Parenting 101

As a follow-up to my treatise on marriage, I will now give you my take on child-rearing. I realize that child-rearing methods may vary, but there must be some sort of established, standardized guidelines to follow. Understanding the concept of unconditional love toward your child I think should be at the top of the list. There is no action on their part that should be unforgiven. Love conquers all. Child psychology experts would know about discipline and how to explain the facts of life to a child, for another. People are constantly running to Dr. Phil, asking for help with how to deal with their uncontrollable, willful, disobedient children. “We just don’t know what to do. We’re at the end of our rope!” Why are they having children when they have no idea how to raise them?! They’re putting the cart before the horse.

By the parents’ own admission, these children, some as young as 2-years-old, are controlling the parents. The youngsters have learned very early on how to manipulate them in getting their own way, and if the parents refuse them anything, the kid knows what buttons to push and how to get to them to come around. The parents say that they feel guilty when they attempt to discipline their children and be less permissive with them. And the child knows how to use that guilt to their own advantage. Kids are not stupid. In fact, they tend to be much smarter than their parents. The children know exactly what they’re doing, while the parents usually don’t have a clue.

I remember an episode of “The Simpsons” once where oft-mischievous Bart did something which prompted his mother, Marge, to send him to bed without his supper. Later that night when his father, Homer, goes in to check on his son, Bart appeals to him to take pity on him, defy Marge and sneak him in something to eat, which he does. When Homer leaves the room, Bart chuckles to himself, “Sucker!”

If I had my way, just as with the required marriage quiz that I suggested before, first-time prospective parents would be required by law to take a school course in Parenting and Proper Child-Rearing 101. And only when they have passed the course and received their certificate, would they be allowed to conceive. The course would include personal counseling to determine if the students are emotionally and economically stable enough to raise a child. Do they really want a child, and more importantly, why? Do they intend to stay home with this child and give them their full attention, or will they be out running around doing everything but? Do they fully understand and accept the tremendous responsibility that having and raising a child entails? These findings would influence their grade. This is basically what they put people through who are trying to adopt a child, or even a dog or cat from a shelter or kennel. Why should the criteria be any different for one’s biological children? Let’s go a step further and make unplanned, uncounseled pregnancies a felony. If people cannot be responsible for themselves by having unwanted babies, then let the Government step in to protect us from ourselves, like they do about almost everything else. Make having children a privilege rather than a right.

There are far too many unwanted and impractical pregnancies occurring all over the world. Many of them stem from lack of education about birth control, on the part of the potential parents, and this lack of education is the fault of their parents and by a lesser degree, the public and private school systems. Grade-school curricula should be based on the needs of Society, and just as Reading, Writing and Arithmetic are imperative for a basic, literate education, Sex and Parenting are just as important in the education of Life. I think that a course of Planned Parenthood should be standard, required curriculum in all public and private schools.

It seems contradictory that Society expects everybody to be married parents at some time in their lives, usually sooner rather than later, but sex education and parenting instruction are the very things that are omitted from their studies. The majority of these prospective parents don’t have a clue to what child-rearing is all about. Their parents and school administrators seem to think that if certain things are never discussed, they won’t ever happen. To talk about sex and birth control and disease prevention is giving the youngsters permission to be sexually-active. They use that tired argument that dispensing condoms in school encourages the students to have sex with each other. Well, they are doing that anyway, so why not at least teach them how to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancies and potential diseases?

The so-called “Facts of Life” are just that. Everybody’s doing it, as the thriving birthrate all over the world would indicate, so why are they so reluctant or ashamed to talk about it? Instead of telling children the truth about sex, they resort to fantasy explanations about the Stork and use euphemistic metaphors like “the birds and the bees,” which only confuse the youngster even further and leave them still not knowing what the hell is going on. Perhaps if parents would tell their kids how babies are actually made, they may be so repulsed with the whole process that they will hold off doing anything themselves until they are old enough to understand it all. Just as some youngsters are repulsed by two people kissing, they would probably be more repulsed sticking their dick into somebody’s hole or conversely, having something stuck into them!

Other naïve, uninformed youngsters often will do things out of curiosity, not knowing any better. If you tell them what the real deal is about sex, that might take away the curiosity about it. Many parents don’t tell their children the truth about the facts of life because they expect the kids to pick it up somewhere or learn about it as they go along. We don’t leave other necessary life skills, like reading and writing, up to chance like that, but enforce monitored instruction to teach them what they need to know. We should be just as responsible about sex education and parenting.

These parents don’t seem to realize that sex education is just that, learning about sex in general, what it entails, including safety and prevention. It’s not about promotion or necessarily how to do it. Preaching abstinence could be part of a sex education course as well. Just because condoms are available, it doesn’t mean that everyone is going to make use of them. There may be a Tampax dispenser in the girls’ restroom, too, but they all don’t use it. I have heard of many girls who were not warned ahead of time about menstruation, so when they had their first period, they freaked out, thinking that they must be hemorrhaging or something. Why would any mother keep such important information from their own daughter, as if it were something shameful or inappropriate to discuss?

So what if some people never marry or bear children, it doesn’t hurt them to learn about it. In fact, what they are apt to learn from such a course could influence their decision later on in life about getting married and having kids altogether. All knowledge may be useful at some time in life. I have never had the occasion to dissect another frog since I left high school biology class, although they thought that was so important to know how to do. But I was totally ignorant of gonorrhea and the crabs the first time I got them, for example. I had to go to the health clinic and ask them, ‘What the hell is that?!‘ A sex education course might have covered such issues and informed me about how to prevent getting STDs, or at least be aware of them.

There is a TV movie called Daddy (1987) starring Dermot Mulroney as a hot-to-trot high school senior who knocks up his girlfriend, and she decides to have and then keep the baby. They both admitted to each other, “I didn’t know that you could get pregnant the first time.” See? Naïve ignorance. When the teen finally told his parents that he was about to become a father, they couldn’t imagine how such a thing could happen. Of course, they both passed blame. “Didn’t you ever talk to Bobby about sex?” “No, I assumed that he knew what to do. My father never told me anything. Why didn’t you talk to him? You’re his mother!” “Don’t they teach these things at school?” (No, they don’t.) “But that’s our job!” And they had another son about 14, whom they wouldn’t let in on the discussion and kept telling him to go to his room. I thought, Yeah, that’s right. Keep the other boy in the dark, too, so that in a couple of years, or sooner, he can make the same mistake as his brother did. I mean, now’s their big chance to have “The Talk” with the whole family. People just don’t seem to learn.

Then we have your more enlightened, precocious teen girls who tell their boyfriends that they are on the pill, so they don’t have to use condoms when they have sex. Now he’s going to take only this girl’s word when he already suspects that she’s out to trap him into a permanent relationship? People lie. Never mind that potential STDs never enter their minds. So then the girl gets pregnant and tells her boyfriend, “Uh, I guess I forgot to take my pill.” Yeah, sure, you did. These guys are so naïve and too trusting.

Since TV supposedly has so much influence on our children and on society in general, you would think that producers would be more responsible in discussing sex on their shows. On every family sitcom that features young children, when they ask their parents to explain some sexual matter, it’s always met with embarrassment, shame and evasion. And the studio audiences find that all so amusing. The characters always manage to avoid answering any questions that have to do with sex. It’s like the producers know that parents don’t talk to their kids, and out of some sort of confidential obligation, they think that they should not say anything either. Why don’t they take the other approach, that is, the initiative, and attempt to do the parents’ job of educating these kids by dealing with sexual matters in an honest but non-offensive way? It might give parents some idea of what to tell their inquisitive youngsters. Or if the kids are watching the show, they will get the lesson directly.

There are parents, many of them children, who don’t know anything to teach their young ones because they don’t know anything themselves. Then these children grow up and have kids and they don’t tell their kids anything, and the cycle keeps on repeating itself, which is probably why the youth of each consecutive generation are so disturbed, confused and misguided. Two teenagers (boy and girl) involved in a romantic relationship, each go to their respective parents to seek advice about taking that big step. “How do we know when we’re ready to…? You know.” Do you mean have sex? Well, if they can’t even say the word in the discussion, then I don’t think that they are ready to do it!

