A favorite parenting book that I used extensively in my classes when I taught is “How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk,” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Later, the same authors put out a teen version of the book, “How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk,” which I bought and read. My first career was working with teens and was pleased to see that I’d done a few things right, not so much with my own teenagers, but with other people’s teens.
Striking to me is how communication can achieve discipline in ways former generations of parents never imagined. It wasn’t unusual in past years for parents to used corporeal punishment even with their teens for misbehavior of almost any kind: not doing chores, not honoring a curfew, doing poorly in school, being disrespectful, or leaving things around. Even for breaking rules that were never really articulated until after they were broken. Parents also used verbal abuse as a means to shame their children into compliance.
Such methods rarely achieved what parents wanted from their kids. Instead of kids learning responsibility, thye learned to shut up and comply when in the presence of their parents while sneaking around behind their backs. Many broke out in rebellion doing the opposite of what they knew their parents wanted them to do. They didn’t learn responsibility as hoped. Being accustomed to being told every little thing to do, many lacked the inner strength and self-esteem to do what needed to be done after they got out into the world.
All I have said, I have said before in former blogs. What I want to highlight today is that most parents, especially those in the more recent generations as child psychology was blossoming, tended to raise their later children differently. This is much to the dismay of the earlier kids who will tell their parents, “You are spoiling them,” when in fact, they learned from the older child what does not work. I like to say, kids are raising the parents while at the same time the parents are raising the kids.
If you are an oldest child, have a little mercy on your parents for their early ignorance…and yes it is ignorance since it was about incorrect information. If you are a parent who is conscious of the difference in your methods over the years, forgive yourself. You did the best you could with what you knew at the time.
As for the younger children, know that your parents probably made mistakes with you, too, just a different kind. No parents are perfect. You won’t be perfect at parenting either.