When I was a child, back in the Parentocentric Era, your parents were the most important people in the family. They paid the bills, bought your clothes, prepared the food you ate, drove you to where you needed to be, tucked you in, and kissed you good night.
Your parents acted like they were bigger than you were, like they knew what they were doing and didn’t need your help making decisions. When they spoke to you, they didn’t bend down and ask for your cooperation. They spoke in no uncertain terms, and they thought you were smart, so they only said anything once. The rule was very simple: They told you what to do, and you did it, because they said so.
Your mom and dad paid more attention to one another than they paid to you. It was just the way it was. But looking back, you sure are glad you weren’t the center of the family universe. You were a satellite, orbiting around their solid presence. They even told you, on occasion, that you were just a little fish in a big pond. You didn’t understand what that meant until you got out in the big pond and began to realize that putting oneself into proper perspective greatly improves one’s life.
They bought you very little, so you appreciated everything you had. You loved your mom and dad, but you left home as early as possible because you were absolutely certain you could make a better life for yourself.
Elementary school classes often held more than 40 children, most of whom came to first grade not knowing their ABCs. Your mother didn’t give you much, if any, help with your homework. Yet at the end of first grade those kids were outperforming today’s kids in every subject.
Today’s parents still pay the bills, buy the clothes, prepare the food, and so on, but by some strange twist, they treat their children as if they are the most important people in the family. When they talk to their children, they get down to their level, like they’re petitioning the king. The rule seems very simple: Parents ask children to do things, and children take their requests under consideration.
Today’s typical mom and dad pay a lot more attention to the children than they do to one another. They also talk more to them, do more for them, and take more interest in them. It would seem that today’s parents are the satellites, orbiting around the children, who are big fish and getting bigger all the time. And so, today’s kids leave home later, and many of them come back home, because they never learned certain fundamentals, as in don’t spend more than you earn.
Sometimes people accuse me of what’s called “Golden Age” thinking. I “idealize” the 1950s, they say. I disagree. I only say what is statistically verifiable: The 1950s was a better time for kids. According to mental health statistics, we were happier than today’s kids, by far. The latest research finds that obedient children are much happier than disobedient children, and that kids from homes where their parents’ marriages are strong do better in school, regardless of IQ. There I go again — idealizing common sense.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions at www.rosemond.com.