Thursday, March 21, 2013

Carrot? Stick?

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook:

Here's the deal. The woman who posted this is really a Good Person. Kind, caring, great mom...she was instrumental in the foundation of Occupy Portland. Has an immense sense of social justice. Very serious about Doing the Right Thing.


This little motivational card typifies everything about my friends on the Left who are a certain type of lefty that drives me absolutely crazy.

It's all the kindness, all the love that it prescribes as the cardinal (or even the only) method of child-rearing; "...if we choose to be there as a guide, as a compassionate presence that can motivate from a place of genuine interest with patience and understanding so that ultimately our children will WANT to do things."


Now in case you're already reaching for the phone to dime me off to CSD, look; I don't believe that kids - any kids, my kids, yours, whosever - should be raised through force and fear. I agree that "tricks and threats" are not a good idea; I didn't like them as a kid and I don't like them now, either as an adult or a parent.

But I do think that there is more to parenting...hell, there's more to LIFE...than "genuine interest...patience and understanding."

The bottom line is that there are some things that nobody wants to do. Nobody "wants" to go to the dentist. Nobody "wants" to pay taxes. Nobody "wants" a colonoscopy, to break up with their lover, to clean up human waste, to go forward through mortar fire, to work long hours in bad conditions. No amount of interest, patience, understanding, love, money, incredibly great mind-altering monkey sex...will make any of that shit more likeable and want-able.

But that stuff still has to get done.

Some of the most important lessons I've ever learned in life involved discovering the ability to persist through truly rotten times and places and finish whatever task I had to complete. That required a certain degree of internal toughness that wasn't inherited or inspired from within; it was instilled, and often through the teaching of people who were anything but compassionate and gentle.

So, yes, as parents (or peers, or leaders, or mentors, or followers) we should be patient, compassionate, understanding, and interested. That's an important part of teaching and learning; the saying "If you don't care about them they won't care about you." is true as hell. The only thing a savage who "leads" through fear earns is a cooked-off grenade through the door of his hootch as soon as his victims work up the nerve.

But...I think there has to be some steel there, too. I believe there has to be a place for a simple declarative statement; "You need to get this done. Now." Because...well, because sometimes it does have to get done now. And not in your time, or in your way, but at some time and in some way that you may not "want" because if you don't then other people - and, possibly, you - will lack for something or suffer ill consequences.

I always get the sense that this kinder-gentler thinking has permeated the Occupy movement and much of the Left in general. It's the need for consensus, the unwillingness to be rude, judgmental, abrupt, and unpleasant. Sure, we do our name-calling, but to what effect? How does marching in the street calling some bloated bankster a "vampire squid" affect said bloated plutocrat up there in his paneled office? How does that reinstate Glass-Steagall? How does that kill the sunofabitch's "carried interest" deduction?

Where's the lefties who "want" to do the had graft of twisting legislators' arms, drumming for donations, running campaigns, winning votes and defenestrating these rotten plutocratic bastards and their bought Republican stooges?

I'm not exactly calling for the rope and the torch...but, still...I just don't see how you beat Darth Cheney with love, patience, and understanding. And I don't see how that - and ONLY that - helps give a kid the kind of persistence in the face of frustration and lack of pleasant reward to become an adult who can do unpleasant things when they need to be done.

I am being to harsh on my liberal friend? I feel like I am being so. I sort of hate the feeling of being the Mean Boy and rudely thumbing my nose at all that lovingkindness and gentility.

Yet I can't escape wondering if people like the Homestead strikers and the freedom riders of Montgomery, the Paris Communards and the students and workers on the barricades of 1848 and 1917 - the humble people who actually took on the bosses and their hard men and changed the world - might have had something a trifle more demanding in their upbringing than genuine interest, patience, and understanding.


Ael said...

My wife does a lot of volunteer work but she also organizes our household.

One day, I was going downstairs and caught a snatch of conversation between my two sons. The first son was asking how the second had gotten saddled with some small domestic chore not on their usual list of tasks. The second responded simply that he had been "voluntold" to do it. The first son nodded.

I smiled.

Pluto said...

Only two comments:

1. I completely agree with the bulk of what you had to say.

2. It is possible for people to face hardship in this environment if they learn to think of long-term benefits. It would just be hard to learn such self-discipline in such a loose and loving "no consequences for failure" environment.

Speaking more broadly than just the Lefty's, most parents set themselves up for failure by not giving their kids an adequate dose of reality before the kids have enough independence to totally screw up their lives.

This last Christmas, my oldest son came back from college with lots of stories but the most pertinent to this discussion was the one where the college kids compared how their parents messed up on Parenting 101. It was quite a tale of woe; everything revolved around three major axes. Too much love or too little, too much attention or too little, too much independence or too little.

The theory of good parenting isn't hard, but the practice sure is. My wife and I were voted by eight college kids to be the most successful. After telling that story, our son then decided to give us a run-down on our weaknesses just in case our egos inflated too much.

