Saturday, September 23, 2006

Traumatised, but Thankful

Was lying in bed staring at the ceiling one morning last week when Katy called, chuckling and giggling, and said I really should tune into Oprah Winfrey, there was much to learn. So I turned the tv on. Oprah was talking to parents of out of control toddlers, about some system devised by this lady who calls herself Supernanny. Confirmed my belief that most of these American parents are pretty clueless, really. Seriously. What with not wanting to harm the psyche of their kids and all the psychological stuff – I’m sure there’s sense in a lot of it, really, but I don’t think the parents get that either – they end up being purely terrorized. On the other hand, my parents inculcated, rather nonchalantly, lots of manners and discipline in my brother and me, purely through a careful use of scorn, derision and outright intimidation.

Of course, it traumatized the two of us for life, but as children at least, the two of us were known for our company manners. We were the only children in our colony who said please and thank you at the slightest provocation. We carried our parents’ shopping. We were, in short, the kids your parents threw up at you. Not bad for a system of discipline that was based more or less on pure meanness.

We were laughed into speaking decent English. When we did things that our parents considered we shouldn’t be doing, they used to ask us, did we really want to be like this girl or that boy? Yes, rank racial discrimination, but it worked. If we fussed over the food, we were made to eat what was on offer or allowed to go hungry. If we talked in the car while my father negotiated traffic, we got yelled at worse than the other drivers who were getting on my father’s nerves. We had to do things because we were told to, none of that explanatory business for us. Everything was always our fault, no matter how many other kids were involved. I spent an entire childhood convinced that my parents were selfish, cruel and unjust people. They were, of course. But they also got me to acknowledge to myself (if to nobody else) the consequences of my actions.

When I see all these kids running riot, I wonder what their parents are thinking. They (the parents) were probably brought up as strictly as I was, and I suppose they want their children’s youths to be different. But letting your children grow up thinking it’s a fair world is in itself not preparing them for the hardships they will face.

I know, I’m not a parent (yet!) and perhaps you think I’m in no position to talk. But I’d rather be mean to my kids and bring them up to obey their elders than to have them dictating terms to me at the age of seven.


Arthur Quiller Couch said...

It's been said before - spare the rod and spoil the child.

Sue said...

AQC - Thinking back, sparing the rod a little bit, occasionally, might have made us like our parents more back then...