I am the proud grandmother of five. I love my grandchildren, but I have to admit that after any extended visit with them I am exhausted. They are wriggly, loud, and full of energy. Like all children they learn by testing both their boundaries and their parent’s patience.
After leaving a family get-together recently, I was driving home alone thinking about how my daughters are parenting their children. They are good mothers, but there are differences in child-rearing today. As with most people of my age, I seem to find myself using the phrase “back in my day,” more and more frequently.
When I was growing up, and when my children were growing up, discipline was handled far differently. Justice could be swift and the occasional swat on the butt definitely occurred in our house. I was diligent about letting them know what was going to happen if they continued to misbehave and exactly what the punishment would be. I counted out swats and refused to deliver more than three swats at any given time. If I was tempted to go beyond the three, they were sent to their room with the warning that if they got too close to me we would both be in trouble.
I definitely do not advocate physical violence, even if by today’s standards my three swats may be considered abusive. I have read a lot about raising gentler children and I have my doubts about the effectiveness of that philosophy. It seems like we are raising a generation of tattle tales who do not know how to deal with problems on their own. When you tell a child that every problem needs to go to an adult you rob them of their ability to deal with issues on their own.
“Back in the day,” there was no such thing as cell phones. We had phones with cords that limited the user’s mobility. My children were especially gifted in mathematics and were able to calculate not only the length of the phone cord, but they were able to add the reach of my arms while I was on the phone. They would then stand exactly one inch further away from me than I could reach. They did not technically thumb their noses at me, but they did flaunt their freedom for as long as I was on the phone. They were also pretty darn quick at running as far as their feet would carry them when I did get off the phone.
The lack of cell phones also meant that whenever we went anywhere the kids had to interact with society. When we went out to eat, they had to talk to their parents and siblings. Getting bored was just part of the gig and was the price they paid for getting to eat out. If they did start to act up, there was nothing put in their hands to occupy their attention. It was either behave or take a walk outside with Mom or Dad for a “come to Jesus meeting.” They quickly learned that those meetings were to be avoided at all costs, even if the cost was straightening up.
My children were not just allowed to play outside by themselves, they were encouraged to. We were lucky enough to live in a neighborhood of young families with lots of children around the same ages as my girls. In fact, the vast majority of the kids on the block we lived on were girls so my daughters grew up as part of a wandering tribe of females. When I think back on those years I literally have a vision of a wild, spinning horde of young girls running through the houses.
The thing that really saddened me as I was driving home that night was thinking of how hard it is for my daughter’s generation to teach manners and courtesy to their kids. When the candidates for the President of the United States are behaving like undisciplined school children how do you tell your kids not to act that way? Don’t call each other names; don’t make jokes with double meanings; don’t insult someone’s family; don’t start fights; don’t judge someone by their religion or skin color. Those common, no nonsense rules of society are being flaunted on the highest level.
I am not convinced that the high level of political correctness taught in schools is necessarily the best way to raise adults, but given of the current standards of behavior taught in schools, most school children would be suspended from school for behaving the way some of the Presidential candidates have. I can guarantee you my daughter would be called to the school if her 11-year old son were to egg on a fight or discriminate against a child of a different color or faith. I can also guarantee you that the younger kids would be given time-out if they were calling people names.
Some things have not changed through the years. In an effort to discipline their children, my daughter’s do have the same habit I had of counting to three to give the child a chance to correct their behavior. And, just like their mothers, my younger grandchildren have taken that opportunity to proudly show off how well they can count by joining in. When my children were growing up and would make me laugh when I was trying to laugh I would cover my laugh by pretending to cough. I hope my daughter’s remember that old trick and use it to their advantage.
I remember hearing “old” women giving advice about child-rearing when I was a young mother trying to raise my children. I can distinctly remember myself thinking, “What do they know? Times have changed and what used to work for them isn’t how I’m going to raise MY children.” As a result, I paid almost no attention to the advice that was given and learned the hard way, by making mistakes.
Now that I am that old woman I try to remember how under-appreciated their advice was. There are times when I am sure my tongue will start bleeding from biting it, but I try.