Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Philosophies on parenting, a study in contrasts
Published on January 6, 2004 By Draginol In Home & Family

When we got married my wife and I had put a great deal of thought into important issues to us long before we had gotten too serious. We didn't enter into marriage lightly. I think it is for that reason we have had such a splendid marriage over the years. We rarely bicker and have few significant arguments.

When it comes to raising children, we bring very different life experiences to it. And boy are those life experiences different. Different to the point that it creates real conflict on what the best way to raise our children are.

I was raised by my mom. A single parent. She was a firm believer in discipline. I don't mean spanking but rather instilling personal discipline. Setting boundaries but at the same time providing a fair degree of freedom. That freedom was always tied closely with responsibility. Responsibility carries with it pretty big negatives for failure. You are free to make decisions but poor judgment would have negative consequences.

My mom and I didn't get along very well when I was a teenager because of boundary battles. But I think in the end I'm a better person for it. When I became a parent I finally "got it". That more than almost any other traits, self discipline and personal responsibility of ones actions are the pathway to success. Intelligence, ambition, charisma are all very helpful traits, but they are ultimately empty without being tied to having the self discipline to do what needs to be done and taking personal responsibility for ones life. That was what my mom was trying to do, instill personal discipline and personal responsibility to provide me with the tools to succeed in "the real world".

My wife's parents, by contrast, took the opposite path. They took the path of wanting to be their daughter's "buddy" rather than being the parental figure. In my relations with them, this works out pretty nicely as I get along with them quite well. If my father-in-law was my age, he'd be someone I would hang out with if he lived near me. But setting boundaries and instilling personal discipline were not their priorities. Their focus was to try to make their kids as happy as they could be. Unconditionally supportive.  Needless to say, my wife got along a lot better with her parents than I got along with my mom. On the other hand, I would say that as much as my mom and I disagreed, there are few if any parental decisions on her part that I would be ashamed to discuss with people. The same can't be said of some of my wife's parents' decisions as parents. But which is more important? The child's short term happiness or the child acquiring self-discipline and personal responsibility?

Of course, when you have children, which path do you take? The easy answer is to say "A little of both" but in practice that's really not practical. That basically would just mean I'm the "bad guy" and my wife would be "the buddy".  So we've struggled with that but we've slowly moved to the conclusion that it is more important to raise our children in such a way that we're providing them the tools to be successful adults and the two most important tools would be self-discipline and personal responsibility.

That doesn't mean we're our child's adversaries by any means. We love our children and want to provide as much love and support and nurturing as we can. But we also want to set boundaries, give them responsibility. We want to give them the freedom to succeed as well as freedom to fail in their endeavors and learn from those experiences. I want them to experience the rewards of success but also understand the consequences of failure or of poor judgment.

Self-esteem cannot be given from without. It has to come from within. There is no substitute for success. I don't mean success in a broad sense, I mean success in a given activity whether that be success at passing a test or winning a game, or helping another person. Self esteem is about feeling good about yourself. Feeling good about yourself has to come from within -- from personal achievements great and small.  To achieve one needs to have had the freedom to succeed as well as learn from mistakes. It takes self-discipline and personal responsibility to succeed.

What we want to do is teach them skills they need to be successful in life while at the same time providing them with a loving, stable, and nurturing environment. It's a daily challenge but one all parents must face.

on Jan 07, 2004
I was a pastor in an urban church. Most of the children in the church were the sons and daughters of immigrants and refugees. Their parents were definitely not buddies with them. Instead they expected their children to do what they were told. They envied American born children whose parents were friends with their children.

I think that if you have good communication with your children and listen to them, as well as teach them responsibility and self-discipline you have the best of parenting. My husband and I didn't discipline our daughters enough--but they have done well in school and have good values. My son on the other hand who I raised by myself until he was six, had better discipline but still took a long time to learn how to succeed in life. My daughters are still in college--so I won't know how well they will do as adults.

