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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Parents, just say 'no'

"Gentle parenting" is bad parenting, writes Elizabeth Grace Matthew, the mother of three young boys, in Law & Liberty. Parents who are unable to say "no" or "stop it" are doing their children no favors.


Photo: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

Gentle parents help children explore their feelings, explains Caitlin Moscatello in a New York Times essay. They don't say "stop it" without discussing why the child is hitting his playmate.


According to the Cleveland Clinic, parents trying to get a kid out the door in the morning shouldn't say, "Put on your shoes." Instead, they could say, “When you don’t get ready on time, it hurts my feelings and makes me anxious. Why are you having a hard time?”


Matthew sees two issues:

First, the problem with not getting ready on time is that it is inconsiderate, inefficient, and disrespectful of others’ time; whether I “feel anxious” about it is wholly immaterial. Second, “why you are having a hard time being on time” is a conversation we by definition do not have time for in this circumstance. By beginning such a conversation in this moment, I am being inconsiderate and disrespectful toward whomever we are not on time for.

"Loving parents need to communicate two basic facts to children," she writes. "First, you are the center of my world. Second, you are not the center of the world."


Parents' job is to prepare children to live in the world. That takes "authoritative clarity about appropriate behavior to which parents (by virtue of their age and experience) have access, and children (by virtue of their youth and inexperience) do not," and "a concept of right and wrong that supersedes mere emotion." Your child may feel, deeply and sincerely, like hitting the other child in the sandbox, but that doesn't make it OK.


We didn't call it "gentle parenting" when my daughter was young, but there was similar advice. I remember laughing about it with the other moms. Sure, I'm going to spend five minutes discussing your feelings about putting on your shoes.


I think it's much easier to have a parent who sets and enforces sensible rules -- and doesn't discuss her own anxiety. We called this: "I'm the boss. You're the kid." I took care of the adult stuff, such as wolves, bears, divorce and cancer. She handled the kid stuff.


These days, many educated, affluent parents drive themselves crazy trying to be perfect. Then their poor kids are stuck with crazy parents. That's no good.

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5 Comments


Guest
Aug 06, 2023

On the other hand "explanation parenting" can work well for kids who need to understand rules. "Don't bite your sister, it hurts her so it is wrong." "Don't run into the street, you will get hit by a car and die." "Put on your shoes, you can't go to the park without shoes." This is actually sometimes classed as "Gentle" by people who expect immediate obedience, especially because it doesn't involve hitting. But for a certain kind of smart but ADHD kid, they will literally NOT REMEMBER RULES unless you put them in context so that they become part of their internal monologue. So, immediate obedience or a spanking just means these kids get spanked a lot. (On the other hand, to m…

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Guest
Aug 07, 2023
Replying to

And then, your kid will surprise you and be entirely, out-of-the-box rational. Our kid had a dinosaur toy with wheels that he could sit on and push himself around on. I caught him trying to stand on it to get to the counter, "Don't stand on anything with wheels!" I said. He immediately got off, turned it on its side, then stood on it and got to the counter. It still had wheels, but he understood what I really meant and took the wheels out of the equation.


Ann in L.A.

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Guest
Aug 06, 2023

Yes, I'm sure it is very healthy for you to guilt your child into doing every little thing: you're making me feel bad by not eating your peas! If you don't unload the dishwasher, you'll give me heart palpitations!


Ann in L.A.

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