I often go looking for parenting ideas that illustrate the difference between so-called “parenting” and mere child-rearing. They abound. My latest find came in the form of a 2018 article on Fatherly.com by parent coach Dr. Stacy Haynes titled “I never say ‘no’ to my kids.”
Haynes, described as offering “solutions for kids’ problems rather than punitive punishment,” proposes that since when you have a disagreement with your boss, you sit down with him and rationally discuss the issues, you should do the same concerning a conflict with your child. The analogy does not work. A one and a one is not the same as a one and a wild card.
The word “no” causes tantrums, says Haynes. So?
Haynes seems to be saying that since “no” provokes a child to irrational behavior, “no” should not be in a parent’s vocabulary. By the same token, I should never have told my 3-year-old daughter some 47 years ago that she had to eat the spoonful of broccoli I had put on her plate, as in all of it. Amy screamed and pushed herself away from the table, causing her chair to fall over backward, thus causing her little body to do a double backflip across the dining room. I just looked around to make sure she hadn’t hurt herself and resumed eating as if nothing had happened.
Toddlers are very malleable little creatures, it turns out, physically and mentally. In any case, the fact that a child does not approve of an adult’s decision and reacts like the village berserker merits an Olympic-quality yawn. Parents have a relatively short time in which to transform the berserker into a quality citizen, and no time to waste.
Haynes’ proposal comes down to the notion that if a child does not like something — punishment and “no” being prime examples — it should be avoided. That is what the mental health community has been pushing since my grad school days. For going on three generations, American parents have looked to mental health professionals for their marching orders. And for going on three generations, American parents have unwittingly cooperated in this social engineering experiment.
Prior to launching them in the late 1960s, my colleagues did not engage in science to verify the value of their progressive notions. Furthermore, dispassionately done social science research fails to lend them credibility, as well. Common sense deals the final blow. Since the onset of this experiment, some 50 years ago, child mental health has plummeted and shows no sign of getting better any time soon. As the per capita of mental health professionals goes up, child mental health goes alarming down? Hmm.
Many years ago, I invented a synonym for “no”: vitamin N. Parents should give liberal amounts of it for the purpose of properly preparing their kids for the real world, which is not and never will be Utopia. “No” should not, need not, be screamed in a threatening tone of voice. And it is certainly subject to the law of diminishing returns. Nonetheless, its positive returns greatly outweigh the negative. Learning to accept “no” with grace is the mark of an authentic adult. A child so deprived is a child neglected and left to his own naive and often irrational devices.
That, folks, is the difference between mere child-rearing, verified by common sense, and parenting, which is sorely lacking in anything but promises.
Email family psychologist John Rosemond at email@example.com.
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