Jewish World Review June 5, 2003 / 5 Sivan, 5763

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Good examples of bad parenting | Two female friends are leaning on my kitchen counter next to a plate of peanut butter cookies asking if I've been following this high school hazing debacle with the girls in suburban Chicago, when they explode into a rant:

"Two of the mothers have been arrested for buying booze for minors. The mothers! What were they thinking? Where were their heads?"

"Yeah," chimes in the second, "and the girls actually cut up feces at home to take with them to smear on the other girls. Where were their parents? Wouldn't parents notice something like that going on? And kicking other girls in the head! Sick! Where did they learn that?"

"And then, because the girls weren't allowed to go to their high school prom, the parents actually got together gave them a prom of their own. Can you believe it? What kind of message does that send? You did this really bad thing, so now we're going to reward you with this really good thing?" The ladies finally pause and take a breath.

Did I mention that the ladies leaning on my kitchen counter are 16-year-old twins who just finished their sophomore year of high school?

These teen-age girls possess more maturity, common sense, and parenting skills than some of the moms and dads in Northbrook, Ill. Have another cookie girls, you earned it. As a matter of fact, take the whole plate.

Now before we all go shaking our heads and clucking our tongues at that nutty bunch outside Chicago, know that this simmering sickness, this appetite for crude, ribald, bawdy behavior is lurking in every city, small town and burb throughout the country. What set Northbrook apart is that somebody captured it on video.

Whenever I hear people carrying on about "kids today," I want to tap them on the shoulder and say, "Look, if you want to understand 'kids today' maybe you should take a look at some of the 'parents today' behind them."

"Kids today" didn't get that way without some help at home. Or lack of it. Media critic Neil Postman hit the nail on the head years ago when he coined the term, the adult-child. The adult-child is the person who looks like a grown up, walks like a grown-up, talks like a grown-up, but doesn't want to act like a grown-up. The adult-child is the parent who doesn't want to act like a parent, but would much rather act like one of the kids. "Would you kids like mom to get you a keg or a case?"

I know from first-hand experience that a parent can't control a kid all the time, but there is one thing a parent can do all the time: Act like a parent. Ask questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How late? How many? A parent can draw boundaries. A parent can encourage certain behaviors, discourage other behaviors, set expectations and impose consequences with bite.

When parents opt to act more like children than parents, kids today have a slim chance of becoming adults tomorrow. A child who is raised in an environment of indulgence, pampering, coddling, and a lengthy list of excuses for bad behavior, is deprived of the opportunity to mature. Sadly, the child who is aided and abetted by parents who think drunken orgies are simply pranks or good, clean fun, will never learn how to be an adult

On the up side, like the girls in Northbrook, these children will learn at least one thing from their parents: How to hire a good attorney.

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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman