My previous column concerned so-called “gentle parenting,” which is naught but a retreading of the parenting propaganda that has gushed relentlessly from the mental health professional community since the late 1960s.
When the propaganda began, the aim was two-fold: first, to demonize and delegitimize parental authority; second, to create families in which children ruled and, as such, possessed a “right” of some strange sort to express their feelings freely.
If you haven’t noticed, good parenting is now defined as properly understanding and responding to your child’s feelings. And that, in a nutshell, is what “gentle parenting” is all about.
Because the gentle ones have had a good measure of success at turning parents into wimpy enablers who wallow in codependency, I have decided that it is my duty to propose the anti-gentle response: insistent parenting.
First and foremost, insistent parents insist that their children grow up and assume adult responsibilities — otherwise known as obligations to one’s neighbors — by age 18 (or at least be adequately prepared by that age, at a moment’s notice, to do so). That is the historical norm, by the way, and there is no rational reason to argue against it. And yes, insistent parents insist that their children leave home at a reasonable age, whether they want to or not.
Insistent parents, instead of allowing themselves to become ensnared in the web of a child’s irrational emotionality and vainly trying, therefore, to properly “understand” what is incoherent, insist that their children control their emotions. Once upon a not-so-distant past, it was known as “using your head.” The only power capable of defeating the churning chaos of a child’s emotions is proper thinking, which, no thanks in large part to America’s schools (public, private and sectarian, but to varying degrees), presently qualifies as a museum exhibit.
Insistent parents understand that children cannot be persuaded to abandon the toddler fantasy that they are demigods, entitled to whatever their little hearts desire; that they must be forced into doing so. The force in question is not physical, mind you, but it is coercive. The lever is what I refer to as the Godfather Principle: When a child needs to move behaviorally from Point A to Point B, the most expedient way of bringing that about is to make the child an offer he cannot refuse. (If the reference is unfamiliar, I advise you to binge-watch the “Godfather” movie trilogy.)
When all is said and done, insistent parenting is all about instilling humility instead of a high opinion of oneself. That is parenting’s highest hurdle. A child’s every instinct, after all, is to obtain what he wants by any means necessary, be the center of attention, be first in line, break the applause meter and so on.
Sorry to be the bearer of Big, Bad Reality, but that cannot be brought about by a parent who is being held sway to the First Commandment of Postmodern Psychological Parenting: Thou shalt always be nice.
The attempt to adhere to that First Commandment is what causes parents, eventually and invariably, to scream at their children. Children are not impressed by nice. They interpret it as weakness.
Don’t misunderstand me. Authentic authority is not loud or threatening. It is calmly insistent, commanding as opposed to demanding.
In the final analysis, the effective discipline of a child is largely a matter of attitude.
Rosemond is a family psychologist in North Carolina. Readers may send him email at email@example.com.