Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Brats are made not born...Yes, it's a #parentingfail

By now I am certain that you have heard about the court case in New Jersey, where an 18-year-old is suing her parents to force them to pay for the end of her private high school year and then college. While we may not know the actual series of events that led to this case, here is what is being reported in the press:

-18-year-old does not want to abide by parents rules. Will not stop dating boyfriend. Decides to leave house or as she claims, her parents threw her out of the house. Sues parents for support even though she is of legal age. Parents have had a rocky marriage with separations. Father is former police chief.

-Judge has declined immediate relief and set a court date for April.

-Father says he was probably too liberal of a parent.

-Judge recommends family counseling.

Daily News Article ...apparently in this case, there is an accusation of abuse as to why the girl left her home.

Here is the problem as I see it. A child doesn't suddenly become a brat at 18. A brat is made not born. They are either indulged, ignored or quite frankly a little bit of both. This definitely sounds like the parents, having had  a bad marriage, didn't pay attention to what was really going on with their child. Perhaps in order to stifle some guilt they felt for how bad things were at home they gave into the girl too often. Or maybe, they went the complete opposite end and were too strict, despite what the father wants to think. Yes parenting is a precarious balancing act and most of us simply do the best job that we can. But the one thing I have noticed is that when there are issues at home, the children tend to act out in school, or throughout the community.

The biggest problem I have noticed over the years, is that parents suddenly decide that when a child, mostly a girl child by the way, begins to date, parents suddenly discover rules, boundaries and limitations on behavior.  Unfortunately parenting doesn't work that way. You need to set reasonable and responsible limits very early on life. Actually from the moment a child is born.

I find it rather interesting too that we still have this inane double standard for boys and girls when dating. But then again I am the mother of boys. On the other hand, quite frankly I set limits and boundaries for them when it came to the opposite sex early on in life. Responsibility is not a one way street. With boys, in today's culture especially, they need to understand the word "no" in it's complete and entire meaning and not think it is a girl just being "coy." They also need to understand the deleterious effects alcohol can have on judgement as well and how colleges have decided that a drunk girl, even if she gives consent, still considers the sex, rape (Even if the male was drunk too. I kid you not). In truth,  I also don't think my child's worth is wrapped up in whether or not they remain virgins. I think their self-worth is wrapped up in the idea that when they do finally decide to be intimate with another humanbeing, hopefully they will be mature enough to handle a physical relationship and all that it entails, but mostly I want them to be "loved" and not "used" by the other person involved.

Parents needs to understand that you cannot expect a child to accept boundaries when they become a teen if they were indulged their entire life. If there were no expectations of respect and responsibility don't think that suddenly when there is a teenager in your home that they are miraculously going to behave. In fact just the opposite occurs.

Heck, if you were smart enough to set boundaries and limits for them their entire lives, adolescence is a challenging period to begin with. They push every button and do their best to separate from parental control. That is the nature of the beast. They fight you on everything; from bedtime, to food, to friends, to chores to responsibilities. They are these rather full grown human beings with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex. Prone to poor decision-making.

But at least if you had outlined for them their entire lives what is and is not allowed and what is expected of them in your home, then continuing these requirements won't be too much of a fight. Oh it will be a fight, but it won't be the slamming door, meltdown, tempertantrum that can accompany teenagehood....OK it just might be anyway, but nothing will come as a surprise to your child. And quite frankly you won't be a hypocrite either.

Yes hypocrite. Don't suddenly decide to parent properly when you child is on the verge of adulthood. Don't act like suddenly you care enough to give  a damn when this child reaches legal adulthood. Giving a damn means being unpopular with your child on any given day, at any given time, at any given age. The old saying if your child doesn't say "I hate you," at least once a day, you are  not doing your job as a parent, holds true especially in this technologically-media driven day.

Many pundits and prognosticators will try to tell you that this nonsense is the outgrowth of our entitlement culture. Well I disagree, this is an outgrowth of bad parenting. There have always been people who believe themselves to be entitled to their parents money throughout history. It has to do with how you are raised. There have always been that segment of the population that thought they were entitled to privilege. The truth is that group of people is just bigger now. There are more people, more bad parents and hence more brats.

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There are some who cite the infantilization of a generation because children can stay on their parents insurance until they are 26. Big deal to that. If there were decent jobs then there wouldn't be the need to stay on your parent's insurance. They point to young adult living at home with their parents. Well if there were decent jobs they wouldn't have to live at home until their late 20s. In fact, why pay rent when you can save so you can own something? What is it about a certain part of this population who think, because they had it difficult then their children have to have it difficult. What in blazes did you work for all your life? So your child can live in squalor? So your child would have to choose between food, health and heat like you had to do?

Because a child doesn't have to do without, or because you help them, doesn't meant they are brats or or ill equipped for life ingeneral. Whether a child turns into a brat has to do with responsibility, work ethic and respect. Does your child appreciate what is being done for them? Do they go out of the way to do what is required of them? Do they understand that what you give them is earned through effort and not because they merely exist? Again it is not about "material things," but about who you raise them to be.

Listen I do believe our culture is rather upside down and backwards when it comes to defining legal majority. A child can vote at 18, contract for goods and go to war, but they can't legally drink a beer. One of the most poignant examples of this insanity was in a documentary about Arlington National Cemetery. A man was poring a beer over his brother-in-laws grave. The BIL had been killed in Iraq at the age of 20. The man had told his BIL before he went to war that when he came back, he would be of legal age, so they would get to share a beer together. Now this was how they were sharing the beer.

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I don't know what the real situation happens to be with that family in New Jersey. Suffice it to say, something is terribly terribly out of kilter with those people, all three of them. The reality is though, that at some point in life, if you do not want to follow the rules set out in your parents home, then you need to decide to go out on your own in total. That's it in a nutshell. You make your choices and you accept the consequences. That is what being a grown up is really all about anyway isn't it?



Elise