The important thing is to agree as parents as well as teaching them responsiblity and self-discipline. I know as a single mother, discipline was so important because I didn't want him to be out of control. With two parents it was so much easier.

on Jan 07, 2004
I don't see why one can't be both. But it is interesting how much children crave clarity in boundaries. My kinder are still little, but we had a FAMILY MEETING yesterday, and they loved it. Mostly we were setting new rules for TV watching, which had gotten out of hand over the holidays. My wife & I were amazed at how the kids got into the spirit of setting rules and regulations. In fact, they kept trying to come up with ideas that were just too complicated. We ended up with no TV during the week, only on weekends, and even then not until your homework is done. And it was their idea.
on Jan 07, 2004
I agree on using both styles, however I also think that your and your wife's parenting styles are supposed to be different. The father is typically the strict disciplinarian, laying down the laws and whatnot while the mother is supposed to be the indulgent peacemaker and confidant. Its sorta like a good cop/bad cop routine, but it works. It's especially effective when you both occasionally give in to the other's decisions on inconsequential matters but when you both put your foot down and agree on certain points there is no argument and no leeway. Coming from a one parent family, raised by your mom, I can see why you were a little bitter, she had to play the role of the dad and you had no "mom figure" to balance it. Your wife's parents might have spoiled her a little, but fortunately it sounds like she turned out ok...although I'm sure she's had a couple hard lessons in life to learn certain things the hard way...
on Jan 07, 2004
As a parent of two, I have a lot of interest in this topic. I don't agree that the father should be the strict one and the mother is the peacemaker/confidant. Then you'll have the children always going to the mother when they want something. I think that the child should be able to go to either parent and get the same response. My wife and I are very careful about backing each other up in everything we say and do, even if we make a mistake. Later, we discuss the mistake and decide on a different course in the future.

We think that there are several very important guidelines when raising children. One of them is consistency. You can't say yes one day and no another. The answer has to be the same every time. That leads to another guideline which is first-time obedience. (This is more for younger children.) If a child only obeys you the third time you ask them to do something, then they've disobeyed twice and obeyed once. They're not learning to obey and respect you as parents. I don't believe that you can be a buddy with your kid and an effective parent at the same time. A buddy is a friend and chum. You can't tell a friend to take out the trash or ask a chum to go do their homework. Once your kids leave the house, then they become friends. That's how it's been with me and my parents, and I have great respect for them.
on Jan 07, 2004
As a former child (*snicker*) let me just give my two cents worth.

My parents were too concerned about being my buddy when I was younger. I still love them, they're good people, we get along great - but, while I've forgiven them, it has caused me nothing but problems later in my life - problems I'm to this day still working to overcome. How you are with your kids -will- influence and help shape who they become, and how they view/act to certain things.
on Jan 07, 2004
"What we want to do is teach them skills they need to be successful in life while at the same time providing them with a loving, stable, and nurturing environment. It's a daily challenge but one all parents must face."

I think this boils down to the more fundamental question of what constitutes being a "success" in life
on Jan 07, 2004
As a single parent to a six year old, I am constantly aware of my parenting skills and how our relationship works in regards to friendship vs. discipline. I'll be the first to admit that I do act more like a buddy to her than simply as a parent/authority figure. I spend a great deal of time with her, and have found that it is impossible for me to not be aware that we are, in fact, friends and not just mother/daughter. Having said that, it is important for us both to realize that I do have a specific role as well; to help her become a person with morals, good sense, and self-reliance. There are so many other qualities that I believe are important that she possess, but in the end, I feel that both ways of raising a child, with discipline and friendship, are equally important. It's the balance of both that is the difficult task.
on Jan 07, 2004
As the father of five, from 22 to 8 years old, I have been friend, parent,enforcer, and confidant.
Factors such as age, gender, and situation all played into what role was applied.
Oldest son was treated as a friend thru highschool, it helped with sports, girlfriends, and socialization. It did not help in areas of life skills ( as he was a family business employee as well)
and a swift fatherly kick in the arse is now required to motivate him in the adult world.
19 and 20 year old daughters spent most of their time with their mother, holidays and summer were the only exposure to dear ol' dad, so of course I was the "good guy" during those visits. Only when the oldest came to live with us before joining the Navy did we see the negatives of that treatment, she expected royal treatment and became indignant when it was not received.
Teen son is not happy that he is still treated as a "child", particularly since he wittnessed oldest son go thru the "buddie" program. We try to explain that we were wrong ( and younger ) but it is still perceived by him as unfair.
The youngest daughter is 8, with the toughest demands on her for dealing with diabetes, and the dicipline required to maintain her health, she receives the most attention. It is a mix of motherly love and fatherly enforcement. She is not old enough to be "buddied", she is still the baby.