Let us discuss the responsibility, and lack thereof, of parenting. It is much too easy to bring children into the world, but not so easy to take care of them once they are here. The incidence of indiscriminate pregnancies is at an all-time high. These women, and girls even, are dropping babies like turds. And while abortion was legal, before it was outlawed again, they didn’t even have to have the kid if they didn’t want it. “So I’m knocked up again. No problem, I’ll just get rid of it.” I will tell you right now that I do not condone induced abortion. But that does not mean that I am not pro-choice. Some people think that if you are for one, then you must be against the other, but that is not always the case. I believe that women have a right to decide for themselves whether to have a baby or not, but I think that aborticide is wrong, just the same.

My solution to women is simply, if you don’t want to have a baby, then don’t get pregnant in the first place. Pregnancy does not just happen automatically, you know. It requires a specific activity and can occur only at particular times. That would be another facet of sex education, for girls to know about their personal menstrual cycle and when they are the most fertile. They don’t realize that, like all mammals, estrus occurs when they are horny and ovulating, and it’s the best time to get pregnant. Although pregnancy prevention is the responsibility of both partners, the ultimate onus is on the woman, since she is the one who gets pregnant and has to do all the work. The man causes the pregnancy, but it’s the woman who has to bear the consequences. That may not be fair, but whoever said that everything in life is fair?

I am the type of person who is willing always to take responsibility for my own actions. When I make a mistake in judgment, I am willing to suffer the consequences. So then, when a woman lets herself get pregnant, it should be her obligation to carry the child to term and be its mother after it’s born. If you don’t want to do the term, then don’t take the sperm! Even in the case of getting pregnant as a result of rape, the woman still has to take some responsibility, for allowing herself to be raped. Please don’t be alarmed by that statement. I have a valid explanation which I am saving for another post. It’s too much to get into right now.

Whatever we think about pro-choice, induced abortion is murder, pure and simple. I am one of those who believe that life begins at conception, not at the time of birth. Some argue that a fetus is not really a person, therefore has no rights and is of no importance. But everything being relative, it’s all a matter of growth and development. When does a tree become a tree, for example? It certainly is before it’s full-grown and has sprouted leaves and borne fruit. By the same token, a baby becomes to be in gradual stages; it doesn’t happen all at once. So at what point in its continuing development should it be deemed a viable creature? A pie baking is already a pie before it’s taken out of the oven. A cancerous tumor growing in somebody’s body is acknowledged for what it is, regardless of its size or state of development. So why is a time limit put on fetal validation? The fetus has movement and a heartbeat. That means that it is alive. Birth itself is just another subsequent phase of human development. Then there are certain things that a newborn baby can’t do yet, but does that make it less accountable? These abortion advocates, who think that the killing of a fetus is inconsequential, should keep in mind that if their mothers had aborted them, they would not even be here. I thanked my mother on a regular basis for allowing me to be born. Others weren’t so lucky, if you know what I mean. I don’t take anything for granted, including and especially my birthright.

Again to point out the hypocrisy of our society, I am reminded of the cases of Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother who drowned her two little boys in 1994, Amber Hill from Ohio who drowned her two babies in 2007, and Andrea Yates, the Texas housewife who, in 2001, drowned all five of her youngsters in the bathtub! People were so outraged and appalled by these women’s actions. How could somebody do such a heinous thing to her own children? But considering the fact that women are killing their unborn babies every day via abortion, Ms. Hill, Ms. Smith and Ms. Yates are no worse than any of the others. They just committed their infanticide at a later date in time. One could argue that those women’s modus operandi was possibly less humane, but the result was the same, wasn’t it? “I killed my baby when it was 2 months in the womb.” “Well, I killed mine when it was 2 months out of the womb.” So the lesson to be learned here is, if you choose to murder your children, do it early, before they are born, so that you’ll be protected by the law. For if you wait too long, until after they’re born, you will be subject to criminal reprobation and the shunning of your peers.

And how do we know that abortion is not a traumatic and painful experience for the fetus as well as the mother? Have you ever asked an aborted fetus how it felt to be scraped or sucked or snatched from its mother’s body? What, it doesn’t have nerves and sensors, therefore cannot yet feel pain? Do you know that for sure? They can’t tell you. I would think that a fetus’ nervous system would be one of the first things to develop.

It’s appalling to learn from guests on the talk shows that so many of them are not practicing safe sex, and the biggest culprits seem to be adolescent heterosexuals. And this is your largest and growing group of HIV-AIDS cases, too, by the way. They go on TV and brazenly admit that they don’t use condoms when they have sex—boys and girls both. Those irresponsible adults, who do know what they’re doing but don’t seem to care, I hold in less favor. Consider in itself the inherent selfishness involved in parenting. People become parents for personal reasons. It‘s all about them. “I want a baby.“ No child asks to be born. They are brought into the world against their will, and then are sometimes blamed and punished by their parents for being here.

There are parents who shouldn’t even be having children, because of their own health and mental problems. Those with congenital and hereditary diseases or abnormalities will go ahead and procreate anyway, knowing full well that it probably will affect their child. Some expectant mothers will continue to smoke, drink and do dangerous drugs, which is more important to them, apparently, than the welfare of their unborn child. They refuse to give up their habit while they are pregnant, which causes serious health problems for the innocent child, and they continue to do it even after the kids are born, neglecting them and abusing them in favor of their drug habit.

In the TV movie A Weekend in the Country (1996), when pregnant Rita Rudner is offered a glass of wine by Betty White, she tells her, “No, thank you. If my baby becomes an alcoholic, I want it to be his decision.” Some have been known to abandon their children, even sell them for a fix. These are the women that should be banned from procreating, at least until they get their act together.

The topics of many a talk show in past and recent years have been “Unmarried Teenagers Having Babies,” “Deadbeat Dads” or “Be a Responsible Parent and Take Care of Your Own Kids.” Most of these single mothers don’t even know where or who the fathers are and don’t really care, in most cases. We have your teenage girls, still in school and living at home, who, because they don’t take any precautions, have babies and depend on their mothers to take care of them while they are out partying and having a good time. Again, the fathers are nowhere in sight. These girls don’t even like these guys half the time. I tell you, some of these gals take longer shopping for lipstick than they do in choosing a man to father their children!

Montel Williams did a show one day with some young mothers and their daughters who were not getting along. In fact, the daughters couldn’t stand their mothers, and the moms could not understand why. “I buy this girl clothes and anything she wants,” said one. Upon questioning the mothers, we found out that first of all, they all had their daughters while they were still teenagers themselves. A couple of them were guilty of substance abuse and would sit around the house stoned all the time. Another was a bum and didn’t work. All of them were verbally and physically abusive to their girls, and they admitted to leaving the kids (12-years-old and younger) at home alone for several hours every day. But they couldn’t understand why their girls had no respect for them! They were all repeating the same mistakes and treating their daughters the same way they were treated when they were their age. You would think that they would recognize what’s going on and try to break the vicious cycle. What did I say about lack of education? I just wish the guilty parties would all take an extra moment to think about all that’s involved in raising children before they take that big step.

Our armed forces venue, especially overseas duty, has proven to be a mecca for more irresponsible procreation. Regardless of what one’s spousal situation is at home, sexual activity is expected when people are away for extended periods of time. But there is no excuse for ignoring sexual precautions with the foreign local gentry. I would think that the threat and fear of exotic STDs would be enough to encourage the use of some kind of prophylactic protection. So maybe you will share in my horror and dismay when I learned that by the end of the Vietnam Conflict there were more than 140,000 Amerasian children born!—an obvious result of unprotected sex—who were all abandoned by their servicemen fathers when they returned home to their stateside families. They all couldn’t have been inadvertent due to the women’s ignorance of sexual matters. Most of them were most likely intentional births. Was getting themselves pregnant these women’s way of trying to entrap these soldiers into marrying them and bringing them back to America with them? Well, I guess they know now that it didn’t work!

Aren’t any of these “mama-sans” familiar with Madam Butterfly? Getting pregnant is not the way to force a guy into a commitment. Some will even lie about being pregnant in order to trap a man, as one of the female characters in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) does. In fact, what happens more often than not is that it causes the guy to flee, especially these immature teenagers who are not ready to take on the responsibility of raising and supporting a child. When the boyfriend suggests that the girl have an abortion or at least give the baby up for adoption, she will tell him that no, she intends to have and keep the baby and that he has to marry her and be a father to their baby, which he doesn’t want. No wonder these guys take off. These women don’t give them much choice. Now, I’m not letting anybody off the hook, mind you. Both parties need to curb their hots long enough to think about the incurring circumstances of their irresponsible actions.

