Don’t We Think Our Parents Did their Best?
Kids nowadays got no respect.
They’re out there right now, whining about their pasts and blaming their parents, like their parents were supposed to know better or something, telling their own kids what brutes their parents were, while condescending to these poor, just started walking upright past generations that they ‘did the best they could,’ or ‘the best they knew.’
In past generations, my ‘no-punishment’ talk might have at least found an argument. The older generations at least knew that they were punishing, and they knew it was a practice that could be attacked and/or defended. But these kids now, trying to raise their own? You can’t talk them out of something they don’t even know they’re doing. These nampy-pamby modern young parents think they can get it all their own way without corporal punishment, without getting physical on their kids – which means when these too-nice parents do get it all their way through intimidation and threats and having shown the kid who’s boss while he’s a baby and can’t tell anyone, as well as by occasional violent outbursts, that no-one’s allowed to realize it because ‘We are not a Family that uses Corporal Punishment.’ That is the difference between the honest corporal punishers of the past and a whole lot of the ‘non-spanking’ parents that were the children of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Don’t get me wrong – these are the gentler of these children with children! Many still just spank – but they still mostly think they’re nicer than the old folks were, and maybe so. Maybe so, but the first group mentioned above, they tried to make a real change in principle, at least in their minds if many perhaps failed in practice, but the others? It’s not even a philosophical split. For the ones who are staying the course with parental authority and physical methods, it is only a matter of degree, what the old folks got wrong. They just took things too far.
So here’s the insolence, the lack of respect.
What did the previous generation, the children with grandchildren fail at? Were these knuckle-dragging forefathers simply incapable of controlling themselves once they started with the whoopin’, is that the theoretical basis for the ‘took it too far’ theory? Perhaps it was something they thought instead. Maybe they simply held with stronger deterrents and stronger penalties than we do today, or they had a longer list of punishable offenses., so the difference is perhaps not that the beast remained so strong in our parents and grandparents that they were simply more impulsively violent, but that they were more institutionally violent, that it was not accidental, but a belief driving the action. If that’s closer to the mark . . .
Then what did they fail at?
Strictness level too high, penalties too harsh? So this generation has the dial in just the right spot, is that it, kids nowadays don’t have the same feelings and the same complaints as our parents did and our grandparents did, because we have dialled in just the right amount of pain or deprivation to match their crimes, and they can’t help but admit it? Or are the children of the children of these modern middle-aged children still going to make the same complaints to each other because the basic principle hasn’t changed, namely, ‘they never let me X and they think they own me and they shit on my life whenever they want?’ Find me the evaluation of any matter of degree in that, I ask you.
So were our parents, our grandparents unevolved, incapable of non-violence, or less violence? No, that wasn’t the trouble then, any more – or any less - than now. There were some gentler people living in even the far past than many people living today; civilization is not a linear progression, it’s messy. Did they simply ‘go too far?’ No, because of course we don’t go too far – and you know our kids have all the same complaints we did and our parents did. Again, I’m still getting to it: the disrespect.
They didn’t do their best and fail. They’re not animals with no self-control any more than you are, and they didn’t fail at assessing what was punishable and what was an appropriate punishment, either. They failed because there is no winning this game. Spoiler alert –you are not going to win the game of discipline in child-rearing either, and self-control won’t save you. Getting just the right amount of force and/or fear in your discipline isn’t going to win it either – because . . .
The right amount of force, violence, deprivation, unpleasantness of any sort is none, exactly none, which is a principle. These are the contrasting principles in this story: the betrayal, violence and/or deprivations of punishment – or not; yes or no, that is a difference of principle, and that is the only change in our child-rearing that would be a real, qualitative change.
The old folks, they didn’t fail, because that’s not fair to say of someone who never had a chance in the first place, and it’s disrespectful. Those folks weren’t stupid. They were exactly like us, they had better intentions, and they did the best they could within a bad system. If we think we’re going to do better, without having a better idea, without having a different idea, then we’re going to find out, and we’ll know that we were no smarter than they were. Too late to make a change, of course.
Evolution isn’t automatic. It happens because we want to live and sometimes in order to do that, we have to figure out a better way.