REALIT CHECK: Sometimes life’s best lessons come with a rake

Reality Check | Mike Taylor

Why, yes, of course the world has gone crazy. The monkeys are in charge of the zoo. The center cannot hold. Will the last sane person out please turn off the lights?

Pick your metaphor.

The point is, much of modern life makes no sense at all. Common sense is no longer all that common. And nowhere is this truer than in the way in which we now bring up our kids.

For thousands of years, each generation of children was raised in much the same way as the generation which preceded it. Good behavior was rewarded, bad behavior was punished.

A parent’s job was to feed and clothe the child until such time as that child got a) a job, b) married, or c) drafted. An educator’s job was to make sure the child could a) read, b) write, and c) figger numbers.

Beyond that, the kid’s fate was in his or her own hands.

Then came Dr. Spock, self-esteem, organized pee-wee football, baseball, softball, professional piano lessons, soccer, karate, ballet, gymnastics, swimming, upscale preschools, upscale pre-preschools … the list goes on.

Good behavior was still rewarded. So was bad behavior. And mediocre behavior. And no behavior at all. Why? See Dr. Spock and self-esteem, above.

Parents were too busy driving junior to all these “fun” organized activities to actually do any parenting themselves. So teachers were asked to do that job in their stead, and to fit in the teaching thing whenever they had a few spare minutes.

It’s a great system, assuming you’re trying to churn out a generation of pathological narcissists devoid of any sense of personal responsibility. In his later years, Dr. Spock himself backtracked on many of his child-rearing theories, but, oops! By then, the damage was already done.

Too many people had been brought up worrying WAY too much about parenting issues that previous generations had never even considered. There are those, even now, who still contend modern child rearing techniques are vastly superior to those of their parents’ or grandparents’ day.

To which I say, really? Do your kids treat you with the same respect you showed your own parents? If the answer is “yes,” I’m betting you raised them pretty much as your parents raised you and you’re wondering who this Dr. Spock person is that I keep mentioning.

I love my old man, but as a child, I feared him, too. He put up with exactly zero BS from myself, my brothers and my sisters. I often thought he was unfair and sometimes he was.

But with him, I knew where I stood. I had my part to play in the family and he had his. If I was bored, he didn’t rush to the psychologist’s office to see what he, as a parent, was doing wrong. He handed me a rake and put me to work in the back yard until I wasn’t bored anymore.

If I was angry or upset, I was encouraged to say exactly what was on my mind, just as soon as I was out of earshot.

My old man didn’t feel an urgent need to make sure my every waking moment was filled with educational activities designed to bolster my self-esteem. Hence, I learned how to make friends, join pickup softball games, climb trees and figure out for myself how to enjoy life.

Why am I on this particular soapbox today? Well, I just read an article about a school in England that has banned the game of hide and seek.

Hide and seek promotes “secretive play,” administrators say. It sends “mixed messages,” they say. It exposes children to “dangerous situations.”

I only wish I was making this up.

My own son, many years ago, was sent home from third grade for breaking the playground rules. He and a friend were playing cowboys and Indians, using their pointed index fingers as six-shooters.

Such brutality, such mindless violence, I was informed, would not be tolerated on the playground.

It seemed crazy to me then and it seems crazy to me now. But then again, I was raised by a man who handed me a rake when I got bored. So what do I know.

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