You've been through it I'm sure. You make reservations months in advance for that special dinner with the love of your life. You know it will be an expensive night, but it is a special occasion and you decide to shoot the works. The big day finally arrives and you both take a few extra pains with your preparations. Your wife looks beautiful and literally glows with an inner beauty that has kept you in her spell all these years. Even though you will be uncomfortable, you put on that suit and tie, not wanting to look like a bum alongside your radiant spouse. You drive to the restaurant, and after being cordially greeted by the maitre 'd and seated in a romantic corner booth, you tell yourself that whatever this night is costing you, it's worth the money. The waiter brings you a bottle of good red wine, and as you prepare to toast the partner who has made your life worth living, the bratty kid in the next booth throws a packet of sweet and low at your head.
Listen, don't get me wrong. I don't hate kids. We raised three of them and I couldn't be prouder of how they turned out. The reason they passed through childhood and became responsible adults is that when it was necessary, they heard the word "no." Too many kids today are unfamiliar with the word. They have their parents completely bamboozled with their inexcusable behavior, usually described by the ridiculous phrase, "acting out." They're acting out alright, acting like the undisciplined brats they are. In the circumstances described above, the dialog might go like this: Parent: "Tyler, that was not very nice; please say you're sorry to the man." Tyler: "No." Parent, grinning sheepishly, to you: "I'm so sorry, he's usually not like this." You, knowing Tyler is probably always like this and wanting to push his face into the mashed potatoes: "That's OK, no harm done."
Unless someone intervenes, Tyler will grow up to become, as they say in the child psychology literature, an asshole. His clueless parents, unable to admit to themselves that this ten year-old has totally defeated them, will go through life pretending nothing is wrong. They will defend Tyler to the death, no matter how horrible his behavior. This little rationalization allows them to keep a shred of parental dignity, while knowingly foisting their demon offspring on an unsuspecting world. They will go toe-to-toe with teachers, sports coaches, other parents, anybody who dares challenge their delusion that Tyler is the perfect child. The really sad thing is that, unless there is a medical reason for the kid's behavior, a little parental responsibility exercised very early on Tyler's road to asshole-ville, could probably have prevented his unfortunate fate. Absent that, Tyler's only hope is for another person to gain the kid's respect and turn the ship around.
In our world today, kids spend more time with their electronic toys than they do interacting with humans, including their parents. Their addiction to these devices is isolating them from reality and affecting their ability to think and be creative. It's not that these devices are inherently bad, but when the average kid spends 6.5 hours a day with some type of electronic media, it takes time away from activity like group play where they learn social skills and how to deal with others. I firmly believe that during their formative years, kids' time with electronic gadgets should be limited and monitored. It's easy to get on Facebook and say hurtful things that damage others, or to meet and communicate with the wrong people. It's also tempting to leave them alone when they're being quiet and not bothering you, but maybe that's the most dangerous time of all.
Being a parent is never easy. Most of what we know comes from watching our own parents and trying to improve on their approach. My own father was never much good at saying no, but my mother had it down pat. She wasn't a tyrant, but she knew when to draw a line in the sand, and God help me if I crossed it. Because of her, while I may not have been a perfect kid, I was no Tyler either. So courtesy of my Mom, for any parent who may need them, here is a free supply of Nos. Don't be afraid to use them. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
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