Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Piece of Advice #92: Be your kid's parent

If you have children, your role in their lives must be: authority and advisor.  Parents, of course, have other roles: nanny, nurse, cheerleader, banker, chauffeur, tutor.  But first and foremost, you have to be their authority on what is right and wrong, good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable.  You create their normal, you forge the lens through which they view the world.  And you keep them from devolving into wild beasts, one correction at a time.

So far this blog has not been about parenting advice.  I have one child, and he has not left the nest, not even close.  I can't say with full assurance that his teen/young adult/adult years will be smooth sailing or that he will "turn out."  I pray he will.  

What I can say, with confidence, is that kids figure out early - early early - exactly what their parents' weak spots are.  They know before they can talk or ambulate smoothly what buttons to push, and they happily will stab away at them until they get a reaction.  And if you do not establish your authority, if you do not communicate clearly and unequivocally that the buck stops with you and that you will stop that buck, they will run roughshod over you.  They will test you to see if you mean it, and if you don't mean it, they will take over.  If they take over your house, your life with be exponentially harder because not only will you spend hours every day placating them and picking up after them, slaving to provide them with food they will deign to eat and clothes they will deign to wear, but you will have to spend additional hours explaining to other people (teachers, daycare providers, neighbors, friends) why they are so difficult and why it must be so.  Putting your foot down and standing up to your kids is a lot of work, continuous work, but it is not so much as the alternative.

Yesterday Dalrock did a piece on Jennifer Moses who recently wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal on tween and teen girls.  It was called "Why Do We Let Them Dress That Way?"  Here is the accompanying video:



This is an interesting video in a lot of ways.  Moses saying that tween girls should not be dressing like prostitutes isn't really that controversial, is it?  I know I've heard plenty of mothers lamenting about what is available in the stores for girls these days and how so much of it is inappropriate.  But Moses knows that there is this large audience of women out there who will howl that, yes, young girls should be allowed to dress in hookerwear, to express themselves and their flowering sexuality, that it's never too young to sexualize or objectify a girl because the alternative is to accept that female sexuality should have boundaries - any boundaries - and women not being able to do whatever they want whenever they want with full approval is an unthinkable thought.  Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon has already rebutted condescendingly, and she, a self-admitted HPV-resulting cervical cancer survivor.  Women are apparently willing to take cancer on the chin rather than reign it in at all sexually or even consider it.

Knowing these women are out there, Moses waffles a bit.  The outfits, they are scandalous, but according to her, "There's no mother in the world who isn't doing her best for her daughter."  The interviewer, also a woman, would like to blame it - the irony - on the media and at one point interjects something about fathers also being to blame, which Moses nods and agrees with.

But let's face it, men don't dress their daughters.  Women do, and in adolescence, girls' female peers help a lot. It's a parent's job to make sure those peers don't get to override any objective morality or common sense.  And here is where Moses completely bails.  At the end of the video, after making her case for why this type of clothing is terrible, she says she can’t stop her daughter from buying hookerwear with her babysitting money, but she won’t pay for it herself, darn it.

Excuse me, but what?

Jennifer, if you can’t stop your 11-year-old daughter from dressing indecently and provocatively, you have got a serious parenting problem and it isn't fashion related. Pull her out and homeschool her. Send for pamphlets from convents. Relocate to Lancaster, PA. You are the adult.  Seriously, you own her life.  You pay for everything, and I'd bet that includes private lessons, a regularly updated wardrobe, sleepovers with her friends, vacations, birthday presents.  Yank it all and then see if she still won't comply.  Be brave.

I see parents in the public who are negotiating with their toddlers, putting forth complicated arguments about why they should eat the yogurt they just screamed for.  Look, I know what it's like to have an oppositional child.  My son is a born arguer; there is nothing he likes better than objecting to stuff.  But he knows at the end of this little verbal dance, he is going to have to finish his dinner, drink his milk, and do his homework. Because I'm going to make him.  It might not be fun.  It might not be pretty - that's his call - but it will be done.  All this may make me sound like a martinet, but, honestly, kids like having boundaries, and they like knowing that someone is actually in charge and that there is a plan.  It's predictable, and they can maneuver within that predictability.  They may test you with everything they've got, but they aren't happy when they win. They are miserable wallowing in their own brattiness.  And so are you.

It is easier to establish a pattern of compliance if you start when they are toddlers, but unless your tween is a sociopath, it can be done at eleven, twelve, or thirteen.  You might have to drag out the big guns to establish your authority, but better that than the alternative: stocking up on Pampers and opening a tab at your local tattoo parlor.

23 comments:

  1. What's truly sad is that Jennifer claims to be a member of Our Tribe. While Jews have always considering liberalism a part of our faith, we carried on our lives in the most conservative manner. That part has long gone, and we wonder why we're disappearing.

