Short questions I’ve been asked of late (mostly by journalists) and proportionately short answers:
Q: Is there a single most important thing parents should be teaching during their children’s preschool years?
A: The most important thing parents should teach is proper manners. The second and third most important things are proper manners. “Please,” “Thank you,” “You’re welcome,” “Excuse me,” “I’m sorry,” proper mealtime behavior (including eating what everyone else at the table is eating), not interrupting adult conversations, establishing and maintaining eye contact with people who are talking to you, drinking without slurping…those sorts of fundamental courtesies that form the backbone of civilized social behavior.
Q: You didn’t mention anything about academic teaching, like ABCs. Was that a purposeful omission?
A: There is no established correlation between academic learning that takes place prior to first grade and achievement in the third grade. They are certainly well-intentioned, but parents are wasting their time teaching or having some third party – a preschool, for example – teach academic material prior to first grade. Most baby boomers, including yours truly, didn’t even learn their ABCs until first grade, yet when matched demographically, we outperformed today’s kids at every grade level while sitting, mind you, in what today would be considered criminally overcrowded classrooms.
Q: To what do you attribute that?
A: We baby boomers came to school having learned to give our undivided attention to female adults and do what female adults told us to do, which included an arcane thing called daily chores.
Q: Today’s kids aren’t learning to pay attention to women?
A: Relatively speaking, absolutely not, the reason being that since the late 1960s, women have been led to believe by mental health professionals and the media that good mommies pay as much attention to their children as they possibly can. It’s a fact, the more attention a parent pays a child the less attention the child will pay the parent; at the least, the child will only pay attention when he wants something.
Q: What are your thoughts concerning children and smart devices?
A: I know successful adults who do not have smartphones. No parent has ever been able to give me a good reason why a child – by which I mean someone who is not emancipated and paying his or her own bills – should have a smartphone. Let’s face it, parents are buying their children smartphones because they’re (a) afraid of their children and (b) want their children to like them.
Q: What are they afraid of?
A: They’re afraid their children won’t like them.
Q: Why is that?
A: Since the 1960s – when nearly everything about America went topsy-turvy – parents have been led to believe that good parenting is all about having a wonderful relationship with one’s kids. As a result, parental leadership – which eventually produces a good relationship – has gone by the wayside. That’s why the emotional resilience of children has declined dramatically over the last fifty years. Children who think they’re running the show are not well off at all. They’re fundamentally insecure, which is why colleges now have “safe spaces.” If I was sending a child to college today, I would refuse to pay for any college that had a safe space. There’s something fundamentally wrong with adults who cater to children in that sort of way, causing them to remain children for who knows how long.