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I was just thinking . . .

Isn't it ironic? Part One: In my youth, the typical child was afraid of his mother -- a mother, furthermore, who might never have spanked or yelled, but who could glue his feet to the floor with nothing more than a look. Today, the typical mother is afraid of her child. She's afraid he will throw a tantrum in public, afraid he will refuse to do what she pleads with him to do, afraid he will not make good grades in school (thereby confirming that she is a good mother). But most of all, she is afraid he will disapprove of her behavior -- that he won't like her. I, on the other hand, was afraid my mother would disapprove of my behavior. My mother never yelled or spanked.

Am I saying children should fear their mothers -- more generally, their parents? Yes, I am. But I'm not talking about terror. I'm talking about fear in the sense of knowing that your parents possess incredible power. Jean Piaget, the founder of developmental psychology, proposed that children needed to believe their parents were omnipotent. That belief, Piaget said, formed the foundation of a child's sense of security.

Every child has the right to believe that his parents are powerful enough to provide for and protect him under any and all circumstances. And he should be helped toward the understanding that this powerfulness is the very power of their love. The problem is that too many of today's parents fail to demonstrate to their children that they are even powerful enough to successfully discipline them. And if they cannot succeed at that, then how can the child possibly rely on them to sufficiently provide and protect?

Isn't it ironic? Part Two: In my youth, the typical child was working for his mother by the time he was 4 years old. He was in her service, helping her with chores whenever she so directed. Today, the typical child is still being served by his mother when he's 10, and the arrangement shows no sign of ever ending.

I propose that today's children are learning that women are doormats. This so-called "liberated" generation of women is causing more harm to the status of women in our culture than has any generation of women, ever before.

"But John," someone recently rejoined, "yesterday's woman served her husband. What's the difference?"

The difference is night and day. Yesterday's woman served a husband who provided for her welfare and protection and the welfare and protection of their children. The arrangement was reciprocal. Where is the reciprocity in today's mother-child relationship? Answer: there is none. Within its context, the child fails to learn that women are people of power. He also fails to learn what it takes to make a relationship work. Later in life, he is likely to enter into relationships thinking if they do not meet "his needs," then they are not worthy of his time.

And this, dear reader, does not bode well for any of us.

John Rosemond is a family psychologist. Questions of general interest may be sent to him at Affirmative Parenting, 1020 East 86th St., Suite 26B, Indianapolis, IN 46240 and at his Web site:
If you or someone you know has parenting problems, call the Parents Anonymous 24-hour confidential Help-Line at 892-2172.

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