There are girls who purposely get pregnant because they want a baby so badly, they say. They want something of their very own that they can love and who will love them. Their problem is that they don’t feel parental love themselves, and they think that having a baby will somehow fill the void. When asked how they expect to take care of their child financially, they simply reply, “I’ll get a job.” Oh, really? They are just children themselves and they have dropped out of school, so they don’t know anything and have no employment skills, but they are under the misguided impression that there are all these good-paying jobs out there, with flexible hours, just waiting for their ignorant, inexperienced butts. If there are such ideal jobs, they’re already taken, and by someone more qualified than these girls are. And who is minding the kid while they’re working? That’s what they should be doing. They have things a little backward, don’t they? Why don’t they get the job first, or at least some education, get some financial security, and then think about bringing another underprivileged child into the world? These girls are so confused and are in need of some serious, professional counseling, as they won’t listen to their parents, who are usually not their best example or influence anyway.

Often shown on TV are the public service announcements about the various organizations that try to raise money for the feeding and care of Third World children. Although I can appreciate these appealers’ efforts and their concern and compassion for these poor, unfortunate children, let us consider the source and the reality of the situation. Why are there so many of these starving youngsters in all those underprivileged nations of the world? The parents of all these kids apparently are unable to take care of them, and knowing that themselves, why do they continue to procreate, and even more importantly, why do we, who are expected to foot the bill, allow them to keep making babies that they cannot possibly support? If it were simply the matter of helping the children who are already here, I’d say, Fine, the damage is done, let’s do what we can. But I have been hearing these appeals for over 60 years now! Eleanor Roosevelt used to be a spokesperson for the cause. Since most of these children are under the age of ten, the main problem apparently has not been solved or even dealt with in all this time.

What are the governments doing about these women having all those babies? It is considered humane and practical to spay and neuter cats and dogs to prevent the proliferation of unwanted offspring. So since these people seem to breed on instinct, just as the animals do, instead of using thoughtful responsibility, I don’t think that it would be less humane to prevent this particular human procreation as well. If we can’t educate these people to practice birth control, then let’s sterilize them, too. I don’t think that I am being cruel or unfeeling not to want to contribute my hard-earned dollars to feed and support a bunch of strange, exotic crumb-snatchers that never should have been born in the first place. I am not responsible for any of them, so I don’t owe them anything either. Just like I don’t want to have to pay for Welfare babies. As with myself, if these people cannot support their own children, then they should not be having them.

I believe that child-rearing should be a full-time occupation. Some modern women want to “have it all.” They want to bear children to fulfill their “womanly destiny,” but at the same time, they also want to have a career. I don’t begrudge them of that, but I think that they need to make a choice. Now, unless a career mother can bring her baby or small child to work with her every day, or the child’s father or grandparent is at home watching them, that child is not being afforded full-time, parental attention. The first five years of a baby’s life are very crucial, and children at that age are very impressionable. Leaving the child with relatives, nannies and sitters most of the time is not the way to form a close, loving relationship with their real parent. I think that the bond created between parents and child in those early years will affect their relationship for the rest of their lives.

There are so many parents who don’t know or understand their children, and that is because they don’t spend nearly enough time with them, and they don’t talk to them. Many couples are so anxious to bear children, then when they get here, they virtually ignore them. They hire nannies and governesses to do what they should be doing themselves, and often the child gets more attached to them than to their own parents. If my mother couldn’t ever be bothered with me, but my nanny was always there to care for me, teach me things and let me confide in her, that’s who I would tend to go to when I had a problem or concern.

I don’t know how prevalent it is nowadays, but from what I have seen in the movies and especially in period pieces, child-rearing was usually somebody else’s job rather than the parents’ themselves. British society, for example, regularly employed servants–butlers, maids, cooks, etc., who ran the household–as well as nannies and governesses to look after the children. Some dismissive parents send their child off to private schools in another town from where they live, some even as far as overseas, resulting in their getting to see them only a couple of times a year, if even then. They justify their decision that they want the kid to get a good, specialized education, as if it is not possible to get one at a local pubic school. My take on it is, these parents apparently don’t want to be bothered with their children, is why they send them away. They are busy traveling all over the place, taking cruises and such, and the kids tagging along would cramp their style in some way. Why do people have children if they don’t want to spend time with them or take an active role in raising them themselves? I would think that would be the whole point. My sister Debbie’s two daughters both attended a private grade school in South Bend, but being local, they could at live at home and receive constant parental care.

My mother knew all of her children, and we all knew her, because she was always there with us. The few hours a day when she couldn’t be at home with us, because she had to work, our live-in grandmother looked after us until we were old enough not to require it. So none of us ever once had an outside babysitter. My mother was home with us every night. She wasn’t one to run around and be gone most of the time. As a parent, I would like to be a witness to those formative years, and be there when my child takes their first step or when they speak their first real, discernible word. I can imagine actor Dom DeLuise’s mother’s delight when she heard him utter his first word, “Lasagna!” These are one-time moments that cannot be duplicated.

Just as television has become a surrogate parent for a lot of American children, so has the growing prevalence of home computers and smart phones. Many children depend on such TV shows as “Sesame Street” and “Reading Rainbow” to teach them verbal skills and to read stories to them in lieu of their oft-absent guardians. There are more and more computer programs produced for children of all ages, and while some of them are useful learning tools, they also preclude parental instruction and attention. A parent personally introducing their child to Dr. Seuss could be a rewarding and memorable experience for both, but now that Green Eggs and Ham is available via Kindle and other easily-accessible formats, the child is left to their own devices without any parental intervention. Modern technology is making it more and more easy for parents to spend less and less quality time with their children. I am pretty sure that a little kid prefers to have bedtime stories read to them by their mommy or daddy rather than by some impersonal computer program.

Have you noticed how the children on television shows are ignored and disrespected in many situations? The daily soap operas are the worst culprits. The characters are always having babies all over the place, as they figure into many of the storylines. But after the babies are born, they are grossly neglected and ignored by their TV parents. The characters are so obsessed and devoted to their children in word, but they spend almost no time with them on screen, except when a scene involves the kid directly. They will come in and deliver a line or two, then off they go. I suppose it’s because of the strict labor restrictions put on juvenile actors, but they could get around that if they wanted to.

They like to keep the children sheltered, too. They won’t let them witness any “grownup talk.” They are always being sent out of the room when the adults have something important to discuss. “Honey, why don’t you go outside and play? … Joey, why don’t you run on up to bed. Mommy will be right there in just a few minutes to tuck you in…” or some similar ploy to get rid of the kid. They tend to keep kids in the dark about anything that concerns their parents or their family. The characters are going through all this dramatic sturm und drang, and their children usually do not have a clue to what is going on in their own house. Well, actually the youngsters are more aware than their parents give them credit for. They’re not stupid. They hear a lot, even if they don’t always understand the whole situation. And these adults all have full-time, around-the-clock nannies to do what they should be doing themselves. In real life, how many middle-class parents can afford to maintain a full-time, live-in au pair for many years, while they just sit around doing nothing?

The Banks family in Mary Poppins (1964) are not all that rich; they are middle-class at best. Mr. Banks works in a bank, and his wife doesn’t do anything, that we could see. But they have a full-time cook and a housekeeper and always retained a nanny for the two kids. I don’t understand since Mrs. Banks does not work outside the house, why can’t she keep house and take care of the children herself? Her husband is just as neglectful. Even when he is at home, he doesn’t spend any time with Jane and Michael. They act out only to get attention from their father, and it is the only time that he pays them any mind.

The producers of “Diagnosis: Murder” felt the need to make Victoria Rowell’s character, Dr. Amanda Bentley Livingston, have a baby on the show one season, I suppose to coincide with her own real-life pregnancy. They even made her get married (so that the child would not be a primetime network bastard) off-screen to an ever-absent military lifer who was always away somewhere on a secret mission. The newlyweds never saw each other, she could never talk to him on the phone, and he wasn’t even present when she delivered her baby or ever came home to see them. We viewers wondered, Who is this Livingston guy that Amanda is supposed to be married to?

