27 November 2005

Too Needy for Limits

Well, the Times is at it again! The Week in Review today features another lovely piece, by Judith Warner, "Kids Gone Wild," which explains that there is a widespread perception that children are rude (as are people generally, according to polling data from an AP-Ipsos poll cited in the piece). And while Warner notes that "whether children are actually any worse behaved now than they ever have been before is, of course, debatable. Children have always been considered, basically, savages. The question, from the late 17th century onwards, has been whether they come by it naturally or are shaped by the brutality of society," she pays little attention to the debate over this. And what's the cause of this? Why, parental behavior! According to the experts Warner quotes:

1. Parenting used to be about "training children to take their proper place in their community, which, in large measure, meant learning to play by the rules and cooperate." But now, "pressure to do well is up" and "the demand to do good is down, way down." Right. When I read others' accounts of their children, it's clear that there is a major problem with parental aspirations for children.

2. Parents used to reprimand rude behavior, but now they don't. According to Dan Kindlon, author of Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age, we parents are "too tired, worn down by work and personally needy to take up the task of teaching them proper behavior at home." You can read this on the Internet, so it must be true: tales of a professor trading insults with her child!

3. Parenting today is "largely about training children to compete...and the kinds of attributes [children] need to be competitive are precisely those that help break down society's civility. Exactly. All they hypercompetitive parenting blogs in my blogroll are proof of that.

4. Parents are out of control and adults aren't involved in other kids' lives. Right. No one I know has extended contact with others' kids, or has fun family conversations (although I do know people who wonder about what happened to dinner parties).

So the recommendation for us needy parents who treasure our children so much we can't set limits: have less 'quality' time and spend "more time getting them to do things they don't want to do, like sitting for meals, making polite conversation, and.....picking their clothes up off the floor." That's really good advice, because it's not like anyone I know talks to their children, eats with their children, or anything like that.

Here in Granola land, we're big on limits, politeness, and thank you notes. And we're as irritated as anyone else by rudeness from people who are 2' high or 6' high. But as the links give you some idea of why I can't get worked up about people decrying the selfishness of parents today--I mean, haven't there always been rude people? There's plenty to make me optimistic (edited to add: including wonderful posts like Jody's excellent skewering of this same article).


LilySea said...

You just gotta wonder who Judith's friends are! She must only know a half dozen really rich, hyper-extended professionals who live in New York City--wait, not just any part of NYC, but Upper East Side off the park--and spend half the year travelling abroad for business leaving their kids in the care of nannies and spy cameras or something.

Who the heck is she talking about anyway?

Scrivener said...

Hasn't Warner always been a crank?

Love the collection of links, by the way.

And, um, will you still be blog-friends with me even though you're big on thank you notes? That's one of those niceness things that I always screw up one way or another.

elswhere said...

Yes, much thanks for the links! I'm tickled to be cited as a counter-example as I feel like kind of a muddle as a parent much of the time...thanks!

Piece of Work said...

What a fun post! I love all the links, and I agree: Warner is a moron.

susan said...

Scrivener, of course I'll be your blog-friend...and Elswhere, I'm glad you liked the link. That post of yours is one of my all-time favorites.

Lauren said...

Oh, I love this. Thank you.

susan said...

Welcome, Lauren!