It seems like parenting is all that I blog about anymore. I recently wrote an article on parenting that led to a conversation with some close friends. One of the questions brought up had to do with our children’s individualism, and allowing them to express it via choice. For example, if I tell my child to go play outside, and they respond by going downstairs to play instead, is this disobedience worthy of correction, or is it merely an expression of their individualism? Our answer to this question is closely connected to another question, namely, what is the basis for parental authority?
In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard about the recent story that’s sent the internet into another one of its typical frenzies, a four-year-old boy recently crawled over a barrier and fell into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo. The zoo ended up having to shoot the 450-pound gorilla to protect the boy who was being drug around by it. Not surprisingly, the internet’s social justice warriors have typed to the rescue to condemn not only the zoo for carrying out this Third Reich response, but also the mother for being a horrible parent, with many arguing that she should face criminal charges. While this is absolutely crazy in about 9,000 different ways, the ideas on the opposite side aren’t that much better.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a PBS kid’s show that takes our beloved childhood memories of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and gives them the full Michael Bay treatment - If you aren’t sure what that means go watch the aboniminable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or any of the Transformers movies; Bay is basically the Terminator of sacred childhood memories. Anyways, Daniel Tiger is a pretty accurate representation of the modern day child: selfish, whiny, and needs everything explained in full detail before they’ll even consider going along with it. While this doesn’t automatically put the show on the do not watch list, its advice for how kids should deal with being told “no” does.
In one of the episodes Daniel Tiger is upset with his mom for telling him no and not letting him get his way. But instead of teaching Daniel to respect authority or that selfishness and ingratitude are vices, they sing a song about how to throw a tantrum when you don’t get your way. Their brilliant advice is simple, just stomp three times and you’ll feel better! Here’s the chorus of the song Stomp Three Times:
Parents today are just way too into parenting. Somehow we got the idea in our heads that it’s our job to not just raise our children to be decent human beings, but to also make their lives magical and entertain them every waking moment of the day. This parenting approach is an overreaction against neglectful parenting, but it is just as unhealthy for children.
Most kids today view their parents as their peers and not as authority figures whom they are to respect; adults are just larger kids to them. Can we blame them? The word “no” has become a recommendation without consequences for disobeying. Parents teach their kids that it is mommy and daddy’s job to play with them and entertain them whenever they are home. This leads kids to believe that family time is less about the family simply being together and more about creating a magical experience for them; the world and everyone in it is there to make them happier.
Lately, I have spent a lot of my time reading philosophers, mostly of the atheist persuasion. I am a bit of a philosophy nerd, but tonight I took a break from it to try to advance my kindle progress bar in Dostoevsky’s grand Russian novel The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky’s book is basically philosophy in story form-excellent story form. In the book, one of Dostoevsky’s characters comes to the brutal realization that without God everything is morally permissible. The question that arises is, if God does not exist, then on what basis do we say that an action is morally good or evil? As I was reading, I heard a song coming from the TV that I had never heard before titled Follow your Arrow, by Kacey Musgraves. As I listened to the lyrics, I realized that the song is a perfect representation of our culture's full embrace of moral relativism.