Saturday, January 23, 2010

Raising thugs

Something’s been bugging me lately, and I figure it’s cathartic to write it down. This is a long post, so grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine and make yourself comfortable.

When we lived in Oregon, we spent years attending a homeschool playgroup run by a woman (I’ll call her Janet) with two young sons. All the families involved with this group had young children ranging from six years old downward. We got together once a week.

Janet, who ran the playgroup, had studied child psychology in college, had once run a daycare, and wrote a weekly newspaper column on parenting. By all accounts she was an expert on raising kids. Right?

During the times we associated with this family, I had my private concerns about the way Janet’s boys were being raised. The mother was dominant, the father completely emasculated and relegated to the background. (In fact for the first several months of our acquaintance I thought Janet was divorced because no mention of the father was ever made. I found out later this was a common misconception because no one had ever heard about her husband, much less seen him.) Janet would literally forbid the father from disciplining “her” boys. He provided money, she provided the raising and education for the children.

But my concern stemmed from the utter and complete lack of discipline in these boys’ lives. An early example of this occurred one day at our playgroup when the youngest boy (who was four at the time) wanted to nurse (Janet believed in unlimited breastfeeding until the children chose to wean themselves). A bunch of us mothers were sitting around chatting while our children played when the four-year-old came up to Janet and plunged a hand down her shirt, squeezing her breast. “Nurse,” he demanded.

“Not now, dear,” Janet replied, trying to extract his hand. “I’m talking.”

“NURSE!” the boy shouted, and he wrenched her breast so hard she screamed.

“Okay, okay!” Janet settled her son on her lap and let him breastfeed.

We mothers sat around in horrified silence. Not horrified that she was breastfeeding – we had all breastfed our kids – but because Janet had actually given in to her son’s blatant and abusive demands. She let him have his way despite the violence of his approach.

It was a portent of things to come.

After a few years, people started drifting away from the group. Their children had been subject to just a little too much bullying by Janet’s boys. None of us wanted to offend her or criticize her parenting skills (though we privately loathed them) so, rather than confront her, one by one we stopped coming. My “excuse” to stop attending the playgroup was to move to Idaho.

Janet believed in involving her boys in as many extracurricular activities as possible including acting lessons, art lessons, sports, and other functions. In nearly every case, the boys were eventually asked to leave because of misbehavior.

Let’s take the art lessons for example. I know about these incidents because my friend Linda’s daughter (who used to attend the playgroup until she got fed up with the boys’ bullying) was in the same art classes as Janet’s boys.

The boys were disruptive and destructive in class. They would actually tease and taunt a handicapped student. The mother of the handicapped boy, unable to stop the harassment, finally threatened to withdraw her four children from art class unless the teacher expelled Janet’s sons, which is what happened. Janet was annoyed because – I’m not kidding – she felt her boys were just naturally exuberant.

Since Linda lived in the same town as Janet, she would sometimes bump into this family on the street. Janet’s boys would scream – yes, scream – foul language at her daughter, right there in broad daylight on the sidewalk. This would happen, I hasten to add, in the company of Janet, who never restrained their language or behavior.

The bad behavior of Janet’s sons escalated when they got older, after we had already left for Idaho. As the years passed I sometimes wondered how they were doing. The once-a-year Christmas newsletter from Janet gave no indication of problems, of course. But then I already knew she was capable of the most amazing mental gymnastics to keep seeing her boys in a pure light.

Fast forward to last week when my friend Linda was in a store and saw two teenagers in long Columbine-style trench coats with greased-back hair and slouching posture. Linda rounded a corner just in time to hear the oldest boy tell his mother to “SHUT THE F*** UP.” Linda stopped dead in her tracks, recognizing Janet’s two kids who were now 15 and 13 and looked, in her words, skanky beyond belief.

So here is the perfect example of how to raise a couple of thugs. Linda reported that Janet looked “less arrogant” than before (she was always vocal in her opinions on how to properly raise children – after all, unlike the rest of us, she was the expert). But here my friend had caught the boys in the act of verbally abusing their mother in public. The jig was up.

I hardly know what to say. The original members of the playgroup had seen this coming for years. Most of us have stayed in touch and I’ve heard similar incidences from others. It makes me feel sad to think of the despair Janet must be feeling as she starts to reap what she sowed. I liked Janet well enough during our acquaintance, even while I didn’t approve of her parenting methods, and it saddens me to see the two proto-thugs she is launching upon society.

