Children at the Center #2
Just as views of government, economics and religion change from one period of history to another, views of family change as well. Only a generation or two ago the husband and wife, or mom and dad, were considered the center of the family. They started the family when they married, and expanded the family when they had kids. They were the center of the family. When the kids grew up and left, they always knew where home was, because mom and dad were there. Even if their physical address changed, the center of the family unit was still mom and dad.
But that has changed, and today many families view the children as the center of the family, or the center of their universe. This is a monumental change.
When the parents were the center of the family, the children were expected to please their parents. The parents were the authority and the children were to obey them and please them. Sure, the children challenged that authority at times, and the parents had to assert their will. That's always been the case. But, this perspective on the parental authority as the center of the home was good not only for the home but was good for all of society, because it was expected that children should respect not just their parents as adults, but all adults, including aunts and uncles, school teachers and principals, and policeman.
With the transition of children from the edge of the family to the very center of the universe, all of that changed. Parents (and other adults, too) now took on the role of having to please their children. How do you make your children eat their vegetables and go to bed before midnight when your role is no longer to teach discipline, proper behavior, and respect for authority, but instead is to please the children?
Can you see how this creates extremely frustrated children and hopelessly exhausted moms and dads? Instead of saying, “Time for bed,” at 8 p.m., and having three children march off to their beds, moms and dads now have to ask, “Ok kids, it’s 10 o’clock. It is way past your bed time and mommy and daddy really need you to go to bed so you will feel rested in the morning for school. Let’s go to bed now, ok?” “No!”
“Please? Mommy and daddy really need you to go to bed now. It is for your own good. Please?”
How do you please that child? Answer: you don’t. Truth is, you can’t please that child. Children themselves don’t know what it takes to please them. They want to stay up late because it seems like fun, but then they are grumpy and angry in the morning because they are so tired. How are you going to win that game?
The same is true at mealtime. “Please eat your vegetables. They are good for you. Just try one, ok?” “No!”
I feel for these parents. They have been instructed by the self-esteem gurus that to raise happy and well-adjusted children they have to please them and serve their every need, which really means their every desire. And the truth is, it simply can’t be done. You might be able to please them with a candy bar today, but can you please them with a new car or new house tomorrow? At some point, instead of the kids telling you, ‘No!”, you are going to have to tell them, “No!”, and the best time to say that is today, when they are still young and your parental authority is intact.
For peace in the family and for the heath of the children, it is imperative that mom and dad reassert their place as the center of the home. Let’s get back to the old fashioned perspective of the children learning to please their mothers and fathers, of showing respect, and obeying. That will provide security for the children and peace for mom and dad.