Sunday, January 13, 2008

Some Thoughts on Parenting

It seems to me that there are three kinds of parents. You have those who tell their children, "Don't go around thinking you're better than me." Then there are those who tell their children, "I'm working hard so that you can be better than me." And then there are those who don't seem to tell their children much of anything. I'm guessing the completely indifferent parents are rare, so I will deal instead with the first two.

We all know people who teach their children not to go around thinking that they (the children) are better than them (the parents). They may not verbalize it, but it is understood in body language, attitudes, etc. Oftentimes the local culture reinforces this attitude. You have Southerners accusing those who go off to get educated of trying to be a Yankee, you have Hispanics accusing their children of being "coconuts," etc. When groups do this to their children, we should not be surprised to find little social or educational progress within these groups.

Of course, sometimes you get someone to break out of the mold. That person may not themselves succeed, but they make it possible for their children to do so. My father is an excellent example of this. His father was one who had the attitude that you should not try to better yourself, but my father rebelled against this attitude. He only has an 8th grade education, and he has only been able to work in foundries and coal mines his entire life, but he did the best with what he had, and always encouraged my brother and me to get as much education as possible. Thus, I have a Ph.D. and my brother is working on his MFA.

It is when a child has parents who insist that they have a better life than their parents have had do you get advancement. Parents shouldn't envy their children and, thus, deprive them of a better life. Good parents want their children to do better, to have better, to be better. Thus it is a parent's obligation to find out what will actually result in this outcome, and do it. Parents need to find out how to get their children into the best schools -- or figure out how to help create good schools if there aren't any available (as there in fact are not in the U.S.). Parents need to make sure that their children are going to enter into a good and healthy society, a good and healthy economy, a good and healthy world. And that means, too, that they need to learn what will in fact help create all these things, no matter what they wish would do so.

Envy -- covetousness -- is the root of all evil. This is as true in society, economy, and the world as it is in the family.
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