While brings me to the concept of modern parenting ideas. Parental techniques have changed over the years, of course, but have you ever noticed that those who live by the traditional methods – firm and loving discipline, a strong father, parental authority, etc. – produce the most stable, happy, productive children who grow into adults who parent their own children in the same way? Why are people constantly trying to reinvent the wheel when the wheel works so damn well already?

I have great faith and belief that many of the old ways of raising kids worked just fine, and we shouldn’t mess with success…especially in matters of human nature. Under ideal circumstances, I believe children do best in an intact two-parent home with firm “alpha” parents who are unified in their love and parenting style, and apply consistent and strong discipline to their kids. Children, as the saying goes, are born liberal, and it’s up to the parents to raise them “right."

Janet is raising her boys “left.” The results are two proto-thugs on the threshold of being launched into society.

Oh joy.


  1. I know several Janets. So true. Amen sister!

  2. Hi Patrice,

    Unfortunately, Janet's method of unrestrained coddling and lack of backbone are so terribly common these days. It is her liberal mental illness that blinds her into believing that no limits and boundaries will somehow allow the boys to discover themselves. They can't possibly learn who they are and what their strengths are if they are restrained. After all, if it feels good, do it.

    I witnessed this the other day. My husband and I ate at a pizza parlour before our daughter's basketball game. There was a grandfather, father, mother, son and daughter. The children were amused to shriek, say"shut up," walk on the tables, pull the blinds down, hang on a super size basketball hoop, and be loud and obnoxious. The parents did nothing. They are raising rude, defiant, ill-prepared children. They are afraid to discipline because they do not like the confrontation. The response they will get from their children makes them believe that it can't be so bad to let them run amok. It is easier for them to avoid setting limits, because they fear they will "ruin" their children.

    Now, in my own family, I have in-laws with 2 teen boys who are big, vulgar, and uncouth. At Christmas, the younger and very large boy plopped himself down on my other sister-in-laws new couch, and it literally snapped in two. It sat there in the living room a giant "V" for everyone to gape at. This boy did not apologize and his family did not offer to pay for repairs (if that was even possible), or a replacement sofa. When they were little, the boys would come up behind my daughters and punch them in the back. The parents did nothing, and I had to tell the boys that this was unacceptable, and guess who gave me the dirty look? They eat all the food in your house, burp, belch, scratch and swear. They ride their 4-wheelers around the back yard and through the house ( I am serious).They learn it from home and soon they will be cut loose to spew their vulgarity upon the rest of society. Oh, and a few years ago, when the older boy had poor grades, the parents rewarded him with a rifle.

    I believe parents are afraid of their children because they don't have the intelligence to know the value of boundaries, discipline, love, limits, expectations, and chores/responsibilities. It has ruined countless lives.


  3. Interesting, but worrying story. Three lives probably ruined, four if you include the father. One wonders what kind of upbringing Janet had herself that left her so lacking in parental skills or even plain commonsense. She may even have had some kind of a personality disorder.

  4. I bet you're glad you moved to Idaho!

  5. So after spending all those years studying parenting she came to the conclusion that children shouldn't be punished???
    Do you know if there is a *specific* parenting philosophy she believes in? (I mean, is there a name for it?) I'm curious as to what convinced her that it was ok to not discipline her children (at least not properly).

  6. You had me in full agreement until the labeling started in the last couple sentences here. Are you actually equating the political spectrum of Democrats vs Republicans to Thugs vs Civil Society? Or am I just reading too much into your liberal/"right" statement?

  7. That sounds like my hippy dippy Aunt we no longer talk to. When a kid can have a whole conversation with you about nursing they should have been cut off a long time ago.

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  9. JimmyCrackedCorn, the reference to left vs. right refers to the book "Born Liberal, Raised Right" (, the premise of which is that children must be trained out of their innate selfish "ME" mentality in order to become productive and hardworking adults. If the innate "ME" selfishness is allowed to flourish, quite literally children often grow up to be liberal Democrats because they're still thinking about what things will benefit "ME." An interesting book.

    - Patrice

  10. theotherryan, I don't think that extended nursing was really the problem in this scenario. I am still nursing my nearly-two-year-old, and I would absolutely never tolerate the sort of behaviour that Patrice has described, at this age, or any other. Fortunately, because I do NOT tolerate it now, I am confident it won't be a problem in the future. The issue is one of discipline, not nursing, child-wearing, homebirthing, family bed-sharing, or other "hippy" ideas.

