Once upon a time, people got married, had children and reared them.
It wasn't something our forebears spent a lot of time fussing and fretting over. It was just something they did, along with most everyone else.
When a young couple had children, grandparents and other extended family provided whatever support they needed to get their feet on the ground. "Parenting" hadn't been invented yet.
Along came a war, and then a baby boom. Young parents took their children and went looking for the promised land. From the ashes of the extended family rose a host of child-rearing experts.
It wasn't long before rhetoric replaced reality as the primary shaper of our child-rearing practices. Nonsense replaced common sense. American families became child-centered, American parents became permissive and democratic, and American children became spoiled and sassy and out of control.
It's high time we returned to a more traditional, commonsense vision of child rearing. Specifically, we need to start rearing children consistent with what I call "The Rules of the Game."
These are the realities by which they are going to have to live their adult lives, and the sooner they get used to them, the better. Here they are:
Rule One: You're never going to be the center of everyone's attention. Not for long, at least.
This simply means that children should not be the center of attention in their families. Parents should be the center of attention. If they aren't, children won't pay attention to them.
Rule Two: Everyone must obey a higher authority.
Therefore, parents should expect children to obey. They should not wish that children would obey, they should not plead with children to obey, they should not rant and rave at children to obey. They should simply, without apology, expect them to toe the mark.
Rule Three: Everyone is expected to be a contributing member of society.
Too many children are "on the dole." They take from their families, but are rarely, if ever, expected to put anything of consequence back into them. Ask yourself this question: Do I expect my children to perform a regular routine of chores in and around the home, for which they are not paid? The only acceptable answer is "Yes."
Rule Four: Everyone is responsible for his or her own behavior.
Quite simply, a child who does something bad ought to feel bad about it. All too often, however, the child does something wrong and the parent feels bad. Why should a child accept responsibility for his own behavior if someone else is doing a fine job of accepting it for him?
Rule Five: You can't always get what you want, and what you do get, you get by working and waiting.
Therefore, children should receive all the things they need, and a conservative amount of the things they want. Today's child desperately needs more "vitamin N" - the most character-building two-letter word in the English language.
Rule Six: You experience happiness, which is the elixir of success, in direct proportion to how sensitive to and considerate you are of others. Self- centeredness and unhappiness go hand in hand.
Parents who raise their children according to Rules One through Five don't have to worry about Rule Six.
Copyright 1998, John K. Rosemond