Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Liberal Parenting Causing Teenage Time Bombs

The biggest mistake we can make as parents is to want to be our children’s friends. Yes, they may like us more, their classmates may think we’re cool, (Really? Gosh, isn’t that lovely!) but the truth is that they also see us as weak. And weakness in those who ought to be powerful will always invite contempt.

Can there be a parent in the country who isn’t chilled to the marrow watching the Myerson family implode so very publicly? The sight of such ordinary middle-class people locked in the sort of internecine warfare more usually associated with The Jeremy Kyle Show is a wake-up call to every mother and father in the land.

The Myersons were plunged into a state of despair and fear when their eldest child Jake’s drug use destabilised family life, throwing out their volatile and violent son in an attempt to safeguard his two younger siblings. In her controversial new book, The Lost Child, Myerson documents the pain, shock and sadness as her domestic life fell so messily apart.

The rights and wrongs of whether Myerson should have published (she has certainly been damned for it) have become something of a side issue. What she has succeeded in doing is lifting the lid on our darkest fear, that through our own well-intentioned but wishy-washy parenting, we are creating a generation of teenage timebombs.

“I wish you weren’t my parents! I want to live with Phoebe’s parents. At least they respect her.”

As the door slams behind my furious six-year-old daughter (yes, that’s six, not 16) I am left wondering what on earth I’m supposed to do next. I have no idea. Should I run after her, rugby-tackle her on the stairs and demand she acquiesce to whatever request I had made – to hang up her coat perhaps, or tidy away her toy farm? Quite possibly, but I haven’t the energy, or, if  I’m honest, the will.

I would never have dreamed of giving cheek to my mother at any age. There was, at the heart of our relationship, a healthy degree of fear on my part, and steely resolve on hers. I knew, instinctively, that her word was final, argument useless and retribution would be swift and biblical if I was disobedient.

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