There are two terrifying ideas that have risen out of the latest school shooting.
The first, that women are somehow responsible for the feels of a guy who’s rejected, has been roundly refuted (though oddly, not by the personal-responsibility-is-paramount political right), so I’m going to talk about the second: That it’s all the parent’s fault.
Specifically, the variant of it that looks like this tweet being passed around on social media. (This is the specific, world-viewable thread I’ll be referring to.)
It’s pretty damn obvious that this guy is being literal – his mom actually threw a lamp at his head.
Pretty quickly, two things happened. A few people – including myself – jumped in to point out that encouraging physical abuse as a supposed solution to gun violence was insane… and a few people (and one in particular) decided to defend the idea. (You can see bits of this thread here.)
Aside from the very, very obvious point that using violence to solve a problem teaches children that violence is the best solution to problems, even the defense of this post has a big, big problem that I do see with a lot of parents.
Aside from the (again, obvious) fact that the original tweet was not presented as hyperbole, the idea that it was is just as bad.
Because hyperbole about consequences is almost worse than not enforcing consequences at all.
My parents would routinely ground me for things I did. (I was an awful child at times, and deserved it.) I’d be grounded from TV, or from our Atari, or whatever for a week at a time.
And that would suck… until my parents either forgot or it became too big of a pain in the ass to keep me grounded. I quickly learned that being grounded for “a week” really meant only three or so days, sometimes less.
I’ve been a parent pretty much continuously for well over twenty years. And I’ve screwed up.
But I’ve also learned from my mistakes. And a big, huge, important thing I’ve learned is this: Don’t exaggerate the consequences. Not ever.
And so either that tweet – and those who praise it – are advocating child abuse or are advocating that parents teach their children that the consequences society teaches are empty threats.
An important part of discipline is demonstrating consequences to children. I do not exaggerate the consequences – good or bad – to children so that they LEARN discipline, not to ignore it.
Every time a parent exaggerates (like saying “I’ll break your arm if you touch that”) and does not follow through, a child learns that the stated consequences are NOT real (or worse, believes the parent and never believes that they are loved.
Only a monster would actually break an arm for touching something or throw a lamp at a kid for breaking curfew – and likewise, threatening those things is not only monstrous (for teaching your kids that you want to hurt them) but also teaches that consequences don’t actually happen (if you don’t do it).
Am I advocating that there not be consequences?
Quite the opposite.
We must teach children consequences.
Am I saying that praising child abuse – even if it teaches consequences – is an awful thing to do.
Damn skippy I am.
After all, it was a real banner year in the ol’ Bender household.