Biggest problem of all is consistancy, and the constant reminders of your changes of treatment between children.
At least none of them are pregnant, arrested, or medicated............
on Jan 07, 2004
"we're providing them the tools to be successful adults and the two most important tools would be self-discipline and personal responsibility."

This would be how my parents raised both my borther and myself - we had the most personal freedom of any of our friends. However, we had the most responsibilities of any of our friends. We had the most chores and duties (we cooked dinner at least once a week from when I was 10 or 11 on, we did *all* the laundry and most of the dishes (not terribly hard - both were fully mechanized), I mowed the lawn almost all the time from the time I was large enough to handle the mower. In exchange, my brother and I had very little limits on our freedom of action *as long as we kept my parents informed*. I do not remember a single instance of parental fiat preventing us from doing something we wanted to do and was anywhere close to being reasonable for us to do. (Plenty of times we were denied for financial reasons - we were nowhere close to being spoiled by material goods).

Spiderman's line is "with great power comes great reponsibilities". I was raised "with rights come resposibilities" and that's how I lead my life today.
on Jan 07, 2004
I try to find a happy medium but it is hard. My parents, especially my mom, were very strict on me. We did not have a close, loving relationship. They were the "enforcers" and I did not feel like I could talk to them or go to them with problems. I was afraid of my parents and I didn't want my boys to be afraid of me but now I feel like it has gone too far the other direction, where they have very little respect. It is a struggle. The book "How to Behave so your Children Will Too" by Sal Severe is an excellent book. I also am a home daycare provider and I find it is so much easier to discipline other people's children than my own. I think they just listen better to me because I am not their parent. My kids behave much better at friends houses and at school than they do with me. I think we also have to remember that discipline means to teach not to punish. A friend told me that raising kids was liking shooting an arrow, you aim them in the right direction the best you can but once you let it go - you have no control where it lands.
on Jan 07, 2004
Every child is different and it is the responsibility of their parents to understand these subtleties and allow the child to mold itself while retaining the self dicsipline to do so. My 11 year old boy does not like school but does his homework because he knows that he needs too. He is always winning awards in school for both moral and academics. I could not ask for a better child. My 2 year old is a hellraiser, explorer and is curious as a cat. My children could not have been any different if they knowingly tried ~chuckles~. I cannot use the same boundaries on both children at the same ages because they are not the same. What would have worked on my 11 year old when he was 2 is not the same thing that would work with my present aged 2 year old.

My dad was in the Navy and he was a hard ass. I hated him the whole of my teenage years and had wished he and my mother had been more lax. My born mentality was rebellious against authority and the inability of my parents to decifer that, that helped to aggrivate my demise in those years. Once screwed something traumatic must happen in order to bring about accountability for one's actions.

It would be nice if the little ones came with a manual especially with most people incapable of feeling minute changes in the universal fabric making it a crap shoot about how your child will mature. ~chuckles~ As parents it can be hard to put aside you own vain emotions at any given time to do what is needed to nurture our children.

