About 10 years ago, I created two files that have been growing ever since.
One is labeled “RALPH,” which stands for Rosemond's Awfully Ludicrous Parenting Honors. The other file, which grows more slowly: “Parenting at Its Best!” It receives stories of parents who have swum righteously against the prevailing parenting tides, often becoming the object of much criticism in the process. The parents in the latter category are role models, as are Billy Bob and Lillian (not their real names), the parents of a sixth-grade boy who decided that he was too cool for school, and the rules were for fools, but who's now singing “Don't be Cruel.”
On his latest report card, George (not his real name either) brought home three C's and notes from his teachers indicating he wasn't paying attention in class or working at his full potential. Seems he was spending a good amount of class time drawing cartoons and reading books he found more entertaining than those assigned by his teachers. His parents immediately suspended social events, television and computer privileges until further notice. They sent a letter to the teachers thanking them for giving them a heads-up on George's attitude.
“We have explained to him that the glorious days of elementary school are over and it is now time to buckle down and put forth his best effort,” they wrote. They closed by assuring the teachers of their full support. These days, George can often be found doing hard labor in his parents' rather large yard.
Lillian later told me the teachers seemed genuinely shocked that she and Billy Bob had backed them up so unconditionally. Their shock reflects the sad state into which American parenting, in general, has deteriorated over the past generation or so. When today's teachers are so bold as to point out problems to parents, they hear all manner of excuses, from “he is bored in your class” to “he thinks you don't like him.”
So, Lillian and Billy Bob, you are champions in a time when champions are hard to come by. Thank you from those of us who know that proper parenting makes for a more civil world.
When I checked just before submitting this column, George was finishing the year with four A's and three B's.