Friday, January 25, 2013

Negatively Charged

Some parents like being authority figures. They like it too much.

These are the parents who boast of their elaborate system of rules and punishments, as if their kid was a recruit in basic training and not a child living in a family.

When their children’s grades start to slip, they take away privileges, come down on the kids with punishments, rather than asking the very simple question, of both child and teacher, “What seems to be the problem? Why is this child struggling?” I have never understood the impulse, when a child starts failing in school, for some parents to act as if their child is doing it on purpose, solely to anger them. Who would do that: fail, publicly, in front of adults and peers, on purpose?
These are the parents who say, “My house, my rules” or “My way or the highway,” which is a threat to toss a child out of the only home they know, a threat to the very security of their lives. You see a wisp of this when parents of young children say, “OK, bye, I’m leaving you,” when their preschooler doesn’t immediately follow them -- and the child runs after them wailing.

And when their child tries to tell them that they are being too strict, these are the parents who don’t listen, don’t ponder if there’s truth in what their child says, just respond, smugly, “Good, that means I am doing my job.”

I am reminded of the Stanford Prison Experiment where people were randomly divided into “prisoners” and “guards,” and the guards, and even the psychologist himself, got so carried away with their authority over the prisoners that the experiment had to be stopped.

Do parents need to worry about this aspect of human nature in themselves?

I think so.

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