COLUMN: Older generations can give advice on raising respectful children

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 5:38 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm sure there were sad moments for many teachers and students when the doors slammed shut for the final time at Kansas City schools on the last day of school earlier this month.

Hopefully, it was the latest wake-up call for parents who are indifferent to their children's school attendance and uncaring about their performance while in attendance. I hope these parents realize what kind of quality of life their sons and daughters might be in for as they drift from minimum-wage job to minimum-wage job where they might be destined to exist beneath the poverty level for years.

Oh sure, some of them might be lucky enough to be able to live off their trust funds, their parents or grandparents, but most of them will eventually have to work for a living. Finding a job when you have questionable skills might not be easy.

Because spanking has became a form of child abuse, I've asked many parents what form of discipline works for them. Most have tried a variety of systems, like threats  or taking away privileges. The favorite seems to be the "time out" method. When I ask if the discipline works, mostly I get sheepish grins and acknowledgments that results are inconsistent.

The only kind of discipline that worked when I was a child was based solidly on respect for parents and other adults. Wanting to please one's mother and father was reason enough in those days to behave appropriately. Everyone wanted their parents to be proud of them, so they acted in a way that reflected that desire. Fear of being spanked was secondary. Actually, I've never heard of a case where a child died from spanking. Today, I hear of children being beaten to death all the time. Personally, I think the issue of establishing a proven method of disciplining children would be to find ways to get them to learn to respect their parents.

That would mean, of course, that people who are responsible for bringing up children would have to return to the traditional method of being in charge. They would have to let the child know that they are parents, not friends, and there is a major difference between those relationships. A parent teaches children right from wrong and the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. A friend is someone with whom you share interests and whose company you enjoy.

Parents would have to set an example of what constitutes appropriate behavior and would have to teach children what harm can come to them from inappropriate behavior. They would have to learn to say no to children and find a way to let the child know that the parent expects the child to accept and respect that position. The parents would have to teach the child that there is a big difference between loving them and becoming their enabler.

I really think parents are confused. I know many people actually believe that some individuals in the field of child development give parents the kind of information that will keep these experts in business for life, but I think that's unfair. I believe experts base their theories too often on the experiences of troubled children rather than those of mentally healthy children. Too often they subject healthy children to therapies designed for the sick and create troubled children.

If I were a young parent today, I would seek the counsel of the older generation in raising my children. Before I would take advice from modern books, I would go to nursing homes and other places where many mentally stable older people hang out and give them the books I was reading and ask for their opinions. Young people don't realize that they have experts on child upbringing right at their doorstep. They need to consult them before they use the latest information on the subject. Take a look at the numbers of abused and neglected kids in America today and ask yourself how they got that way. Who do you think advised their parents?

The future of America is hanging in the balance while we decide what we are going to do with our children. School closings are a bad thing, but should we keep them open and hope some kids will stroll past and stop in?

You tell me.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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