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A SIGN OF THE PHILOSOPHY

 

 

By Lynn Stuter

November 13, 2005

NewsWithViews.com

A recent article by Jodi Wilgoren entitled At Center of a Clash, Rowdy Children in Coffee Shops brought to light a long-time problem in America: the rise of the child as the focal point of the family.

There probably isn’t an American alive who hasn’t wanted to vacate a store because of a shrieking child whose parents seem oblivious or because of rowdy children charging up one aisle and down another through a store, upsetting displays and creating havoc while their parents shop. Just the other day, while shopping, I heard a mother say to her son, who was obviously picking up and handling store merchandise, “You need to put that back now. If you be good, I’ll buy you candy.” My jaw dropped. The message to the child, loud and clear, was, “If you do something bad but stop when I say to, I’ll reward you.”

That’s called operant conditioning, a concept developed by B F Skinner who stated, emphatically, that you could teach an animal to do anything you wanted if you reinforced the behavior enough times. Skinner is famous for the Skinner Rat Box where he reinforced wanted behaviors by reward. B F Skinner was also a humanist — a religious world view that believes man is but one system of many systems, all interconnected and interdependent; with an infrastructure that is analogous across systems. In other words, man is not better than animal, tree, air or water. To say his world view is flawed would be an understatement. Animals act on instinct, lacking the God-given higher order ability of humans to think and reason.

Children aren’t animals. They are small human beings. They have a brain. They have intelligence. They can think and reason.

There is an old adage, a very good one at that: children should be seen and not heard. It’s a good one. Children should not be the center of attention, either in the familial unit or in public. But the transformation of our society has made them that way. Everything must be for the child, the child must be the center of attention even when among adults. Just read Dr Spock’s book on child-rearing. He, of course, admitted before he left our earthly realm that his philosophy didn’t and doesn’t work, but walk into any book store and you will find his book, revised and updated, sitting on the shelves, awaiting purchase by some unsuspecting and gullible parent out to raise his/her child “the right way.”

And we spend so much time catering to the every whim of the child that we fail to provide the two things children need most — love and discipline.

A child needs to know, as he/she grows up, what is and what is not acceptable. And despite the claims of the “children are like flowers, we must let them bloom” crowd, a child who is allowed to shriek to the detriment of everyone else within hearing range isn’t blooming, he’s demanding discipline, he’s demanding that his parents give him guidance. The same is true of the child who throws a temper tantrum or is rowdy and unruly in public. Parents take them into restaurants and expect everyone else to put up with their screams while trying to eat a meal they paid to enjoy; they take them into stores and let them race up and down the aisles being rude and disrespectful to not only the store owners and employees but everyone in the store.

The problem isn’t the child; the problem is the parent(s). I watched in total disgust one time as a mother chased her small child through a store parking lot, grabbed her child by the arm, and shrieked at her, “What’s the matter with you, don’t you realize you could get run over by a car.” I wanted so badly to walk up to that mother and say, “Everyone in this parking lot can hear you, what message do you really think you are sending to your child?” But the mother was clearly out of control of herself and of the situation. My saying anything to her would have only set her off further. But the message she sent to the child was “I’m not in control and you aren’t safe.” The message she didn’t send, but that the child obviously needed to hear, said quietly and with authority, was, “Stay with me. Do not run through parking lots, cars can’t see you, could run over you, and you could be killed.” Logical, direct, and understandable to the child. It was obviously, however, that the lack of discipline here was long-standing.

When the consequences of disobeying has consistent and immediate consequences, the child learns to discipline self and knows that he is safe, that he is loved. Waiting until a child is fifteen to say “no” doesn’t work. The time to say “no” and reinforce that “no” with appropriate and consistent discipline is when the child first begins to explore his/her environs, when the child reaches out to touch that nick-knack on the coffee table or decides the toilet bowl is a grand place bath the cat.

I listened in horror as a Bible study leader told parents they should “child-proof” their homes. Parents should not child proof their homes. What parents should do is teach children that what is the child’s is his or hers; what is someone else’s, they keep their hands off of. Anyone who thinks a child is too young to understand that concept is deluding themselves. Children catch on to the concept very quickly, especially when failing to obey brings consistent and immediate consequences.

When I challenged the Bible study leader, the look of horror on the faces of other parents in the room told me that the church didn’t have a good Biblical foundation. I didn’t go back. Sparing the rod really does spoil the child.