So now that this surrogate husband’s services were no longer needed, the couple promptly got a quickie divorce. So then our question was, Where is this alleged baby that she was supposed to have just had? We never saw it, she was never with it, Amanda mentioned it maybe only twice. Dr. Bentley had a full-time (overtime) position at the hospital where she worked as a pathologist and forensics specialist, which kept her away from her child for most of the day every day. Who was minding the baby during all that time? She never said. She never even checked on it. So what did she do when she had any time off? Why, she was over hanging out with her friends and colleagues, Dr. Mark Sloan (Dick Van Dyke) and his cop son Steve, and running all over helping them solve murders, instead of spending the little free time she had with her newborn baby. I found myself telling Amanda every episode to go home and look after your baby! It just seemed pointless for the writers to give Amanda a baby if they didn’t intend to follow through with it. But during the last season of the series, the kid finally showed up. Of course, he was much older then and could recite dialogue, but the writers still didn’t give Amanda nearly enough screen time with her alleged son.

Probably one of the most difficult chores of parenting is keeping a constant eye on your child. Small, active children, especially, literally have to be watched every minute. I know that that may seem like an impractical task, but it is the responsibility of a parent to protect the child from others as well as themself and keep them safe. There are thousands of injuries and deaths of children every year that happen right at home. Your house and yard are a veritable danger zone for your curious, roving tots. Children are like cats in that respect and will get into everything. They also like to taste everything that they get their hands on. Many children are made sick and even poisoned to death by common household items. They electrocute themselves because of faulty wiring and exposed wall outlets and hurt themselves on sharp objects and surfaces around the house. Now there are classes that parents can take that alert them to the many potential hazards in their homes and how to safeguard their children against them, and there are even agents that you can hire who will go through your whole house and safety-proof it for your family.

Many young children drown in the bathtub because their parent left them alone while they answered the door or phone or checked something on the stove. “But I was gone for only a minute!” Well, that’s all the time it takes to slip under the water and drown. Either bring the phone into the bathroom with you or let the answering machine or voice mail take the call. Don’t cook while you’re bathing your baby, and take the kid out of the tub when you have to go answer the door. If the child is not finished yet, you can always put them back later.

Baby Jessica wouldn’t have gotten herself into that well if her mother had been watching her. She was in the house doing who-knows-what and her baby was out in the yard alone playing around that dangerous hole. That’s why I say that people should have training before and when they have kids—to teach them common sense, if nothing else! Parents tend to gamble with their children’s lives, just as they do with their own. “My toddler will be all right while I run upstairs for a minute to get something.” “So what if I leave my little boy alone while I go to the store? I won’t be long. What’s the chance of his hurting himself or burning the house down while I’m gone?”

Some years ago I uncovered the mystery behind Crib Death Syndrome. That’s when newborn infants turn up dead in their cribs overnight due to heretofore unexplained circumstances. This theory makes a lot of sense to me. Parents tend to load their babies’ cribs with all kinds of plush bedding: pillows, stuffed animals and such. Not only are these things unnecessary but can prove detrimental to a sleeping infant. You see, what happens is this. Depending on how young the baby is, they are unable to roll over or move their head during sleep, due to all the paraphernalia surrounding them, so with their head buried in the pillow, they end up asphyxiating themselves by re-breathing their own noxious carbon dioxide.

“I want to go hang out with my homies tonight. I don’t want to stay here and watch this baby.” Well, my dear, you should have thought about that before you had it. Having a baby brings with it certain sacrifices. There are times when some inconsiderate dolts bring their baby or small child to the movie theater with them, and the baby is whining and puling throughout the picture and annoying the other patrons. I’m thinking, Why is this baby here? It’s apparently miserable, but I don’t blame the child. I blame the parents for bringing it. Why didn’t they leave the kid at home? Maybe they couldn’t get a sitter? Then stay at home with it! It’s only a movie, for Christ’s sake! Wait until the thing comes out on video or shown on TV, then watch it at home.

I saw a news report about negligent parents who take their young children with them to the casinos of Las Vegas and Atlantic City and leave them unattended for hours on end while they are off gambling all day and night. They also go off and leave their tots in parked cars for extended periods of time, with the windows closed, and some have died from suffocation or dehydration. What is wrong with these people? These are forms of child abuse, in my opinion. They need to get their priorities straight. When gambling, shopping or some stupid movie takes precedence over the attention and well-being of one’s own child, then it’s a sorry state of affairs. And in the end, it’s the poor child that has to suffer.

On the cable series, “The Secret Life of an American Teenager,” a 15-year-old high school girl (played by Shailene Woodley) gets herself knocked up by a fellow student as the result of a one-night stand. It turns out that she doesn’t even like the boy with whom she had the unprotected sex. She decides to go on and have the baby, while her distraught parents try to convince her to put it up for adoption. Her mother (played by Molly Ringwald) asks her daughter how will she finish high school and take care of her baby? The girl says to her mother, “Well, you will be watching the baby while I am at school, won’t you? Aren‘t you going to help me raise it?” “Uh-hunh! I don’t think so, Missy! Don’t expect me to look after your baby. That’s your job.” Later on she is complaining about being tired all the time and find it so difficult to juggle motherhood, school (she’s only a sophomore) and work obligations. During her summer vacation, she wanted to run off to Europe with her boyfriend (who is not the baby’s father) and leave her son behind, expecting her mother to tend to him while she’s gone. So this stupid, stubborn girl insisted on keeping her baby against everybody’s wishes, but then doesn‘t want to stay home and take care of him.

Many kids get abducted from their parents while they are out shopping or doing something. “I just turned my back for a minute to talk to my girlfriend!” Why do you have to turn your back? You can talk to your friend and still keep an eye on your child. It’s not likely that someone will grab your child if you’re looking right at them, or at least you would be a witness if they would dare do it right in front of you.

It’s good that I am a good and righteous person without serious criminal intent. I was returning home from my neighborhood grocery store one afternoon, when on the sidewalk with me was a young mother pushing a stroller containing a baby, and with her was a 2-year-old toddler following behind. The woman was walking about 20 feet ahead of the child, not looking at him at all. She should have been holding the child’s hand. I or anybody else could easily have snatched the little boy up and could have been out of sight before that mother even turned around. Don’t these people know better than to take their eyes off their children, especially in public and in crowds? It’s that kind of irresponsibility that is the problem. I almost said something to that mother about it, and I certainly will if that ever happens again. They apparently are not aware that your abductors and kidnappers may be watching and just waiting for an opportunity to snatch their kid.

I learned that there are over a million-and-a-half young children missing in this country at any given time. I find that to be utterly preposterous. How were all these abductions accomplished and what is being done to recover all those lost children? I mean, whether they are alive or dead, they must be somewhere! Even with adults, there is some stupid rule that one has to wait 48 hours before declaring someone missing. How practical is that? If someone has been abducted, they can be long gone in two days’ time. Even if they left or ran away on their own, their loved ones want to know right away what the situation is. “Sergeant, my little girl didn’t come home from school yesterday afternoon (Friday). I want to report her missing.“ “I’m sorry, madam, but it’s too soon to be concerned. Now if she doesn’t show up at school on Monday, give us a call.“ I doubt if the law enforcement agencies and others would have such a lackadaisical attitude about helping if it were their own child that was missing.

There was a reality show on TV called “Hunted.” It was sort of an elaborate version of Hide-‘n-Seek, whereas 18 contestants tried to disappear for a month, and the FBI and other agencies tried to locate them. If the fugitives managed to stay hidden for the time period, then they won a whole bunch of money. The hunters used every means possible to try to find these people. So my question is, Why don’t they use these same search methods to recover all those missing children? They are making a stupid game out of it for our entertainment and monetary gain for themselves, when they should be using their vast resources to find the adults and children who are actually lost or abducted and want to be found.

I have a suggestion. When you are out in public with a young child, if you don’t want to hold their hand at all times, put them on a leash! That’s what you do when you are walking your dog. In fact, some people show more consideration for their pets than they do their own children! With a leash, the child cannot get away from you or be abducted by someone without your knowing it. And don’t worry how it might look to other people. I would think that you would be more concerned for your child’s safety than worrying about what other people think. If anyone should ask you why you are doing that, just tell them. “Because I care about my child.”

