It’s easy to understand why almost all of us lose our way when raising our children. The psychoanalytic discoveries regarding the importance of children’s development in their early years made us afraid to cause irreparable trauma to our children. So we choose to err on the side of excessive lenience. We even fear that disappointing and frustrating our children might “traumatize” them; children, however, see this behavior as weakness and take advantage of our insecurities.
We can’t be passive when raising our children. We can’t shy away from this responsibility just because we are now more aware of the risks – it would be like doctors refusing to operate because they might fail and the patient might die. Besides, some of our responsibilities toward our children are indisputable: we have to teach the new generation at least a modicum of the moral principles that rule life in society. We must teach them basic hygiene habits that are essential to their health, and pass on knowledge of language, math and science; in short, they must learn the wisdom accumulated with such effort by humankind throughout the millennia of civilization.
We might discuss which is the most effective and least frustrating approach to educate our children, or consider which method should be used to transmit knowledge to them, but the absolute need to educate them well is indisputable. It’s not acceptable, for instance, that young people reach college without even knowing how to properly write in their own language; it does not bode well, either for them, or for society. We might debate whether punishing improper behavior yields better results than rewarding good deeds, but we can’t allow our children to grow up uncaring, without understanding that others have the same rights as they do and must be respected. We can’t overlook the actions of children who are discourteous in public places, such as restaurants, planes or beaches. We can’t tolerate the behavior of children who won’t brush their teeth, take baths, care for their own belongings or help adults in different activities when required to do so, nor should we accept school performances below the child’s capabilities.
Passively accepting inappropriate behavior is a sign that parents do not want their children to grow up strong and become independent; they are not being prepared for the realities of adult life. It is an extremely cruel choice, as it means these children will forever depend on their parents. Many parents are overprotective, even though they realize it will hold their children back, as this is exactly what they want: they are not raising their kids to thrive in the real world, but for themselves. They act in an astonishingly selfish manner, masked as tolerance and generosity. These parents tell their children they love them unconditionally, which means the kids don’t need to behave within acceptable limits to be loved – they are loved just for being their offspring.
This kind of unconditional love completely undermines parents’ authority. After all, what children fear most is losing the affection of the people who matter to them; but if they’ll be loved no matter what they do, why shouldn’t they drop out of school, steal from their neighbor and do drugs that promise easy delights? I believe the inherent cruelty of the concept of a parent’s unconditional love for their child resides in the fact that it will not be experienced out in the real world. When these children grow up, they will only be loved by their significant others, friends, acquaintances and colleagues as long as they don’t behave disrespectfully or offensively.
When young people raised to believe in unconditional love realize their inappropriate behavior is pushing people away, they’ll certainly be strong enough to get bitter and angry at their parents, who lied to them by promising a fantasy world.
It’s possible for parents – especially mothers – to love their children unconditionally when they are little, but as the years go by, love will be not only a natural human response; it will depend on admiration, and those who are not worthy of admiration won’t be loved by their parents, nor anyone else.
Tradução: Amanda Morris