Parents need to know where their children are and what their children are doing. When the child wants to play with the electrical outlets, slap his/her hands, “No. You don’t play with outlets. Outlets kill.” The child understands. He’s got a brain. He can think. And the smart parent doesn’t just walk away and figure that’s the end of it. The child has a brain. The child will try again. And if the consequences are the same, the child learns not only that his actions are not acceptable but that he is safe, that he is loved, that he has someone older and wiser on whom he can depend and to whom he can turn.

Today parents who spank their children are being charged with child abuse. To that I say “hogwash.” Spanking a child is not child abuse; spanking a child when that child has done something wrong is telling that child that his actions are not acceptable and that the people to whom that child looks for his safety and well-being, his parents, care about him. The “you must let the child bloom” crowd claim spanking is teaching the child that hitting is okay. That would be true if the child and parent were equals, but that doesn’t hold true when the parent is supposed to be the one in charge.

And there is a great deal of difference between spanking a child and beating a child. Spanking a child is done without anger because the child has done something that he needs to know is not acceptable and will not be acceptable at any time in the future. Spanking a child when one is angry is another story, and too many parents don’t lay a hand on their child until the anger boils over and the parent is no longer in control. And that is child abuse.

Children need to learn what is socially acceptable. They don’t learn that when parents don’t teach it. This isn’t a matter of teaching “diversity,” this is a matter of teaching the child to respect the rights and feelings of others. When the child points at someone who is crippled or in a wheel-chair and says, “Look, mommy, he’s weird” or something even worse, as children in their innocence will do, and the parent giggles nervously or simply ignores the child instead of slapping that tiny pointing finger and saying, “we don’t point, we don’t say things like that, it’s rude and disrespectful” they send a message to the child that making fun of others who are perceived as different is acceptable. When parents allow children to talk back or back sass as it was called in my young days, they send a message to the child that defying authority is okay and that their years of living is equal in experience to the experience and knowledge of their parents. That is simply not true; the child knows it isn’t true; and the child feels unsafe. When parents allow their children to interrupt adult conversations just for the sake of being the center of attention, they send the message that the child doesn’t need to respect his elders.

We see the result of the “children should be allowed to bloom” humanist philosophy around us all the time … and it is no more evident than in how children act and how they dress. There are too many children looking for someone, anyone, who cares enough to tell them “No, that isn’t acceptable.” You see them every day on the streets. They have no morals, they have no standards, and they have no values. They have no respect for anyone or anything. They run in herds just like cattle do.

These children didn’t just “get” that way; they have been made that way by a system that portends to protect them. That system is there to justify its existence not to protect children. And no better example of that exists than the Wenatchee Witch Hunt. And the fault for that system being there falls on the American people who allowed it to come into being.

In closing, an incident in an ice-cream shop has remained vividly in my mind through the years. I was waiting to enjoy a double-scoop of my favorite flavor when a harried mother came in the shop pushing a stroller with one hand and grasping the hand of a small fussy boy with the other. The little boy immediately started acting out, running his grimly little fingers all over the glass display cases for the various flavors of ice-cream available and talking loudly while mama scolded and the employees cringed. Mama finally got around to, “If you don’t quit that, I’m not buying you any ice-cream” which brought immediate shrieks of rage which was an obvious pattern as she did nothing while the little boy continued his behavior. I watched all this and had finally had enough.

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This was a small shop and everyone was being subjected to an ineffective mother and an undisciplined child. I squatted directly in front of that little boy, and I looked him directly and sternly right in the eye, and I said, “Do you want to clean up the mess you are making on that glass?” The little boy looked at me for a second, he wasn’t sure I was serious. The look on my face obviously told him I was because he retreated behind his mother and stayed there, quietly, to the pleasure of everyone in the shop. His mother never said a word; I hoped, and I have no doubt the store employees hoped, that she got the message.

© 2005 Lynn M. Stuter - All Rights Reserved

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Mother and wife, Stuter has spent the past ten years researching systems theory with a particular emphasis on education. She home schooled two daughters, now grown and on their own. She has worked with legislators, both state and federal, on issues pertaining to systems governance and education reform. She networks nationwide with other researchers and citizens concerned with the transformation of our nation. She has traveled the United States and lived overseas. Web site: www.learn-usa.com E-Mail: lmstuter@learn-usa.com 


 

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Children aren’t animals. They are small human beings. They have a brain. They have intelligence. They can think and reason.