Here are a couple more helpful tips for parents. As soon as a child is old enough to comprehend it, the parent or guardian should assign them a code or secret password, known only to them alone. So if ever someone approaches your child with a story about wanting to take them to their mommy or daddy, they would be required to give the password or else the child would know better than to go with that person. That goes for people that the child knows as well as strangers. Children have been abducted by trusted friends, neighbors and relatives. Even non-custody parents have been known to kidnap their own children. Every child also should know their home address and phone number, in the event that they escape from their captors or are found and need to tell someone where they live and how to contact the parents. You might write the information on a card or something and have the child keep it on their person, in the event that they are unable to communicate verbally.

There is one school-of-thought that contends that every child needs two parents (preferably, a man and a woman married to each other) to grow up well-adjusted and happy. I don’t believe that, however. I know from personal experience that it is not absolutely necessary, or that a child raised by only one parent is going to turn out to be a miserable, maladjusted wreck or hardened criminal. With that antiquated, idealistic reasoning, it would follow that all two-parent families always turn out the best children, and we know that that’s not the case at all. The Menendez Brothers and Jeffrey Dahmer, for example, grew up with both their parents. The brothers were rich and spoiled, but see how they turned out. The brothers murdered both their parents, and Dahmer became a remorseless serial killer of young boys, and a cannibal.

In this day and age, with the high rate of divorce and unwed motherhood, the American two-parent family unit seems to be the exception rather than the rule. It’s certainly the minority anyway. The father’s presence in the home (or the mother in some cases) is not always the best thing for the child. They may be abusive, drug-dependent, mentally-ill or non-nurturing. The child and other parent might be better off without them. What I am saying is that many single parents have raised happy, productive children while many married couples have raised some really fucked-up kids. It all depends on the individuals involved.

I have watched TV shows that interview troubled kids, where they are asked about their lives and why they are so unhappy. In practically every case, their parents are their problem. One boy is constantly trying to gain acceptance from his father and make him proud of him, but anything the boy does is never good enough for him. His futile attempts to please his father is making the boy a neurotic wreck. Another father told his teenage son to stop being gay or he would put him out of the house and disown him. How does one stop being what they are, and why should they? One girl complained that there is no communication in her family. They all stay in their separate rooms, and nobody talks to each other. Others say that when they do try to talk to their parents, it’s always met with harsh judgment, disapproval, criticism and reprimand. So then, understandably, the kid will stop telling their folks anything. Many youngsters have to deal with verbal, physical and substance abuse in their homes. It has been proven time and again that how people turn out as adults is directly a result of their upbringing and parental influence.

There has been some controversial discussion of late about transracial adoptions, especially when it’s a black child being awarded to a white couple. The argument is that a black child raised in a white environment will deny them their sense of a black identity and heritage. They’ll grow up too “white,” in other words. Now the adoption authorities and adoptive parents don’t seem to have a problem with that. What’s wrong with a child having all the advantages of a white-influenced existence and upbringing? How can they do any better than that?

But they are not as agreeable and accommodating when the situation is the other way around. First of all, it is highly unlikely that a white child would ever be given to a black couple to raise anyway. The adoption agencies don’t encourage it, and even if a black person or couple did specifically request a white child, they would most likely be discouraged and even turned down. Everybody knows that blacks are not the proper role models for their own children, let alone a white child! They’re probably afraid that the child will take up “black” ways and become a hip-hopping, jive-talking, baggy-pants-wearing, dredlock-sporting, crack-dealing gang member.

I am not totally against black children being reared by white parents. Actors Beau Bridges, Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie, Madonna and Alec Mapa all have adopted black children, for example. I am grateful that they are willing to do so, considering the difficulty of black child placement. But there is the issue of lost or confused identity to be considered. This is a prime example of the need for special education. If a white family wants to take on a black child for adoption, they should be required to take courses in black culture and black history, so that they will be able to teach and relate to the child on a more personal and cultural level. They most likely would not have this knowledge beforehand, having not been taught it in their rich, suburban, white private schools. They would especially need to take a consciousness-raising course in racism. Then when the kid asks them a specific black-related question or expresses peculiar black sensitivity about something or is the subject of a racist action, these parents would then be able to help and guide the child with understanding, awareness and enlightened advice.

There is one special situation that has become an important reality for black teens, boys especially. This new “The Talk” involves the parents instructing their sons how to deal with law enforcement, in the event they are stopped on the street or pulled over by “The Man” while driving. Black parents know all too well about such a probability, while most white folks are totally oblivious of this particular occurrence because they have never experienced it. How can a white parent tell a black child about something they know nothing about?

It appears that most law-abiding whites have unquestionable trust when the police are involved. Whenever a problem arises, they are so quick to contact the police about it. They assure their white children that “Cops are our trustworthy friends, Sweetie. They are there to help us and protect us from harm.” It would be quite thoughtless and irresponsible of them to say that to a black teen. “But Mom, I just saw your ‘friend,’ Officer White, shoot my classmate, Malik, in the back while he was innocently walking home from school today. That could have been me.”

I think that the same instruction course should be required for white couples adopting Asian and other ethnic children, too, not just black. But what is it about these prospective parents with means who seek out their children for adoption in foreign and exotic regions, when there are plenty of orphans right here in America who need good homes and families? I think that charity should begin at home. It seems that with the growing incidence of mixed cohabitation, the biracial offspring of these unions rather have an advantage. These parents can directly deal with and address their kids’ identity questions and problems.

I believe that I would make a good parent. I consider myself to be a good role model for kids. I would be a good disciplinarian, I am respectful, but I wouldn’t be too permissive. I think that children need and want certain restrictions. They don’t expect you to let them do anything they want, and they constantly test their parents just to see how much they will be allowed to get away with. Too much permissiveness could make the child think that their parents don’t care enough about them to say “no” to them.

A certain popular video game is actually intended for adults, and its premise is crime and violence, where the player is rewarded and congratulated for committing murder and cruelty in its gameplay. When the kid’s mother was asked why she would buy him a toy that teaches him how to hate and kill, she replied, “Well, it was his birthday, and he wanted it so badly. What was I to do?“ So, if he asked you for an assault rifle, and even begged you, would you get him that as well? It’s all right to say “no” to a child when you are stopping them from doing something wrong. If they don’t like it, tough! They’ll get over it eventually. The father who never refuses his child anything will at some point actually say to his son, “Junior, you are a spoiled brat!” “Oh, really, Dad? And however did I get to be this way, I wonder?”

I would not resort to corporal punishment under any circumstances. There is no good excuse for striking a child. I prefer to reason with them. In fact, if one properly does their job as a good parent, the child should never give them a reason to hit them. Education, honesty, good values, freedom of self-expression, consistency, mutual trust, respect and love are the keys to proper discipline. “I tell him to stop that, but he just won’t mind.” The parent apparently has not established proper mutual respect with the child. A disobedient child is purposely being defiant, and they must have learned it from the parent, unless they learned it from certain characters on TV. So don’t blame the child for their misbehavior. The parent must be somehow at fault. They need to figure out how and why the child got that way.

When a child misbehaves, I have heard of parents “punishing” them by calling a time-out or grounding the kid by sending them to their room–you know, that private place in the house where their TV, computer, music player, phone, reading material and playthings are. How is that a punishment? I don’t mind staying in my room, and as a school kid, I never went out at night anyway. How about taking away the computer, TV and phone, things that they just can’t do without? A spanking is only for the moment and at most temporary, whereas denying them of their favorite privileges will probably be more effective. “Darn! If I expect to get my stuff back, I guess I had better straighten up and behave myself.”

I have some ideas of my own about how to relate to children. There are too many parents who refuse to acknowledge that their children are not them but separate entities from them. They try to live vicariously through their kids. They plan their whole lives for them, tell them who to marry, make them go to college even if they don’t want to, and then tell them which school to attend and which courses to take. They tell them what to be with regard to their work and career. Many fathers want their sons to follow in their footsteps, even if the boy doesn’t have any desire to be a doctor, lawyer, used car salesman or bullfighter, for example. I would encourage any child of mine to be anything they wanted to be, provided that it was within the law. I would steer them away from crime and want them to stay out of trouble, but their life’s path is their own. But if they are being raised properly, they wouldn’t be considering a criminal career anyway. My own parents never told any of us what to do with our life. They both respected us enough to make our own decisions. And we all have turned out fine.