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  2. Three comments.

    1. Photo of 11ish girl in blue shirt. Who in their right mind would let her put that shirt on?

    2. This is the biggest argument for uniforms. My son (15) is annoyed that the 'hot' girls don't look cute in their uniforms (kilt and blazer -- they do look smart). It is a design feature.

    3. I have great difficulties (and so does daughter and the other grandparents) finding clothes for 4 year old grand-daugther (who wears size 7 already) that are not either (a) Pink and White (you can't get mud out of them or (b) completely britneyized. Even if you use a Jeans / T shirt uniform you have problems... unless you buy her shirts from thinkgeek (which I'm vindictive enough to do when she gets older) where at least the jokes require binary :-)

    Horrified by all this. Particularly as most young women should be fit, healthy, and safe during these years. Allowing them to dress like this and obsess about fashion (that can wait until their 20s) is putting them at risk.

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  3. Please tell me that shirt is photoshopped...a girl of ten advertising a vagina ready to go...

    I can't even be disgusted because of the utter disbelief.

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  4. sestamibi - Maybe you can shed some light for me on Jews and the Democratic party because I find it confusing that a group of very intelligent, religious, hardworking, highly educated immigrants went from being Orthodox Jews to atheist Democrats in about 2 generations. The vast majority of Jews in the Pale of Settlement didn't have very much money, but they were a highly cohesive group, very much outside of the dynamics of slavic society, and they did a great job of both keeping crime down and supporting the needy within their own group - without any outside funds.

    So they come to America, stop following the religious beliefs they'd held fast to for thousands of years, intermarry with gentiles at astounding rates, and passionately proselytize for a party that wants to take the money they make and give it to non-Jewish groups who have no investment in Jewish survival and may even actively dislike them. I'm pretty sure that a hundred years ago approximately no Jews were begging the Russian government to take both their autonomy and half their money. Given their history of being summarily kicked out of nearly every country in Europe (without their possessions), you would think blind faith in this government would be counterintuitive and against all their best interests.

    Maybe I'm not seeing it right. I realize the trend across all groups in America is for liberalism and that Jews are certainly not the only ones assimilating and intermarrying. But when I contrast them with the local Dutch Reformed - grandchildren of conservative, religious people who to some extent have maintained a religious/ethnic identity, Jews are far more liberal as a whole. Why is this?

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  5. That's an excellent question, Grerp, I will be interested in any response you get. I think it's something that happened regarding the embrace of Marxism at some point, and a lot of people not wanting to admit they were wrong politically/culturally at that time.

    Maybe.

    ANYWAY I am the parent of a seven-year-old girl. I cannot BELIEVE the clothes that are available in her size now. . . freakin' Justice for freakin' Girls!!!!

    fortunately for me she's a total tomboy and has no desire to shop there

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  6. Grerp, read this:

    http://tinyurl.com/6bh74zt

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  7. Never threaten any discipline that you can't deliver with a smile.

    Yes, I did once wake one of my children with a super-soaker. I told them I looked forward to their intoxicated late arrivals - because they had ipso facto volunteered themselves to be objects of my amusement. The rule on sex in the house was clear: It's my house. If there is sex going on, I'm involved. I hooted and called Ho-thumpin' music for what it was. Any word advertised across their butts was duly and loudly noted ( "Pink!" ). They could have any friends they liked, and I always made sure to shake their hands before they left.

    Needless to say, I never had trouble like the girl pictured above is offering. I'm sure the second time she wore it, and I had, again, asked if she had "mowed the lawn" would have been the last.

    I was the worst daddy in the world - then. Now, my older daughter is 23 and I'm already one of the wisest.

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  8. Oh, yes. The above is discipline that only a present loving biological father can bring to bear.

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  9. Thanks for the link grerp. Another spot on post. And that pic of the young girl is astounding.

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  10. Grerp, I strongly advise that you pull that photo and immediately. Seriously. Just the overtones and connotations are deeply disturbing and could be considered illegal thus turning every person viewing this post into a felon of the most egregious kind.

    Words have meaning, especially in the context of this post and doubly so when featured on a child.

    Pull the photo. Now.

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  11. That photo is clearly a Photoshop!!!

    I think it was a lame attempt to make fun of the actual wording on the shirt "work in progress" - a very poor joke but NOT a real shirt!!!

    obvious pshop

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  12. Fine, I pulled the photo. But it's not like it was hard to find. It was the first one called up when I put the term "prostitot" into Google images.

