We are often told that it is good for parents to be “child-centered”. This parenting style emerged as an alternative to what was called “adult-centered parenting”, where parents set the rules and children were simply expected to follow them. In contrast, child-centered parenting is parenting organized around the needs and interests of the child, rather than those of the parent. While this sounds nice, child-centered parenting tends to produce entitled, narcissistic children who lack the capacity Read More
David Elkind, the famous developmental psychologist, once wrote that “parenting is an attitude”. I recall that when I read this statement, many years ago, I didn’t quite understand it. I had a glimmer of what he meant, but I kept thinking: What type of attitude? And it can’t just be an attitude, right? After all, a parent actually has to do something to raise children.
I think I understand now what Elkind meant. There is, as you know, a lot of advice out there, from a variety of “experts”, about how to parent children. Some advocate using rewards and stickers; others speak of the importance of reasoning with children. Still others talk about how to talk so that kids will listen. And the advice goes on.
Many of us, as parents, harbor some unfounded fears that, if left unchecked, can easily get in the way of our attempts to be good parents.
Nice Parent, Mean Parent
Have you ever noticed how often parents speak – even in jest – of being “nice” or “mean” to their children? “My son wanted to go to a friend’s house before finishing his homework. Read More
Mom: “Paul, please bring those dishes into the kitchen and put them in the dishwasher.”
Paul: “They’re not mine.”
Mom: “You live in this house, right? So you have to pitch in.”
Paul: “But it’s not my responsibility.”
Mom: “Just do it, Paul.”
Paul: “Okay, but I don’t see why I have to…”
Sound familiar? You are not alone. Read More
Becoming a moral person doesn’t have to mean we have to sacrifice ourselves. When we come to identify our life projects around contributing to the good of others, doing the right thing becomes a source of self-satisfaction.
We often think of morality in the negative. We tend to imagine a big finger shaking at us, saying “don’t do this” or “do that”. We tend to think of moral rules as restrictive – as something that constrains our freedom. So, “don’t do that” means “don’t do the thing that you want to because it is bad”; “Do that” means “do this thing that you don’t want to do, but which is good.” Yes, moral rules are sometimes like this. To do the right thing often requires that we do something other than what we might otherwise want to do. Read More
My door is open. A student comes into my office. She walks in and says, “I’d like to drop one of my classes”. I smile, and as welcoming as I can be, I ask, “Do we know each other?”
Another student failed two courses during the previous semester. He had good reasons – a series of serious emergencies had emerged and he couldn’t complete his work. He was too ashamed to talk to his professors about his situation. I urged him to write to them. Knowing that he would likely delay the task, I invited him to email the professor while he was still in my office. He started to write: “hey. I would like to come and talk to you about…” Read More
The following is a letter to teenage children about sexuality. This letter is for all teens, regardless of their age, sexual orientation or political persuasion. It was written in a spirit that I hope will be seen as free from any particular political agenda, liberal, conservative or otherwise. My hope is that the values expressed in this letter will be something that many of us can agree upon. However, if we differ, my hope is that it will at least lead to meaningful conversation. -MFM.
In our current culture, it is generally assumed that engaging in sexual activity is something that will naturally occur during adolescence. Read More
We tend to have ambivalent feelings about shame. On the one hand, no one likes shame. Shame among the most painful emotions we can experience. We tend to think that shame is a harmful emotion. As a result, many parents try to protect their children from feelings of shame. Shame is painful that we even shy away from talking about it. On the other hand, shame is a moral emotion. Feelings of shame help shape the moral behavior of children and adults. Our desire to avoid the painful experience of shame is one of the many things that motivate us to try to be moral persons. Read More
We all want our children to be moral. However, in a society made up of so many different groups of people, who gets to define what is moral? Whose morality? Whose values?
At first blush, this seems like a difficult question. That is because there really is diversity when it comes to values and virtues. People and social groups differ. And we need to find ways to respect these differences. But this is where the conversation should start, not where it should end. Read More
In a post on his blog, Ferrett Steinmetz wants his daughter to have awesome sex. Is that a good or a bad thing? In my view, it depends entirely on what one means by the phrase “awesome sex”.
There is a lot that I like about Steinmetz blog post. First, Steinmetz is no hypocrite. He enjoys sex; he wants his daughter to experience the same joy that he experiences from sex. Why would wish to deny something to our sons and daughters that we hold to be dear? Wouldn’t we want our children to enjoy the pleasures of such experiences? Read More