Some parents would argue that people who don’t have any children have no right to give advice to those who do. But I think that we who don’t have children can be more objective. I can see things about other people’s brats that their parents tend to excuse or overlook completely. Since that is not my child, I can be honest and open with them, because they don’t live with me and I don’t care if they don’t like what I have to tell them.

People tend to be more protective, evasive and diplomatic with their own children. Many parents fail to acknowledge the fact that children have rights as human beings just like everyone else. Don’t talk down to them or dismiss them just because “they’re only children.” I hate that old saying, “Children should be seen and not heard,” as if nothing that they have to say is of any importance to anyone. One can learn a lot from children. If anything, children help to remind adults of the unbridled honesty and innocence they have, something the adults used to have when they were children themselves.

Adults are always doubting children’s word, as if they are all born liars. They find it easier to dismiss the child’s story rather than checking it out for its validity. I’ll give you two movie examples. In The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), little Billy Gray has befriended the alien visitor and tenant, Klaatu, played by Michael Rennie, and is showing him around town (Washington, DC), and when he returns home, he’s telling his mother, Patricia Neal, what they did and that he is the Spaceman that everyone is looking for. Since he escaped from the authorities, they don’t know where he is now. But it couldn’t be this guy who is actually living in the same house as they, could it? So Pat is berating the boy for making up these ridiculous tales about the giant robot he saw on the Mall and the diamonds that Klaatu gave him. How can she believe such fantasy, although all of it is true (at least for the sake of the story)? I love it when Billy tells his mother, “I wouldn’t call you a liar.” Just because you don’t believe something, it doesn’t mean that it’s not true.

In The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), when the dinosaur has gotten loose and is roaming the streets of San Diego, it wanders into a yard and is witnessed by a little boy inside the adjacent house. The alarmed boy runs to his parents’ room and tells them, “There is a dinosaur in our backyard.” His parents then proceed to admonish the child for waking them up with such utter nonsense. But why would he make up such a thing? Now he could be mistaken, but if my child told me that, I would be curious enough at least to go take a look out the window. I would love to see a real, live dinosaur! If it’s not a dinosaur, he must have seen something out there! Before you call your kids liars, prove them wrong first. But they even do that with other adults. I would be quite insulted and dismayed if my parents didn’t believe me when I told them something, however incredible. If I were joshing them, I would admit it, but if I insist that what I say is true, I expect them to take me seriously.

I think that it’s very important not to lie to children. You don’t need to volunteer certain information, but if a child asks you a direct question, you should give them an honest, direct answer. Children ask questions to learn, and it is quite counterproductive willfully to give them misinformation. Parents should be teachers and impart true knowledge. If a child is already at the place where they can ask an intelligent question, no matter how embarrassing or uncomfortable for you it may be, I think that they deserve to be given a truthful answer. So when they ask, “Where do babies come from?” instead of some evasive or silly, senseless explanation, tell them what the real deal is. Something that everybody is doing, particularly the very ones to whom the question is addressed, why are they so reluctant to tell their own children how they got here? If they are that embarrassed or ashamed about it, why do they keep doing it? Consider that if you don’t answer their questions truthfully, they will seek the answers elsewhere, and it may be the right ones and different from what you told them. If a child catches you in enough untruths and evasive responses, it’s likely that they’ll soon won’t believe anything you say and will stop asking you anything. You’ll lose their trust.

If a child asks why they shouldn’t do something, don’t just say, “Because I said so.” That’s not an answer. You have not satisfied their curiosity. Give them a reason why they shouldn’t do it. “Don’t stick your hand into that open flame, Son, because you will burn yourself.” “Oh, okay, Mama. Thanks for telling me. I didn’t know.” Children sometimes need to figure out things for themselves and make decisions according to what they have been taught. Even as an adult, Because-I-said-so and That’s-just-the-way-it-is doesn’t work for me. Give me a valid reason why.

Then these same unresponsive parents will assure their kids when they get older that they can come to them with any problem. But since they have lied to the kids so many times before, why should they come to them now? Parents will insist that their children be completely honest with them and tell them everything, but at the same time will deceive the kids and keep important things from them. Some parents even dare to utter an obvious untruth in their child’s presence. A mother is attempting to get a kiddie’s entry discount: “How old is your little girl, Ma’am?” “She’s seven.” “No, Mommy! I’m ten.” You’re sending mixed messages. So, it’s all right to lie when it benefits you in some way? Think of it as setting an example. If you never lie to your children, there is a big chance that they won’t lie to you either. Remember all the lies your parents told you while you were growing up. You probably now resent them for it. People that lie all the time think that everybody else lies all the time, too.

And don’t make idle promises to your children, of things over which you have no control. “Everything is going to be all right. I promise.” What, do you have control over the entire world? If you do, then why did you let happen what prompted you to say that? “I promise that I will never leave you.” How can you promise such things? No one can control fate. Shit happens all the time. You can’t prevent it. Recognize that divorce and death are forms of desertion or abandonment to a child. I realize that they’re said only to reassure a child’s fears, but one should realize that most children take promises very seriously. If you make a promise to a child, and you break it, even if it’s by no fault of your own, the child may still resent you for it. Just be honest with the child. Truth needs no justification. “I cannot promise you that nothing bad will ever happen to you in life. Things happen that we have no control over. But I will do everything in my power to protect you from any harm.” That’s better. You have allayed the child’s fears without making any promises that you can’t possibly keep. Or, “People die. I or your daddy may die before you are grown, but that does not mean that we don’t love you. We will always love you.” So when something bad does happen, your child won’t tend to hold you personally responsible for it. A general rule of thumb is simply, just treat your children the same way you want to be treated (aka the Golden Rule).

Children, too, require respect and a sense of dignity and need to feel good about themselves. It’s a parent’s job and natural inclination to protect their children from harm at all costs. But some parents tend to overprotect them from all the unpleasantness of the world, and the child fails to learn how to deal with adversity when it happens. No one can possibly be with their child every minute of their life. They will be on their own at some point. “We’re just trying to keep you from making a big mistake.” Well, life is full of trial and error. No one can stop anybody from making mistakes in life. It’s all a part of growing up. That’s how we learn, from our mistakes—or should, anyway.

Besides, kids are so hardheaded, you can’t tell them anything anyhow. State your opinion, and let them go on, then if or when they mess up, you can have the satisfaction of saying, “I told you so.” Maybe they’ll eventually start heeding your advice. And how do you know that what they want to do is a mistake before the fact? Just because it’s something that doesn’t interest you or something that you wouldn’t do, you shouldn’t prevent your kid from attempting it. I have had pooh-pooh naysayers try to talk me out of certain endeavors that turned out to be good and beneficial for me.

I think worth mentioning is this common piece of not-so-good advice that parents give their kids: “Never talk to strangers.” Well, a stranger is only a fellow human being that you haven’t met yet, so how would you ever meet anybody if you never spoke to anyone that you don’t know? That teaches children discrimination and only helps to perpetuate prejudice and bigotry. You do not know this person, therefore, they must be bad and cannot be trusted? Of course, we do need to be cautious in life, because there are those who are out to get us if we let our guard down. But every “stranger” is not out to do you or your children harm, just as we don’t always know who is a real friend. Persons we don’t know oftentimes offer help to us in times of trouble, they save our lives, they give us things we need, they support and advance our careers. For us performers and writers it’s strangers who buy our records and books, attend our concerts, shows and movies. People who own their own businesses don’t know all of their customers and clients.

Sometimes so-called strangers treat us better than our own family members. That fireman that rescued your children from that burning building was a stranger. So was that homeless woman who helped your lost daughter find her way back home. Do you personally know the 911 operator? It’s sometimes the people closest to us that betray our trust and who we need to be wary of. Children are usually molested and abused by their own family members, and a woman usually knows her rapist. Better advice to give a child would be to be wary of a person’s behavior towards them rather than readily dismissing the person just because they don’t know them. They should regard every person that they encounter in life as an individual, worthy of the same respect, regardless of their relationship, their lot in life, their appearance or their differences.

