Just to give you some perspective I am a Father of three, and a Grandfather of soon to be five (my Son, who will be 30 this year, has been very active in providing me with Grandchildren – gratefully with the same woman, and not multiple choice 😀 ). My two Daughters are still pre-teens and are at home with me. I’ve raised them by myself ( as a Single Daddy ) since they were both still in diapers.
Compared to my parents I would be considered a very liberal-minded Dad. Possibly too liberal-minded. I’ve never been the goo-goo ga-ga type of Dad, I’ve always spoke to my children the same way I would speak to anyone else, even as infants I would talk to them, as though following Plato’s rule of thumb that whatever goes into a child’s mind is ought to prove indellible and unalterable. The brain is a sponge, and soaks up everything around it, even if the brain doesn’t yet understand what it is taking in, it still takes it in.
And I’ve always encouraged social behavior ( interaction ). As they were growing up, as an example, I would encourage hugging. And they hugged everything, friends, teachers, dogs, cats, and the odd totally mystified stranger we came across. I’ve always been the type of person who would say ‘ Hello ‘ to a complete strangers as we pass on the street. I figured something as simple as hugging would avoid the later scared/suspicious aloofness that most people fall into as they pass from childhood to adulthood.
I’m also a sucker for letting things go. When they would do something wrong when they were younger I would try to explain to them what they did wrong and why it was wrong. On very rare occasions I would be stern about it, and on even rarer occasions give them a pat on the behind ( and not the type of pat my mother would give me when I did something wrong ). Now, as they are older, I still try to explain to them what they did wrong, and why it was wrong. And although I do lecture them more often in a more stern voice they are very rarely punished for anything. On the occasions I have grounded them, or gave them extra chores ( etc ) I usually let them off the hook fairly easy. On extremely rare occasions when things are completely out-of-hand instead of a pat on the behind ( as they are, in my opinion too old, for that ) I would tap them on the head. Now…before all the politically correct Dr. Spock gurus and fanatics start telling me how horrible that is…I’m not talking about tapping in the sense of hurting, but the same type of tap you might give to a dog you love that just pooped on your new carpet. A ‘ don’t do that ‘ kind of tap.
And it’s not because I subscribe to the hands-off philosophy of our politically-correct era, that I’ve avoided physical punishment, in the sense I experienced as a kid. Because I don’t. I don’t think my Mother was wrong to wail on my behind when I did something wrong. She was a sweet, gentle woman, who believed if you did something wrong you should know you did something wrong. She was not abusive in the least. And I am more horrified that she would be considered abusive by today’s standards, than any punishment she gave me.
And I’m not angry at the teachers or school principal who strapped me as a kid. I have no animosity toward them at all. I was a handful to contend with. I’m sure they loved their families, hugged their kids, and were decent people.
So, no, I don’t subscribe to the notion that parents, teachers, ( etc ) of my generation were abusive individuals. Sure there were some who crossed the line, as some cross the line today, and will tomorrow. There is a difference between discipline and abuse. And we should understand as a society that we are going from one extreme to another, from physical discipline to no physical discipline. Why? Because of those who crossed the line.
My own children are growing up to be very independent citizens. Which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that that was what I wanted, what I strived for. A curse in that they ( one daughter in particular ) argues with me about everything. Something i wouldn’t even think of doing with my parents. In my day you either did what they said, or you didn’t, there was no arguing, no compromise, no let’s make a deal. At times it’s almost surreal the stuff that comes out of her mouth when we’re arguing ( in my mind I’m thinking, at the time, if I ever said that to my Father he’d kick my ass 😀 ).
Ah, the joys and the tribulations of being a modern-day parent…would I go though it all over again from the beginning? You bet I would. Because there’s nothing more important to me than my children. They are the one true joy in my life that I could never live without.
A blessing, even during those times when it doesn’t feel so much like a blessing.