Syrbal/Labrys said...

I'm not that kind of liberal parent. Sure, I was a good example and worked alongside. But I also snapped out things like "Ok tht will DO, assume the position and stfu till the grown ups are done talking."

Being a parent is not just being an example and NEVER is it being just a "pal".

FDChief said...

The thing that prompted this - of all the silly things - was reading the "motivational" card post right after trying to convince my son to help with cleaning the cat's catbox.

He loves the Little Cat and he also understands that the catbox is a critical factor in her life. Literally; she has learned to (usually) make it to the catbox before she loses her shit - and I'm not speaking metaphorically here - in a way that she could no longer do with the more difficult run to the catflap and outside. So her incontinence, which up until a month ago was life-threatening (she was making such a mess in the house that I was right at the edge of killing her; yes, I'm a right bastard to value the carpet over the cat's life. Sue me.) has receded to the status of a mere nuisance.

But even knowing that, no amount of patient explanation, example, or guidance has convinced him that he should scoop up cat crap.

And I got to wondering; what if we ALL had that attitude - that if something was hard, or disgusting, or discommoded us, or was "too much trouble" that we could just blow it off? And how do you make someone "want" to clean up catshit?

Well, I thought, you can't, really. Unless, as Pluto points out, you can step back and see the long-term benefits. But I remember from childhood that a) "long-term" was next month; a year from then was an eternity. I didn't, couldn't, see the benefits from learning the times tables, and b) even if I did, it was an order of magnitude harder to force myself to do something nasty if the direct long-term benefits were someone else's. So the benefit of "having Miss Lily here to pet and cuddle" would have been given a hard run by the cost of "bending over that horrible-stinking catbox".

So, like I said, I feel like a heel being all Mister Raincloud about the gentle-friendly-loving approach...and, yet, it just keeps gigging me in the back of the head that there's got to be SOME sort of teaching that helps kids, as it helped me, tough out the times and places where the minuses outweight the pluses in order to get to the pluses down the road...

basilbeast said...

Yup, got this a lot in the teaching field. Motivational hog slop and clap-trap that all fell down on to the responsibility of the teacher.

"Your failure rate is too high, Mr. bb".

And failing an elective doesn't carry the same drama as failing a "core" subject.

Looking back, I know the world and life in general is a hard uncompromising place to be, some places way more than others.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love is hard work, and it's a hard lesson too.

Even Jesus, Love Personified, had to get Mediaeval on several asses.


basilbeast said...

And how differently we older folk experience time than the youngins!

Months are snaps of the fingers now, and years are just "where the hell did that one go!?"


Podunk Paul said...

You know, it’s kind of silly to think in terms of cultural differences, to mark this or that country on a scoreboard of attitudes. And yet there are differences. Venezuela is, for the most part, a laid back place with beautiful women, fine horses and leisurely conversations over good food. Colombia, next door, drives down hard with a Teutonic work ethic, hard men and some even harder women, and a sense that the safety catch is always “off.”

I can’t distill this into a generalization, except to say that neither attitude appears sufficient in itself. To become truly human children need to become acquainted with both, with what Freud called “the hardness of the materials” and with the pleasures that life affords.

Talyssa said...

I am not a parent, but I agree with you 100%.

I believe people with these attitudes also tend to be the same sort of parents who believe things like
"My 14 year old son son is underage but I'm going to buy him and his friends alcohol and let them get drunk in my house because they are going to do it anyway and I'd prefer them to do it with me, than go out and do it somewhere else"

I fail to understand this logic. And parents wonder why their children are going off the rails and rebelling.

I was brought up with tough love. And I'm glad. No way in hell would an excuse like the above ever fly with my parents and still to this day I have never disrespected my parents by coming home drunk or off my face. I never even drank alcohol (socially) until I was of legal age, because if I did the consequences would be severe. I mean severe!

A child needs direction, they cannot make choices. Choice is after all an illusion - a concept which much 'adults' do not even know or understand...I never understand when I see a parent asking their 3 year old how much food they want for dinner....Do they seriously think the child knows the answer to this!?!?!

A child needs to be shown right from wrong and often do not have the capacity to grasp some of these concepts through kind, caring and compassionate explanations and discussions.

Lisa said...

You are correct -- children must be taught via example AND direction and assignation. Kids are selfish and, aside from their neat "childlike-ness", they embody all of the worst behaviors of which humans are capable. I believe they crave/need authority. Otherwise, they are a sucking black hole of ego.

My mother structured a "liberal" learning environment in which I had structured choices, and was continually taught compassion -- via direct orders! Those object lessons shaped what was the best within me.

We don't emerge like lovely butterflies from pupa ... we are formed, both by watching and clear direction. Some of the worst, most lost kids I know were those raised by the "rainbow" communities of anything-goes, fight-the-system liberals. Far too many of these parents harbored vituperative towards the Other (conservatives) in an impotent show of anger, an emotion of which they claim to be divested.

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing ...