think parents are so much lazy as they don’t realize that kids don’t just automatically know what to do…they have to be taught and skills have to be modeled. Raising kids is a lot of work and commitment.

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