Parents and others also insist that children forget about their bad experiences, but I don’t consider that good advice either. We shouldn’t exactly dwell on the past and let it color our entire lives. I mean, bad things happen to everybody. But get over it and get on with your life. You shouldn’t forget what has happened to you but learn from the experience. If you remind yourself of your past mistakes, you may keep them from happening again. This blocking out of unpleasant events is the cause of a lot of psychoses, like disassociation, or multiple personalities, amnesia, hysterical loss of senses, like blindness, deafness and self-imposed mutism. It’s another form of denial. The subsequent therapy used in healing these people is to make them remember their shock or trauma and face what they have blocked out of their minds or buried in their subconscious. Many adults discover late in life things that they have suppressed since they were young children, things that have influenced and stifled their relationships and even careers. So, I say, don’t forget your hysterical or shameful past but use it for growth and self-improvement.

Until a child is old enough to think for themself and make their own decisions, they are highly impressionable. You must be always mindful of your actions and watch what you say around them, because they are listening and they usually don’t forget what they hear. It’s how children learn to talk, and they repeat things before learning what they mean. Don’t scold the child for saying something naughty. They probably got it from you. Even though I myself am opposed to any sort of censorship, I realize that parents may have certain verbal restrictions. Let your child know what words are not acceptable around you, and then stop using them yourself.

I know of adults who have confronted a parent about something that happened in their childhood that has affected their whole life, but the parent has no recollection of it. “Sherman, my boy, I just don’t understand why are you so hateful to me? What have I ever done to you to make you treat me so mean?” “Well, Mom, you are always calling me stupid, and when I was 5-years-old, you slapped me and said that you wished I had never been born.” “What?! I don’t remember doing that. Did I really?” “Yep, you did it and said it. I’ve never forgotten it.” Parents don’t always mean some of the things they say to their children, but how is an impressionable youngster supposed to discern what to ignore or what to take to heart?

Then our parents, in turn, are likely to recall things that their parents said and did to them. In cases where children mistreat and actually hate and hit their parents, I again have to put the blame on the parents. The child does not feel the way they do without probable cause. Their folks must have done something to them to elicit such resentment and disrespect, and they need to own up to it. They may think that they are good parents now, but they probably were not so years ago when it would have made a difference in how the child turned out. You have to train, teach them, and especially, show them unconditional love at an early age. Don’t wait until the damage has been done and then wonder what happened, how did they get that way? “I’m doing the best I can.” Well, maybe you are now, but you haven’t always done what you should, have you?

Parents seem to want to forget that they were children themselves once, and they often find their own children doing some of the same things that they did when they were their age. Of course, now they are not so tolerant and understanding. “Mother, Grammy told me that you did that very thing when you were my age.” “Yeah, but that was different.” “Why, because it was you?” No matter how hard they try to resist it, the kids, in turn, grow up and become their parents, doing the same things that they used to do. So “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work. You shouldn’t do things in front of your kids and then forbid them to do the same things. Again, you are sending them confusing, mixed signals. “What, dad? I shouldn’t do that because it’s wrong? Then why are you doing it?” The kids will learn to obey by your setting the example. They will say and do what they hear and see you do.

(# You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear…and to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made and people whose skin is a different shade; You’ve got to be carefully taught. #)
Another good reason for screening prospective parents is to prevent those individuals who are advocates of racial supremacy, chauvinism and homophobia from procreating, thus passing on their bigoted ideas to their innocent youngsters. We need to fix the minds of those adults before we let them infect their children with their notions of hatred and prejudice. Where do some white children get the idea that they are, by their very being, better than their schoolmates-of-color? Who told them (these aren’t just the whites this time) that all gay people should be feared, pitied, persecuted and/or condemned, often before they understand even their own sexuality? Why, their parents, of course! They could be talking about their own child! Then if the kid later does turn out to be queer, they have already been taught to hate themself. How does that create a positive self-image for your child?

All the while I was growing up, I never heard any disparaging comments about gays from anybody in my household nor even from my peers, which is probably why I am so well-adjusted and have great self-esteem. How can we make this a better world in which to live if we don’t somehow break the cycle of hatred and ignorance perpetuated with our children?

Before young children know any better and are old enough to think for themselves, they tend to believe everything that their parents tell them. That’s why they buy the folk myths about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and the Boogie Man, among others. Grownups are older and presumably wiser, so they must know about all those things, right? Then if a white father tells his son that white people are of a superior race and everybody else who is not white are bad and are to be shunned and avoided at all costs, it must be the truth, because why would he lie? He’s your dad, who only wants what’s best for you. That is why they have to be brainwashed when they are young and impressionable, because once they get out into the world, attending school and interacting with different kinds of people, they will start to question some of the things that they have been told.

As I said earlier, the way children turn out and what they become as adults are directly or indirectly connected to their parents or lack thereof. All neuroses, psychoses, genetic addictions, domestic violence and self-confidence/self-esteem issues are always parent-related—if not our own parents, then other adults who serve as guardians or who have been influenced by their parents.

One woman on Dr. Phil’s show was emotionally damaged by her father all while she was growing up. So now she is married with three children and was taking out all her frustrations and unhappiness on her husband and children, treating them the same way her father treated her as a kid. I was thinking the whole time I’m listening to this, that this woman had a lot of personal issues to sort out about proper parenting. Why did she bother to have all those children, who are being abused, before first getting help to solve her own mental problems? And, of course, she had made her kids emotional wrecks themselves. That is so irresponsible. She should have decided beforehand, “I should not have any children until I get help to fix the plaguing issues in my own life.” Again I say, fucked-up parents are going to create fucked-up kids. They can’t help it.

A lot of pressure is put on school kids by their parents to succeed academically. It’s all about grades with them. Having been both a student and a teacher, I can be objective. Some parents insist that their kids make straight A’s or be deemed failures. “Hey, what’s with this C, Tommy? You’re grounded until you bring your grade up.” But it’s not his grade but the teacher’s. They can impose any grade that they want, at their own discretion, regardless of the actual work done on any assignment. This is what compels some students to cheat. It doesn’t matter if they know the material, all anybody cares about is their getting a good grade. So they will cheat on homework assignments, exams, SATs, anything, in order to get by. They haven’t learned a damned thing, but at least they manage to graduate and get accepted into a college.

I have been made aware of a certain racket occurring in high schools and colleges nowadays, and that’s students getting someone else to take their tests for them. They either pay them or blackmail them or some may even do it as a favor to the other. In practically every case it’s to please their parents, who are the ones who demand the higher grades. The student usually accepts the grades they get, especially if they think it is what they deserve or they cannot do any better. If the kid does not like the grade they are given, it’s not that big a deal. They will just try harder the next time.

When they cheat, however, and even if they didn’t, what sometimes happens is this. One particular student constantly receives D’s and F’s on tests, then suddenly he gets an A on the next one. Now he possibly could have really buckled down and did the required study to ace the test, but it usually sends a red flag to the teacher, who wonders if there might have been some cheating involved. When the teacher confronts the boy about it, and if he is guilty of cheating, naturally he is going to deny it. So the teacher still has no proof one way or the other. When this scenario is depicted on film, it never occurs to anybody to suggest that the teacher give the student in question an oral exam. Just ask the kid one or more of the questions that he got right on the test. If he gets it right, he obviously knows the material, but if he gets it wrong, then he probably didn’t know it in the first place.

In the case of numbered tests with separate answers, a numerical grade indicates how many they got right. I don’t mind that form of grading, whereas the letter-grading method is more arbitrary. What is the difference between an A and a B, for example? I liked one paper better than another, so that student got the higher grade. But did the one to whom I gave the lower grade do less work than the other student? Maybe they worked even harder on the assignment, although it wasn’t as good. To compare students by the letter grades given them puts a value of their worth on them. What if a teacher does not like a certain student? They may not ever give them a decent grade. That happens a lot. One boy gets a C on his book report after much extra study and research, and his classmate gets an A on his report and he didn’t even read the book! Is that fair?

