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August 6, 2014

The Not-so-Good Old Days

Image: Flickr/Art4TheGlryofGod

Image: Flickr/Art4TheGlryofGod

“There was a time when we expected nothing of our children but obedience, as opposed to the present, when we expect everything of them but obedience.” (Anatole Broyard)

The quote above is sure to incite a response. From some it may bring applause and cheers. From others groans and rolled eyes. First, you should know it was written in the 1980s — when most of the current generation of parents were children. That’s right: we’re the children being talked about!

Second, it’s not historically accurate, and, third, it’s remarkably immature with its all-or-nothing sentiment. The assertions are that parenting used to be so much better than it is now, and that good parenting is ultimately about demanding obedience.

The idea that there was once upon a time some golden era of parenting is simply untrue. Nostalgia is notoriously ignorant. Parenting has always been difficult. Ancient texts document this repeatedly. Parents have always struggled with how to balance authoritative influence and authoritarian control. History is wrought with examples of parents who demanded obedience to such an extent that they chased their children into senseless rebellion and hapless decision-making.

The point is not to demand obedience at all costs. The point is to prepare kids for adulthood. Yes, this sometimes means telling our kids what to do because we know best. More often than not, however, this means pointing out the choices our kids have and do not have, and then encouraging them to think, choose, act, and reflect upon the results. That creates the type of obedience that will lead them down the right path: from obedience to wisdom.

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