Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12 (also see Deuteronomy 5:16 and Ephesians 6:1-3))
A grandmother sadly relates that upon trying to pass along to her adult daughter some well-earned advice concerning the rearing of her 3-year-old grandchild, the daughter snapped, "You don't know him well enough to be giving me advice!" This is the current crop of parents talking. They are enamored of the notion that every child is unique. That's true, but they are correspondingly blind to the fact that every child is the same (this is simply not gushy enough). Thus, they do not understand that a child's sameness is more significant by far than his/her uniqueness.
They come by this tunnel vision honestly, to be sure. The parenting section of an American bookstore is replete with titles honoring the idea in order to raise any child properly, one must first know what "kind" of child one is dealing with. Is he ADD? ODD? LD? XYZ? Bipolar? Adopted? A twin? A middle? An oldest? An only? Gifted? And so on and on the groupings go, with more to come next week. The impression is that every child must be raised according to a set of principles unique to the category to which he/she belongs.
The fact is, one does not need to know Billy/Billie in all of his/her supposedly fascinating facets in order to know that there is but one way to raise human children properly. The way in question is not found in the parenting section of a bookstore, but in the religious section, under Bibles. Beware, however, because this is very old-fashioned stuff, and this generation disdains that which is old-fashioned, "old" being synonymous with "out of," and there are few in this generation who want to be seen embracing the "out of" in any respect.
So, when a grandmother tries to relay some old-fashioned parenting advice to her daughter, the daughter denies that Grandma knows of what she speaks. Grandma doesn't understand, because when she was a new parent, she valued her mother's advice. It didn't matter if her mother lived across the country and only saw her children once a year for a week. Her mother understood children. She had raised five, after all. Her mother knew that every child is born with his/her own personality, but also knew that every child brings into the world the selfsame nature. Her mother also knew that the child's nature determines child rearing to a far greater extent than does personality, gender, IQ, ordinal position in the family, or all of the above combined. Here are the overriding principles:
- Every child is strong-willed, only some are less subtle about it than others.
- In any given situation, a child will be far more inclined to do the wrong thing than the right thing.
- Socializing the strong-willed, wrong-leaning child requires a combination of powerful love and equally powerful discipline.
That's it. End of story. Not complicated. What, pray tell, was so complicated about the above grandchild's behavior that Grandma needed to know him better in order to qualify as an expert on his upbringing? In a nutshell, his mother told him not to get down from the table with a piece of pizza in his hand. He did anyway, and the family dog promptly took his pizza and ate it. He cried. Mom gave him another piece of pizza. Grandma tried to point out that he disobeyed and was effectively being rewarded for doing so. Oh-oh.
If Mom punishes Grandma consistently enough when she tries to give advice, Grandma will stop misbehaving. The problem being that Mom is punishing the wrong person. Therefore, the wrong person will stop misbehaving.