Joco Diversions

Are we teaching our children to be fickle?

At what point does a parent stop “brainwashing” and let their children make important decisions.
At what point does a parent stop “brainwashing” and let their children make important decisions. TNS file photo

As parents, we influence our children daily with our words and actions, whether we want to or not.

Upon pondering, parenting is a form of acceptable brainwashing. Our ideals and traditions are either accepted or rejected sometime during the child’s life, somewhere between potty training and skipping class to smoke Virginia Slims in the parking lot.

So if parents are responsible for molding their children’s minds, then the much-needed development for kids to think for themselves is a battle of the wills. If the parent doesn’t let them start making their own decisions then we have a world full of “mini me” robots.“

The sky is gray,” says the mother to her glassy-eyed son.

“No, it’s not. It’s blue!” he says.

Henry can be a defiant child.

“Don’t argue with me, Henry. I said it’s gray and a parent always knows what’s right and best for you.”

“Yes, Mother…”

Centuries of “mother (or father) knows best” thinking can produce fickle adults. So when should that thinking shift? At what age should a child start thinking for himself or herself? Is it when they get the boot and have to move out of the parental home, or should the child start much earlier, like when needing to decide to give up her binkie or not?

Thanks to a few good parenting manuals, these decisions can be addressed. But who has time to raise a baby, grab a few hours of sleep, shower every few days, and be able to read through the entire book?

“Parenting is fun, parenting is fun…” says every parent, ever. But somebody has to do it. Those decisions must be made, and a lot of them seem to be trial and error.

This shift of control is tricky. I know I don’t want my children calling me from their dorm room to ask if it’s time to change their sheets this semester. I also don’t care to get a text from my adult child on whether to have milk or orange juice for breakfast. Of course, a parent must teach their children how to do things correctly at first, and somehow have the bravery to let go of the reins.

So when does the teaching become controlling? When does the nurturer become the helicopter parent? There’s a fine line between the two and once you fall into the hovering type of parent, it’s tough getting it back under control… or so I’ve heard.

Now the interesting part of this is if nurturing types have parented you, the majority of their ideals can become yours.

“Try this good spinach…” says the sweet, good intentioned Mama.

“But I don’t like spinach,” says the youngster.

“Of course you do! You ate it just a few weeks ago and it’s so good for you!”

Can the child be convinced or tricked into what vegetable they want? Instead of asking what they prefer, could they want to please the parent and answer the question the parent wants to hear?

Here’s the problem. The child will grow up not having a clue what type of cereal they like, or what type of music they prefer.

Creating a thinking child is continuous and arduous, but it’s sure worth thinking about.

No parents or children were harmed in the writing of this. Under no circumstances are Stacey Hatton’s mother and father the above examples of helicoptering parents. They have not scarred her in any way. She can be reached at laughingwithkids@yahoo.com.

Maria Martin is an assistant city editor at The Star.


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