We all recognize the phrase; so now I’m going to talk about it.
One of my favorite TV shows to zone out to is Wife Swap. Yes, it’s extremely over-the-top, it’s purposely corny, and the families they find to be on the show are never the least bit normal. But I guess what intrigues me most about the reality show is that typically by the end of the episode, there are mutual accusations from the parents to each other to the effect of: “You’re a horrible parent!” Of course, the word “horrible” can be replaced by “lazy”, “tyrannical”, “unfit”, or any word that I can not quite make out because the censors have bleeped it out.
I’ve heard a lot of people talk about what makes a bad parent, whether it’s on the news, on a blog, or as a facebook comment. It seems that in the likeness of someone “pulling the race card”, a trendy low-blow is for people to call each other a bad parent, sometimes finding a minor exception in another person’s otherwise “good parenting” record. But sometimes it really is true- the person actually is a bad parent. So for the next venture for my accidental series What Makes a Person? , I asked for feedback from my facebook friends to try to help pinpoint what truly makes a person a bad parent. The actual feedback can be found underneath the picture of the Super Nanny at the very bottom of this post, but ultimately if I were to summarize it all, it amounts to this: “A bad parent is someone who is not positively present in their child’s life, nor do they set expectations or follow through with discipline.”
Interestingly, most people didn’t bother mentioning child abuse, since that has nothing to do with parenting, but instead refers to a person who has psychological issues that need to be dealt with. Obviously, abusing is not parenting. For most people I asked, it appears that when they think of “bad parenting”, what comes to mind is naturally “the lack of parenting”. And a major part of defining the word “parenting” is discipline. So in order to explore the topic of bad parenting, it’s important for me to explore the evidently common occurrence of the lack of discipline in modern day parenting.
Recently I made a $10 bet with someone about how I will discipline my son when he is old enough to need it. The bet is that I don’t have in it me to spank him, especially when he looks up at me with sad eyes and a quivering lip, knowing he deliberately disobeyed me. But I do have it in me. Call me old fashioned. I take it as a compliment.
I have a large amount of experience in dealing with kids: I worked two summers as a camp counselor, two summers teaching English overseas in Thailand, and two years working in an after school program. As much as I enjoyed it and found that I had a natural ability to mentor and teach children, when it came to disciplining students, this is what often went through my head, “Man, if that was my kid being disrespectful and acting out like that, they would be getting spanked by now.”
It’s becoming politically incorrect to spank your children; because of the extreme of actually abusing a child. Super Nanny tries to lead by example in teaching us the new, trendy “time out” method. So maybe I wasn’t raised politically correct because I was definitely spanked when I disobeyed as a kid; though not many times, because I got the point pretty quickly. I’m old fashioned, so I take this verse in the Bible very seriously: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24).
I would imagine there are people out there who would say I am a bad parent for endorsing spanking instead of the much cooler “time out” method. So to some people, I am a bad parent. To others, I am being a good and responsible parent by carrying out discipline in the home. And this divide of opinion shows how truly complicated the term “bad parent” is.
Children crave structure; no doubt about it. They want to know what is expected of them. They need to see discipline (whether it’s spanking, time-out, being grounded, etc.) actually carried out, not just simply used as a threat. I am a good communicator. Therefore, I will clearly communicate behavioral expectations I have for my kids; just as I will also clearly communicate my love for them and encourage their creativity, hobbies, and playtime. I definitely understand the difference between being a kid’s parent, not their friend.
The way my parents raised me was very effective. They were, and still are, ideal parents. I want to duplicate the way they raised me. And though they may have thought they didn’t know what they were doing at the time, they did indeed know what they were doing; they just didn’t know that they knew.
When I am at restaurants and grocery stores, I am always extremely observant of families with children. These days it’s quite normal for kids to make a scene by having a temper tantrum when they don’t get exactly what they want, yet I still find well-mannered families in public that appear to be having fun. So there are still kids who can behave in public. That’s what I want. I look forward to doing what it takes to lead a happy, old-fashioned family.
Ultimately, this isn’t about whether or not parents should spank their children or even about discipline; because personally I truly don’t care about the issue unless it involves my own kids. (So I sure hope that doesn’t become the distracting focus here, with people having a blog comment war on the topic of spanking.) The question I am seeking to answer is simply “What makes a person ‘a bad parent’? Here’s what I came up with, based on observation, common sense, and help from my facebook friends:
Rules in Being a Bad Parent
1. Do not set expectations for your child.
2. Do not follow through with discipline nor be consistent with your words and actions.
3. Do not praise your child, pay attention to them, or spend time with them.
4. Let them decide for themselves the difference between right and wrong; Don’t force your own religious beliefs on them or live your life consistent to your religion.
5. Don’t worry about embarrassing your kid, speaking condescendingly to them, or calling them names, especially in public. Because they will get over it.
6. Make sure they always like you, because most importantly, your job is to be your child’s best friend.
I think that I’ve always been a dad, I just didn’t have a kid until now. I crave to raise well-mannered kids that are cool. And though I have technically zero experience in that field so far, I can’t wait to prove it can be done. So, Super Nanny, I will not be needing your help.
And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on John Mayer, why not read my perspective on being a dad? That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view. I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant. I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:
Nick Shell It’s time to help me with another future website post. Answer me this: What makes a person “a bad parent”?