America is one of very few nations where children have no timeline other than the government established one of 18. Almost all cultures have rituals, cerimonies, etc. of what it means to achieve manhood/adulthood. In the 50's we even had some psuedo ritualistic expectations of manhood/adulthood. Where manhood equated having a good job, marrying a hot wife and keeping up with the guys next door. Women were to find a man who could bring security and wealth to the family. Today that mentality has created more envy, jealousy, rage and isolation than anything else.
on Jan 08, 2004
I was raised by professional alcoholics who rarely told me anything positive. Neither was my "buddy" or "parent." When I was 14 I got to watch most of my family die in a fire started by my mother's cigarette, which fell into the cushion of the chair she fell asleep on after having one too many beers. My dad survived, albeit damaged, but he immediately stopped smoking and cut his drinking by two-thirds. Then he tried to be a parent to me and my sister, whom I pulled out of a window. It was just the three of us from now on. Dad didn't really know how to be a parent; his father was known as "the Mad Russian" and dad inherited some of that attitude. When I grew up and left home, I moved 1,500 miles away, but kept in contact with my dad. He would tell me things to watch out for, or how to approach repairing anything but a car, and would support me in any way I needed. I was 23 years old with 2 small children and I found myself becoming a copy of my parents. It was my dad who told me that the only thing in life that mattered was the consequences of my actions, although he didn't use those exact words. When all the lights started coming on inside my head, I realized that to raise my children, I had to institute a policy that showed what "consequences of your actions" meant to my children. It also meant that I had to follow that same philosophy. My boys showed me that they didn't need a parent over a buddy or vice versa. What they needed was consistency, and to mean it when you say something (choose your words carefully - they are like bullets that once launched, can not be stopped or reversed), and be a person that others know they can depend on. This Christmas, they asked me what I wanted from them. I told them I wanted a report card. I wanted no-holds-barred analysis of what they thought of me as a parent. My GPA between the two was a 3.4, so I was both humbled and grateful. Now that they're 23 and 21 years old, they're seeing what I've been telling them since they were kids. Both have told me they can't wait to introduce their firstborn to me, whenever that happens. I guess that by telling me that, they approved of my methods. Maybe they just want me to spoil their children the way my Dad spoiled them when he was alive. One last measure of success as a parent is when your children can't wait to introduce you to their friends, and your adult friends enjoy their company as much as yours. Problem is, it's an equation that takes nearly two decades to solve. So, where's my philosophy in all of this? I can't tell you. I never thought of it as philosophy as much as methodology. All I know is that my children are prepared to face the world as they know it, and when they need more help, they know I'll be there until my last breath. And they'll know I love them beyond measure. I don't think I can do more for them than that.
on Jan 08, 2004
I was raised by an immigrant, my mother, who not only laid responsibility on my shoulders, but expected no less than my best effort at all times and in all situations. She didn't try to be my "buddy" until I reached my late 20s. As a result, I am a hard working, driven, person who consistenly makes every effort to live life responsibly.
My half-sister, on the other hand, was raised by my American father who did the "buddy" thing... today she's in her early 20s and is incapable of living her life without handouts from our father. She has finally joined the military after being kicked out from college, arrested for a DUI, and cavorted with all manner of unsavory individuals.

If I had children today, I'd be less concerned about being friends with them - for fear of churning out a child like my half-sister, and more concerned about being a parent - you know, someone who lives as an example to them of how they can take care of themselves in the world beyond the front door.
on Jan 09, 2004
Hey Brad,
What a wonderful way to pay tribute to your mom. The article was written extremely well, I almost cried. Every mom in the world would be proud to call you son. I raised my daughter the same way. She gave you a lifelong gift that you have proven works to make one sucessful in business and family. Sounds as though you value and treasure your family & life. Everyone wants that, some never achieve that blessing. Keep those lessons from Mom close to your heart. Jan Huber