Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The "New Fear"

How is one to interpret the ‘new fear’ that parents have that their children won’t like them? I say ‘new fear’ because I’ve never heard of such a thing until recently. But now I see evidence of it coming from so many places. I see evidence of the ‘new fear’ on “Dr. Phil”, when he says to parents dealing with a difficult child, “Did you ever trying saying ‘No’?” And the parents say, “Well no, because my child may not like me anymore.”

The loss of a child’s affection is the ‘new fear’ and it is spreading like a plague. You know it is because I’m sure you’ve seen it on “Dr Phil”, “Supernanny”, in child-rearing magazines and other various places including young parents in your own neighborhood.

And so, I begin to wonder what spawned this ‘new fear’. If parenting is akin to the workplace, here are some basic truths that might help us understand. In the workplace, if you don’t have a job description, you are dispensable. And if you go on leave, and no temp is needed to cover for you, you are dispensable. And with profits declining, if you are part of a pool of workers doing duplicate work, that’s not a good place to be either. But on the other hand, if you are highly skilled in critical and specialized tasks, your unique value will make the boss very reluctant to replace you with another.

And so, now I wonder, could there be something in the workplace analogy that comes to bear on the ‘new fear’ of rejection that parents have? Maybe here there is something that can explain parents living in such fear and making such concerted efforts to retain their children’s affection through soft discipline, rewards, bribery, and proffered amusements.

You see once-upon-a-time, children were reared in homes where the job descriptions of a father and mother were uniquely different – without overlap. Fathers could not provide mother comforts and mothers could not provide father comforts. And children knew that. So it mattered not to them if one was more patient and the other a harsher disciplinarian. Both parents, because of the unique aspect of what they provided, were equally valued by their children and as parents there was never a concern that the children would love one less and the other more.

The ‘new fear’ was absolutely unheard of. But all that has changed. Now parent job-descriptions overlap. Men have moved into the kitchen and routed out the vacuum. And although the children probably give this little contemplation, the parents are contemplating it. And from that contemplation springs parent insecurities that stem from knowing that if one or the other is absent, the children will continue to have normalcy in their daily work, play, and other routines. Whether the children will miss that parent, and how much they will miss that parent, is an intangible thing to assess. What is apparent is that day-to-day activities and routines of the children will not suffer in a drastic way. And from hence comes the ‘new fear’.

And so now we have parents with job-insecurity competing like children against each other for the approval and affection of their offspring. Butting their heads together over basic things like discipline, allowances, personal hygiene, chores, plus dozens of other ridiculous things that aren’t even worthy of discussion. And with overlapping job descriptions, no matter what situation occurs, neither can be held responsible, cause each can blame the other.

And so as insecurity builds, the competition increases in direct relationship to that insecurity. Soon it is a household with two parents secretly and separately scheming at how to make themselves more appealing to their children than the other parent. Secretly and separately scheming how to excel in a marketplace that is all about profiting from children’s affection rather than from wisdom and leadership.

And so, with overlapping job descriptions, internal rifts develop as both parents become exhausted in their efforts to compete, and soon, rather than because of adultery, the competition has them headed toward divorce court – maybe in some sick way to discover which of them their children love more!


Matty said...

We must be watching the same programs. I'm shocked as well to see parents saying their children won't like them, so they say 'yes' to everything even if they have to max themselves out to do so.
Well, I'm 'indispensable', so when I say No, I mean it. When the grandkids say 'I hate you', I say, that's fine, I love you, but it's still No!
It's even worse now with 'step-parent' families who bend over backwards to please their step-children. God forbid if the kids don't like them. What happens when these kids reach adulthood never being told 'no'? I shudder to think of the consequences.
Even when the grandkids say, "well, I'll ask Dad then", I tell them, go ahead,,,,but I get final word, and its still No!
As a parent its not our job to be liked, its our job to raise our children in safety and security, and hopefully to be nice people with morals and values.
Good Post!

Roberta S said...

matty your comments certainly echo my own thoughts. Yes, we must be watching the same programs.

And I must add, that any reader who enjoyed this post needs to read matty's Feb 23rd rant - It only hurts when I laugh.
You'll find her blog referenced in the links under "Running on Empty".