Feelings have been the paramount consideration in raising children since the late 1960s, when parents became persuaded that they should no longer take their cues from their own upbringing, but from psychologists and other mental health professionals. As a consequence, the focus of American parenting veered sharply away from training the child's character and mind toward that of protecting his feelings from insult (i.e., disappointment, failure, embarrassment and other basic facts of life) and elevating his opinion of himself.
Proper parenting, the new experts said, was a matter of being sensitive to and acting in accord with the feelings that issued from one's child. Psychologist Thomas Gordon, author of "Parent Effectiveness Training," the best-selling parenting book of the 1970s, said that because children do not like being told what to do, adults should not tell them what to do. Children who submit to their parents' authority, Gordon said, grow to be adults who "fill the offices of psychologists and psychiatrists."
We now know, of course, that this isn't true. Research psychologist Diana Baumrind's decades-long study of parenting outcomes finds that the most well-adjusted children come from households presided over by parents who are loving but unequivocally authoritative - parents who, in other words, adhere to a traditional (pre-1970s, nonpsychological) parenting model. It turns out that the very parenting model promoted by the mental health community compromises child mental health!
Indeed, the mental health of America's children has been in free fall since the 1960s. Today's child is much more likely to become seriously depressed, commit suicide or become a bully.
Feelings can enrich one's life. But unless they are governed by reason, feelings are unruly and destructive beasts. People who are ruled by their feelings say stupid things, make stupid decisions and fail to learn from experience.
The child mental health crisis in America is the result of raising children who have lots of emotions but no emotional resilience. They're full of self-esteem but have little respect for others. This cannot lead to a satisfying life.
It's not complicated: The emotionally sturdy person is characterized by a high level of respect for other people, not a high level of self-regard. Instead of wanting attention from people, he pays attention, looking for opportunities to serve. That's what good manners are all about, and learning good manners is where the Good Life starts.
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