Just when I am teetering on the edge of despair concerning the state of child rearing in America, dwelling much, much too obsessively on the damage being done to children and the nation by parents who won’t allow their children to take full responsibility for themselves, a little beam of light finds its way through the darkness and rekindles my hope for a future in which children are once again held fully accountable and, as a consequence, allowed to experience the fullness of authentic liberty.
The most recent beam of light came in the form of news that Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, Ark., absolutely forbids parents from coming to the aid of forgetful, irresponsible teenagers. Posted on the main door of the school is a sign reading “STOP! If you are dropping off your son’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, equipment, etc., please TURN AROUND and exit the building. Your son will learn to problem-solve in your absence.”
The only negative concerning this sign is that there is reason to post it in the first place. Back in the Age of Child-Rearing Commonsense, before parents lost their minds and replaced discipline with enabling, there would not have been such a reason. A child forgot his lunch money? Too bad. He didn’t eat until he got home. Forgotten homework meant an F. Forgotten equipment meant sitting on the bench. Even had there been cellphones with which students could call home to request a bit of enabling, parents would have refused. It simply wasn’t done. Furthermore, upon arriving home, the youngster would have been told, in no uncertain terms, that he was to never make such a phone call again.
Back then parents were mean; that is, they meant what they said. They would rescue their kids from burning buildings and the like, but not from the consequences of their own foibles.
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Today’s parents, by contrast, seem to be unable to tell the difference between a burning building and forgotten homework or lunch money. They rescue indiscriminately at a moment’s notice. Child forgets something, mom is inconvenienced. Oh, she complains, but will do it again at the next moment’s notice, and her child knows it.
Thus, her child never learns self-reliance, personal responsibility, and self-discipline, none of which can be learned by any process other than the old-fashioned “hard way.” Eventually, if the enabling is powerful enough, he might even earn a diagnosis, upon which his parents are told he “can’t help it,” meaning they are heroes after all.
In all fairness, a Catholic school, especially one with an 86-year history of turning boys into men, can turn parents around at the front door. Public schools and most secular and even most sectarian schools dare not, lest they get sued by parents who have lost their minds or find themselves serving only orphans.
Notwithstanding their advantage, Little Rock’s Catholic High School for Boys, in reminding all of us of the way things ought to be, has become a small shaft of light in an otherwise darkening plain. Long may they run.
Family psychologist John Rosemond: www.johnrosemond.com; www.parentguru.com