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  13. Chris - I don't know why there are so few options in girls' clothing these days. It's almost like the industry is centrally planned.

    sestamibi - Thanks for the link. I've ordered that book from the library. Just a note on where I'm coming from - I was raised in an evangelical tradition and most of the people I knew had a reverence for Israel and a sort of...fondness...for Jews in an abstract way. When I grew up, went to university, and started reading and interacting online I realized how unrequited this affection was and how antisemitic Christians were perceived to be - which made me research antisemitism and Judaism and Jewish history. I've read quite a lot, but I'm still learning and revising my thoughts on how and why religious traditions interact with each other.

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  14. OK, I'm sure I sounded like I was bragging ( because I was ) but the point I wanted to make was how EASY it is to handle the problem.

    There are child rearing issues I can't address. Dads are results-oriented and forget tender feelings. That's what Mom is for, I respect that. I counted on it. Further, I can't make Feminism look as juvenile as it actually is, for example, nor teach femininity. I'm not female and it wouldn't ( didn't ) ever work.

    However, in order to get this 'prostitot' problem, a *Mom* would have to be actively sabotaging her daughter's life by, like, sabotaging a father's efforts by using them to 'bond' with her daughter *against* Daddy.

    It's easy, when the parents back each other up.

    ( BTW - http://www.bash.org/?868223 - my heroine )

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  15. @Anonymous and the photo. Agree the photo was in incredibly bad taste, but I have seen the equivalent for real. Little granddaughter does not know what the thing says (she's 4). But the number of lewd T-shirts for girls is huge.

    If I spend $$$ and get hiking gear (such as Icebreaker) you get feminine and not skanky stuff. But we are talking merino. For kids.

    I think it was in bad taste. I don't think it was felonious. (But then, a man walking down a street sans shirt is felonious in some states)

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  16. Yes, that is an unfortunate aspect of contemporary Judaism. Sad to say, all too many Jews would vote for Hitler today if he were not white.

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  17. Tween girls walk around with the word "JUICY" written across their buttocks all the time. That is no less sexually suggestive than the photo I used. Furthermore, many people would not even believe how crass and inappropriate girls' clothing is unless they witness it firsthand. I know I wouldn't have, if I hadn't seen some of the stuff my niece's contemporaries wear.

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  18. - There's no way she'd walk out of the house wearing that stuff.
    The clothes wouldn't even get into the house before it got returned.

    - Screw what the media does, restrict their tv viewing and internet access.

    - If you're going to put your daughter's popularity level above your role as a parent, then you shouldn't be one.

    - "I'm the parent" > "well, it's her money"
    She's 11 years old, if your not gonna do something as simple as choose what clothes she wears then you and her are screwed when she gets older.

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  19. Grerp,
    You have a very lucky child. Sad that so few parents understand, or are willing to work as hard as you do.
    Children used to be afraid to do things their parents did not approve of. Now they call the shots and parents are afraid to do anything that the child doesn't like.
    The children are in charge. It's not that they are bad, just ignorant and foolish.
    I think there is a parallel with our ruling class in there somewhere.

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  20. Grerp,

    Then those girls have paid money to advertise the word 'juicy' in the most conspicuous way possible. It seems wrong to cheat them out of the attention they're trying so hard to get.

    When you see it on their butts, don't avert your eyes. Smile and say it loud enough for them to hear: "Juicy!" The older you are, the better.

    Giving the advice to go to the ladies room to wipe is optional.

    It is a sad fact of humans that most can only learn humility by being humiliated.

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  21. Grerp, didn't you know that calling attention to this matter the way you did is slut-shaming??

    (rolls eyes)

    Because you know, acting or looking like a slut should NOT be shameful.

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  22. Detinennui32 says:

    Grerp: This is spot on. I'm a father of 2 still at home. You better believe I can decide what my kids wear, where they wear it and what it says. And I can stop my kids from using "their" money for anything. They will not purchase objectionable things. I'm their father and yes, I cam control what they buy. If Moses can't or won't do this them she's not doing her job. Plain and simple.

    And my home is not a democracy. It's a benign dictatorship. My children do not get to vote, they do not negotiate or compromise, they do not get to send my decisions for review or second-guessing to a joint conference committee or a supreme court. They get to comply with the rules and reap the blessings of compliance, or disobey and suffer the consequences of disobedience. There is no negotiation. The only issue is what the consequence will be for failure to comply.

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  23. @Grerp

    Maybe you can shed some light for me on Jews and the Democratic party

    Think of it this way. Imagine if you are a Christian in a Muslim country. Are you as a Christian going to want to vote for the party that is percieved as Muslim(especially if there are a few fanatical zealots in it) or the secular party.

    For better or worse the Republicans are believed to be the party of Christianity.(I know how this is honoured in the breach). Ultimately it boils down to religious differences. Hence the dislkie of the Christian Zionists.

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