This attitude also spills over onto other aspects of kids’ lives. Parents are so obsessed about winning. In competitive sports, the kids must always win at all costs. If they don’t win, then they’re a “loser” by default. If a child is not as good in an endeavor as one or both of their parents would like them to be and never excels in the activity, they eventually just give up and stop trying. I think that kids (and adults, too) should be rewarded for their efforts rather than their results. In a competition where there can be only one winner, somebody has to lose. And whereas there is always somebody better than yourself, you can’t expect to win every time. Praise them for their participation and willingness to try, rather than belittling them for their blunders and mistakes.

I don’t think that there are any bad kids, really, only bad parents. I often encounter small children in public with their parents who seem not to know anything about proper manners and social graces. They will bump into you or step on you and won’t say, “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry,” and it never occurs to them to say, “Thank you” when somebody gives them something or offers help. When the parents stand right there and neglect to instruct their child on what to say, that’s whom I blame, not the ignorant child. These adults are often rude and discourteous themselves, so naturally they don’t tell their children how to act. Common courtesy is so ingrained in me, I don’t even have to think about it. Uttering “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me” when the situation arises are automatic with me. It is what I was taught at an early age.

Why are there so many teenage suicides? If a child is unhappy, it’s the parents’ responsibility to find out what’s wrong. Why are they unhappy, what are the parents doing about it, and why are they usually not even aware of the unhappiness? They tend to go into that convenient denial mode, just to keep from having to deal with anything that involves their family. They ignore the tell-tale signs and often dismiss or excuse certain aberrant behavior. Many parents have no idea that their child is doing drugs, for example. Why don’t they know that? I think that I would know, or at least be suspicious, if my high-schooler were on steroids or a crack or heroin addict. Shouldn’t they know that their son is building bombs in their basement, being bullied or taking guns to school with him every day? Girls have been known to conceal their pregnancies from their parents, sometimes even to full term. How could a caring mother not even be aware that her daughter is with child? What is she doing for those nine months?

Of course, some parents tend to be overprotective with their children, but that is a matter of degree. Children should have some freedom and privacy, and you should trust them to a point, but it’s not a bad thing always to be all up in your kids’ business. They are not going to tell you everything that they are up to, so you have to be more vigilant and curious. While they are living in your abode, you have the right to snoop in their room, to check what is on their computer and cell phone. They may not like it, but if they are not doing anything wrong, then they don’t have anything to worry about. You can be a friend to your kids after they are grown. Until then, be their parent! They probably won’t admit it now, but in the long run they will appreciate your concern and attention afforded them when they were younger.

Why don’t they know that their teenager cannot read? And more importantly, why can’t the kid read? Again, what have these parents been doing for the past ten years or longer? There is no way that I could raise an illiterate, uninformed child. My being a trivia nut with a penchant for teaching, I would always be sharing my vast knowledge with my kids and asking them questions to find out what they know. ‘What did you learn in school today, son?’ ‘Here, read this to me.’ ‘Which Beethoven Symphony is that on the radio?’ ‘You don’t know what that word means? There’s the dictionary. Look it up.’ All parents should take concerted interest in their children’s education. Don’t just leave it up to the schools exclusively. With help from my mother and grandparents, I could already read somewhat when I started kindergarten, which gave me a good head start. I also learned how to read music on my own.

Why are there so many juvenile runaways? For a child to prefer the danger and uncertainty of the streets to the supposed security of their loving family, something must be terribly wrong at home. Nobody in my immediate family ever had any reason to run away from home. We were all well-loved and cared-for and had happy childhoods. Be careful, too, when you offer ultimate choices to your kids. “As long as you are under my roof, you will abide by my rules. If you won’t do as I say, then get the hell out!” Or, “I forbid you see that boy. If you continue to do so, we will disown you. It’s either him or your family.” So the kid leaves home, and the parents are upset. “What did we do?” They beg the youngster to come back home, saying that they didn’t mean what they said. Then why did you say it? Should they blame the kid for taking them seriously and calling their bluff? Oh, she wouldn’t choose that boy over her own family. Oh, no? If you give someone choices, don’t be surprised or disappointed if they pick the one that you don’t like. Rather than pronouncing ultimatums, parents should discuss a compromise. Little is accomplished with heated threats and accusations. “Tell us what you want from us as your parents and this is what we expect from you as our child.” None of this do-as-I-say-or-get-out jazz. “So is that the only option I have? I’ve tried it your way and it didn’t work, so I guess I’ll leave then.”

It’s even worse that there are many teenagers who are forced by their parents to leave home, against their desire to do so, because they don’t live up to their parents’ expectations. In addition to the gay youths being disowned by their parents, I have heard of Amish communities shunning certain members of the sect, who may not even be gay, because they choose to go against “the ways” by leaving home and going out to experience the world, perhaps even marrying outside the faith. They somehow don’t get the hypocrisy of claiming to be so pious and Christian and at the same time disowning and ostracizing their own children. Tevye (from Fiddler on the Roof) did the same thing with his daughter who defied her father’s wishes and “traditions” by marrying a Gentile!

Many people still have a hard time accepting the fact that homosexuals actually bear children and raise them and have the right and ability to do so. Some are even so ignorant as to think that the two factors together are not even possible. Homosexuals cannot possibly make children, and if a person has a child, they couldn’t possibly be gay. Or they will make unfounded and unfair comments about gays not being fit parents or not providing proper role models, or that children of gays cannot grow up “normal” and will inevitably become gay themselves. Do I need to say that one’s parenting skills is not necessarily dependent on their sexual orientation? There are good parents and bad parents, straight and gay, but I would expect gay parents to teach their kids better tolerance and compassion for other people, if nothing else.

Adopted children, for example, are specifically chosen and not merely the result of careless or unintended conception by some heterosexual unions. There are many who don’t love or even want their biological offspring. With what gay people have to go through to adopt or even be allowed to keep their own, you’d better believe that these children are really and truly wanted. Hets are afraid to allow gays to raise children because it will cause the children to “grow up queer” like their parents. If our straight parents couldn’t prevent us from growing up gay, then how can gay parents prevent their straight kids from growing up straight, if they really are?

The courts’ belief that one’s homosexuality automatically makes them unfit parents is so unfair. There was a case a while ago of a woman who lost her daughter in a custody hearing because she was charged with being a sapphist, therefore not a proper mother. The little girl might grow up gay, you see. So what did the judge do? He unthinkingly awarded custody to the little girl’s grandmother (her mother’s mother), a woman who herself raised a sapphist! Hello?! Where are some people’s minds?

I have seen quite a few TV movies that deal with child custody battles, and I find them to be rather disturbing. I don’t see how adults fighting over young children can be “in the best interest of the child,” no matter what the outcome of the case is. The child is constantly being passed around, back and forth like a football, and they more often than not wind up with a confused sense of belonging. In many cases, they won’t even ask the child which parent or guardian they would like to live with, as if their opinion doesn’t at all matter. The social workers, lawyers, judges and other strangers think they know what’s best for the child more than the child does themself. I find that to be so disrespectful. Children have no rights or say-so about who gets to raise them, when it’s their own lives at stake.

When a kid has a problem, they often feel that they can’t go to their parents with it. “I can’t tell my parents that. They’ll kill me!” “I just can’t talk to my parents. They won’t listen to me.” And in many cases, these feelings are warranted. If any child of mine felt at any time that they could not confide in me or come to me about anything, no matter how terrible they thought it was, I would have to feel responsible. I would ask myself, What have I done to this child for them not to trust me or to be afraid of me? Apparently I have not properly conveyed my utter, unconditional love for this child. We often hear parents say, “I don’t know what’s gotten into that boy!” or, “Where did we go wrong?” Well, that’s a good question. That is something to think about. Where did you go wrong?

So we need to work on the adults if we ever expect the children, our future, to be better people. I do realize that parenting is not easy. Very little in life that’s worthwhile is. That’s why I think people should have professional training and permission to take on such a formidable endeavor. It’s a tremendous undertaking, not at all for the squeamish. So if certain people are not willing to take on such an important responsibility, then they should not be allowed to become parents. It’s as simple at that. They’re not helping our society, and they certainly are not benefiting the poor, suffering, victimized children. I hope that this article has been helpful, and that you parents and potential parents out there put my suggestions and advice into practical application.

2,520 thoughts on “Parenting 101”

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