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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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