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Call Me Old-Fashioned Butů R.E.S.P.E.C.T., find out what it means to me

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Opinion | August 30th, 2010

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
I lived under a certain amount of fear as a child, and you know what? It was good for me. No, my parents weren't cultists, militant drill-sergeant types or abusive alcoholics. However, they did instil in me very early on that no transgression was without its consequences and nothing in life ever comes for free.

If I talked back, stayed out too late, or got into any typical teenage mischief, there were consequences to be paid. As for the ability to negotiate said punishments enacted against me? Let's just say that ceased to exist! If I wanted spending money for various recreational pursuits, it sure as shit wasn't just handed to me on a silver platter. From the moment I was able to walk and talk, I contributed to the household chores; at the age of seven, I was practically my mom's full-on secretary.

What I'm trying to express in probably too many words is quite simply this: my parents were AUTHORITY FIGURES and it was through them that I learned not just the difference between right and wrong, but moreover the concept of respect, especially as it pertains to your elders and other persons within our social hierarchy, such as teachers and police officers, who demand the same sort of treatment.

Well, I'm not sure who's to blame — perhaps it was the upsurge of bad TV talkshows hosted by the likes of Jerry Springer in the early 90s, or the repeated media-hyped moral panics surrounding corporal punishment and its supposed potential for backlash — but since the baby boomer generation, I've observed a marked change in what is being doled out as the “recommended” strategies for effective parenting and parent-child relationships, and in my view, it ain't for the better!

These days, parenting is apparently all about “befriending” your children, and allowing THEM to practically designate THEIR own punishments (if any) as THEY see fit. Parents are being instructed to hear their children out and negotiate with them in terms of what's fair discipline-wise, even if it's indisputable their kids made some serious errors in judgment. But, the worst of it is parents who fail to comply with this laissezfaire attitude and actually try to encourage obedience from their children can be taken to court for “infringing” on their kids' rights. I'm sorry, but I can't think of something more ridiculous, and here's why:

As Piaget noted many moons ago, humans typically do not start to become capable of rational, mature adult-like (i.e.: “operational”) thought, a prerequisite to the full comprehension and chosen adherence to society's norms and mores, until they reach between seven and 11 years of age. Further, according to Kolhberg's Theory of Moral Development, the internalization of universal ethics, and the establishment of a sense of personal responsibility is highly contingent on proper socialization, as well as both the reinforcement and punishment of appropriate and inappropriate actions, respectively. In other words, kids, lacking the complex cognition necessary to understand why things are right or wrong per se, instead base their actions purely on consequences. Therefore, if parents refuse to acknowledge their role as the primary disciplinarians and moral teachers in the lives of their children (primary as in both first and most impactful), how the hell can we expect kids to ever adhere to societal rules and regulations, let alone respect future authority figures who will inevitably enter their lives via school, the workplace, and other environments?

Despite the current fashion's insistence that “friending” your offspring is the way to go, it has long been established by developmental psychologists that the most effective of the four parenting styles is the form classified as “authoritative.” According to Baumrind, authoritative parents are the perfect combination of nurturing and boundary setting. They “monitor and impart clear standards for their children's conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative.” (“The Influence of Parenting Style on Adolescent Competence and Substance Use,” Journal of Early Adolescence)

The point I'm trying to get at is that, for one thing, there's a reason why the Facebook group entitled, “If I Spoke to My Parents How Kids Talk Nowadays I'd (Have) Been Knocked Out!” is so popular. The other point is this: can you name another 26-year-old who cried when issued her very first speeding ticket because she was so disappointed with herself for tainting her record of perfect law-abiding citizenship? Likely not.

I get parents wanting to be relatable to their children. Heck, I especially get parents wanting to try and minimize the potential for conflicts with their kin. But what I don't get, and what you shouldn't accept either, is parenting WITHOUT a sense of discipline. There's a wild epidemic out there spreading among many members of my own generation, along with the one that follows it, and that wild epidemic has been labelled quite concisely as “a sense of entitlement.” To the parents who “befriend” their children, all I've gotta say is: what the hell did you expect? As I wrote in my very first paragraph, nothing, indeed, comes for free.
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