Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Morality Takes Guts

"You have to be better than your parents and grandparents, because the culture is no longer on your side." Dr. Ray Guarendi, clinical psychologist and father of ten, urged parents at St. Dominic Church in Youngstown, OH last night to have the guts to teach morality when it comes to their children, because "the moral way requires guts."

He's not kidding there. I can't even begin to imagine how difficult life is for some of these kids. Their paths are a minefield of temptation with an establishment relentlessly urging them to trip every single mine along the way, and many are giving in far too easily. This isn't because they're any different than the children of previous generations.

It's because, as Dr. Ray said last night, parents lack confidence. They don't know how to establish themselves as authority figures in their children's lives. Parents have bought into the idea that what he calls "psychological correctness", the idea that something a kid does at a certain age is normal, has replaced morality as the standard of behavior. The great dilemma has become whether or not parents should discipline their children for "normal" behavior. Compound this with nearly every American's need for instant gratification, and parenting--a vocation that requires time, dedication and vigilance--is reduced to a few minutes late in the evening with the TV blaring in the background (or foreground, which is worse).

Just by randomly observing in places such as stores, restaurants, live shows, even at Church, I've witnessed an overall lack of authority among children for their parents, and it's appalling. Mom or dad shouldn't have to discuss, bargain, argue and fight with their pre-school childen to curb their behavior in public. If a parent can't establish authority with a two-year-old, what is going to happen as they grow? A parent's will to guide and direct their child with calm, consistent authority must be the stronger will in the relationship, says Dr. Ray. "If you have authority, you rarely need to use it, but if you don't have it, you're constantly chasing it."

To learn more about Dr. Ray Guarendi, visit his website at www.drray.com.

7 comments:

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Hey Gina, thanks for following my blog! I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to join the conversation any time. I always like meeting new people and reading new blogs. See you around. Happy blogging!

Gina said...

Hi Matt, thanks for stopping by. Keep up the great work yourself!

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I agree. I see so many children throwing temper tantrums in the store, and parents give in and buy them what they want. That reinforces the idea that a temper tantrum will get you what you want, and it goes downhill from there. When my children were little, if they did that, I simply left the store with them. They not only did not get what they wanted -- usually they had limited choices for supper (or whatever we were shopping for). It only took one such response with each of the kids, and there were no more scenes. I notice that my son has been able to develop my 7-year-old grandson's positive understanding of parent-child relationship. I babysat him recently and had no toys available for him to play with, so bought him one he had been wanting. When I handed him the toy, he said to me, "You know, you spoil me, Grandma, but that's okay because I like being spoiled." He had not asked for anything, and he was grateful for what he got. It *is* possible to develop an attitude of gratitude and politeness and respect for authority even in today's children.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I agree. I see so many children throwing temper tantrums in the store, and parents give in and buy them what they want. That reinforces the idea that a temper tantrum will get you what you want, and it goes downhill from there. When my children were little, if they did that, I simply left the store with them. They not only did not get what they wanted -- usually they had limited choices for supper (or whatever we were shopping for). It only took one such response with each of the kids, and there were no more scenes. I notice that my son has been able to develop my 7-year-old grandson's positive understanding of parent-child relationship. I babysat him recently and had no toys available for him to play with, so bought him one he had been wanting. When I handed him the toy, he said to me, "You know, you spoil me, Grandma, but that's okay because I like being spoiled." He had not asked for anything, and he was grateful for what he got. It *is* possible to develop an attitude of gratitude and politeness and respect for authority even in today's children.

Gina said...

Amen Elizabeth. It's great to hear a successful parenting story such as this.

My sister has two teenagers, and they have no illusions that my sister is anything but their mother. She in fact tells them, "I am not your friend, so if you hate me for being tough on you, then I'm doing my job." And those kids are focused, driven, and respectful of her authority, even when they are off her radar.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Good for your sister! I work with teenagers in cathechism (LOVE those teenage years) and have worked with all ages in Scouting programs of various sorts. I have yet to see a child who wants a parent to be his/her friend. They have friends in the community. What they all seem to desire from a parent is guidance. They may complain about restrictions on their freedom, but deep down they want it. (Besides, children are SUPPOSED to complain -- their peers would be scandalized if they did not.)

I think we too quickly connect truth to the surface-level expression when truth is often buried. A number of years back I did research and wrote an article on understanding student complaints (about teachers and administrators). Sometimes the surface feedback described the real situation and addressed a real shortcoming. Generally, though, the complaint sprang from something inside the student, an external event, or a mismatch in cognitive style. I try to help administrators of teaching programs to understand how to find the wheat among all the chaff because if we address surface-level student complaints, we can topple good learning programs. Ditto for parents. If you take your child's complaint at its surface level, you can end up parenting in ways that you think make your child happy while not serving his/her deeper needs and not being a good moral compass for him/her.

Gina said...

Elizabeth writes: "I think we too quickly connect truth to the surface-level expression when truth is often buried."

I totally agree with this, Elizabeth...an excellent point. It's true of everyone, too, not just children.

I can't tell you how many times I've been in conversations with individuals who complained about a situation or a person, and the more I engaged the individual in conversation, the clearer it became that the issue was not the person or the situation.

The issue is almost always something else---the individual's fear or self-doubt mostly. Once they've been coached through it, they realize that they are able to deal with the situation or person in a positive manner.

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