Following up on my rules of bad parenting, here are three more that take bad parenting to the level of horrible. Or so it may seem to those who have never had children or have read too much parenting advice of the modern sort.
Rule #1: I will manipulate you for as long as I can.
I’m almost sure there may be children who are born nice enough to believe what their parents tell them is good for their health, mind, and overall wellbeing. I didn’t have such luck, so manipulation is my only option. Nothing is too low for me when it comes to manipulation, not passive-aggressive, not direct threats. I will try everything to make my daughter do something that is good for her such as, I don’t know, eat well and pick her friends.
My arsenal includes heartfelt, genuine empathy when the fruit of my reproductive system doesn’t want to eat the persimmon smoothie I’ve made for her because she needs a vitamin boost and better gut function. It includes complaints I will die young because she is draining my energy by being as stubborn as a… as herself. It includes lengthy explanations of the grave, painful, hospital-stay worthy horrors that can happen to her body if she doesn’t drink the bloody smoothie. It also includes direct threats: you don’t drink it, you don’t watch Tayo the Little Bus. The end.
A good manipulator will make it look like the victim has a choice. I always give her a choice. I just ensure she makes the right one.
Rule #2: I will show no mercy.
Let me stick to the smoothie situation for a while because it is actually unfolding right now, while I write. She is holding the small cup with the smoothie in her little adorable hands, her eyes are full of tears and she is sniffling, swallowing back these same tears. Do I care? Yes, I do. Will I give up? Nope. Do you know how long she’s been sitting there with the cup? Half an hour so far.
Good, sympathetic parents probably have their ingenious ways to coax a child into doing the things that are good for her/him without ever making the child cry or feel bad. As it is crystal clear I am not one of those parents, I take the no-mercy road. I’ve found it works better than: requests, more requests, pleas, explanations, more explanations, and then some more explanations. (This just in: she’s banging her head on the wall. Lightly. Don’t call social services yet. Persimmon smoothie barely touched and I also hear deep, heartbreaking sighs.)
I remember a friend told me once how her father made her sit in front of a bowl of lentil soup for one whole day because she said it was disgusting and she wasn’t eating that. Now, while I find this a little extreme, food must be respected and so must your own health. A bonus with the no mercy approach is learning that sometimes you just have to do something. You know the adage: you don’t have to like it, just do it. Wise words.
Rule #3: Trust and privacy are just words.
One of the most lasting memories from my teens is my mother’s face when I came home from a club or party later than my curfew. I will carry this memory to my grave and I will do my damnedest to avoid saddling my daughter with the same memory. She does not want to feel guilty about making her mother mad with worry, nobody would want this. So I’m taking steps in advance.
A commenter on my previous blog on bad parenting referred to teenagers’ right to privacy in the following way: “fictitious right to privacy.” That’s true. Theoretically, everyone is entitled to their privacy. Except when they are teens that are way too willing to make their own mistakes because what do parent know, right? They’ve never been teens. Wrong.
I have needlessly clear memories of my own teen period, so trust and complete respect of my kid’s privacy are far in the future. I’m naturally distrustful anyway, and when it comes to my most precious, guess how much more intense this tendency becomes. Besides, trust is not a given. It has to be earned and I’ll make her jump through burning hoops to earn mine. I don’t particularly like it but there is just no other way. Trust by default, just because he/she is your little one and you’re such a good, trustworthy person, simply does not bear good fruit, I’ve found.
By the way, I only broke my curfew a couple of times and this was all before the smartphone era. Today, no teen with access to a mobile phone has any excuse to be late. As a wise if unpleasantly autocratic man said once, control is the supreme expression of trust.
P.S. Oh, look (it took just 55 minutes):