Okay, how bad is bad parenting? What is bad parenting? Opinions, to put it mildly, differ, but let’s go with the prevailing narrative (a phrase I deplore but have resigned to using for clarity’s sake). Bad parenting is the worst thing possible because, well, children are our future, our claim to immortality, complete sentence as you like. And as for what is bad parenting… Well, you’ ll find out soon enough.
To get it out of the way, yes, the toddler above is my daughter at 13 months, yes, she is cute as a button, yes, we let her sleep wherever she fell asleep because we were too afraid to risk waking her up, yes, I know it sounds like I’m talking about a wild animal and yes, she is still alive and well, and happy despite our bad parenting. That should give humanity some hope, right? Now for the important stuff.
Rule #1: You are the center of your universe. Act accordingly.
I know it’s very trendy now to make children the center of your universe, to exalt them to the status of The One and Only Sun but let’s be real, okay? You are the center of your universe. It’s your happiness that is the important thing, not your kid’s. Happy mum, happy kid, is this not correct? I don’t even want to hear that the opposite is also correct. Yeah, sure, watch your kid stuff herself with donuts and tell me you’re as happy as she is. Of course you’re not because you’re thinking about SUGAR, the white poison. Or one of, at least. There are so many poisons these days it’s hard to keep track. Anyway.
My point is that a bad parent thinks about herself above all else. I’m no exception. My peace of mind is very important to me. And this peace of mind depends on my knowing that my offspring is: alive, healthy or reasonably close to health, happy or at least not unhappy for more than a minute. Since my peace of mind depends on these three factors, I have to make sure they are present at all times or most of the time, since I’m not too greedy when it comes to peace of mind. This also means I sometimes have to compromise and sacrifice the last factor to keep the other two present: being loudly banned from walking in the middle of the street to check what it feels to be hit by a car might make her unhappy but–do I really need to finish this?
Rule #2: Life is not fair. Hammer it in.
All right, if you’re the kid of bad parents you’ll learn early on that sometimes your mother will let you stuff yourself with all the bread sticks in the world because she. Has. Had. Enough. And she’ll even throw in chocolate. But other times she’ll serve you macaroni and cheese with spinach. Because the universe likes balance and because see factor #2 in Rule #1 above.
If you’re the kid of bad parents, they will let a two-year old kid follow you around in the playground even if you’re crying with frustration, sobbing “Make him stop stalking meeeee!” They will not make the kid stop following you because–you guessed it–life’s unfair and it does not dance to the tune your precious self plays. Besides, the kid only followed you because he liked you, so there, silver lining.
Rule #3: Civilization runs on double standards. Use them.
Look, I know the best way for someone to familiarize themselves with the nature of double standards and their uses is to follow the mainstream media coverage of events in the Middle East for a month but first, this is a threat to mental health and, second, sometimes it’s just not feasible. So, a bad parent has to make do with what we have at our disposal.
Here’s the dead: mom can binge on Modern Family/Lost/The first four seasons of The Walking Dead as much as she likes because she is a grown up and her brain is fully developed, beginning to degenerate already. A bad mom needs her binge time to de-stress. You, on the other hand, are still developing, discovering the world and stuff, you haven’t even heard about the wars in Syria and Yemen, so what do you need a binge for? Except Peppa Pig. Peppa Pig is allowed because acquiring a British accent early on is essential for the good command of the English language. Never let me catch you speaking New Yorkese. It’s a fair warning.
Rule #4: Fear is a parent’s best friend. Keep your friend close.
Fear and threats have been unjustly scapegoated by modern parenting schools of thought. But how else is anyone supposed to raise a human being without instilling fear from an early age? They are not, that’s how, the simple reason being children would never live to grow up if they have no fear of anything in the world. Fear is the only tried and tested method of child-rearing that has survived centuries and not a couple of decades with questionable results.
Think about it: folk tales instill fear and by instilling fear they educate kids about all the dangers lurking everywhere around. Now we’re censoring them (Well, not me, my kid’s been read the older versions of the classics, including the Three Little Pigs who boil and eat the wolf. It disturbed me because I like wolves and I believe pigs are for eating. It didn’t disturb her.). Yeah, okay, so some sensitive soul might develop some sort of a mental disorder but what do you prefer as a parent: a live child, even if slightly compulsive about handwashing, or a prematurely dead one because you were afraid not to traumatize her by telling her about all the potentially fatal diseases one could contract by not washing their hands?
To sum up, bad parents love their children fiercely and they are letting nothing and no one stand in the way of raising said children into as good of adults as possible, and this includes the children. Bad parents play the long game, so they won’t afford their kids the luxury to “just be kids for as long as they can, so we won’t talk about the fact that bears sometimes eat people and that there are wars somewhere and that bad people sometimes kidnap nice children and do horrible things to them. Oh, and incidentally, nothing worthy in this life comes to you without having to make an effort. Nothing. Ever.” The horror.
The only thing worse than bad parents are parents so out of touch with the real world that they feel compelled to isolate their children from it for as long as they can. Like the parents of Sleeping Beauty I’ve mentioned elsewhere: couldn’t you just teach her how to handle a spindle, people?
Okay, I may have exaggerated some aspects of bad parenthood but mostly, the above is how I raise my own kid and how my friends raise their kids. We don’t beat them up but we don’t take crap from them either. We used to but we learned not to. Everyone learns to be a bad parent eventually. Fine, all right, not everyone. Life’s unfair.
PS That part about the British accent was a joke. I wouldn’t mind a Southern drawl, either.