    On another note, I really hope all the other mothers in the play group at least attempted to point out to Janet the error of her ways. It doesn't sound as though she would have listened, but not to make the attempt at all seems, to me, just as inappropriate as Janet's complete lack of discipline. It is a sin of omission, rather commission, but wrong nonetheless.

  11. I agree the breastfeeding isn't the issue. I breastfed both my girls until they were just past two and they naturally weaned themselves. The issue was allowing her young son to terrorize her into letting him have his way.

    Rambling Housewife, over the years various other mothers did indeed gently try to take Janet to task over the lack of discipline, to no avail. She was right, and that was that. That's why we all sort of drifted away.

    - Patrice

  12. I was suspicious that was the case. Some people just don't hear. It's too bad.

  13. While I am not a parent, I have seen more than enough bad-behaving kids to know that a great many parents do not know how to dicipline their kids!!

    I can't be the only member of the MTV de-generation that is annoyed by screaming kids at the mall or in the restaurant!

  14. I think this is why it is so difficult to get people to help now in the church's nursery and toddler programs. Who wants to watch these tantrum throwing brats? It is exhausting to me to watch kids that are so completely undisciplined they think it is just fine and dandy to throw toys at other children, run them over, hit, bite, etc. They don't seem to have any sense of respect for adults, even as very young children. What's up with that???

    I have a younger brother, an older sister and an older brother and I don't ever remember being allowed to act like children act these days. I didn't have the greatest dad in the world, but boy, we all knew that a clobber over the head by him when we acted wrong hurt a lot and we didn't do what we were doing anymore--voila! lesson learned.

    My husband and I have raised our 2 girls with discipline and love in equal measures. Yes, I was occasionally criticized in public for disciplining, but as a result we have an almost 13 year old and almost 19 year old that are very polite, well adjusted, hard working and God loving. What more could I ask?

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  16. I knew a hippy/feminista back in the 70's who didn't discipline her kids. "I don't want to repress them," she said smugly.

    I saw the little brats (aged 4 and 5)with knife and fork in hand taking apart the very matresses they slept on, forking out huge gobs of the stuffing material.

    Mom just smiled and said, "They're just expressing themselves!"

    Fast forward 10 years, I see Mom in the grocery store. She looks like hell.

    "What's wrong?" I ask.

    "I don't want to go home," she said.

    "Why not?"

    "Because my kids are there."

  17. Oh. My. Gosh. Walburga, that is so damned sad...

    - Patrice

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  19. Whoa! Too many flashbacks of the fights my wife and I had when it came to disciplining our boy. I married her when her boy was already 6. The previous marriage was somewhat abusive, so she went to 'counseling' sessions on how to deal with it. I could see the difference in her as she began refusing my enacting any discipline against the boy. This built a wall of anger between us that came close to ruining our marriage.

    Everybody's heard the phrase: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". I don't know about Janet's emasculated husband but from this distance I won't be so quick to judge him. All too often I felt I had to 'go along to get along'.

    But somehow we managed to survive. I'd get my point across during rides to school, commercials on TV, or the times Mom was out on business trips.

    I'm no expert but perhaps our son seeing us argue about his behavior was good enough to get the job done. He's turned around a lot these past couple years, and is growing up even faster now that he's finishing up high school at an academy out of state. Without Mom there to cover for him, he's seeing the error of his ways and taking steps for self correction. (Thank you God!)

    Steve D.
    Anchorage, AK

  20. As a mother of multiples, I came to know many moms with whom I shared little in common other than our oversized strollers. These women, many of whom are raising their children without a biblical foundation, struggle daily with their children. These moms could hardly wait until their kids were enrolled in school, so they could "escape" from their children for 7-8 hours a day.

    These women have passed off the expectation of raising their children to coaches and teachers. Rather than embracing their husbands as the head of household, their men have been reduced to mother's helpers who are to do whatever domestic chores their wives assign them.

    I ache for these families. They are missing out on so much joy.

  21. I think our society in general is also helping to push this agenda of making thugs.I have several children with disabilities and I'll tell you I've been to one too many doctors clinics where they have told my daughter that she is a teen and she makes all the decisions and she doesn't have to listen to us.I also have stood very firm ground when they try to pull my kids to another room without me.Thankfully my children have learned to say no to this and that they want mom and dad there. My daughter was recently in the hospital and we briefly shared a room with a 16 yr old.Well two nurses came in and pulled this girls mom out of the room and proceeded to tell her the most disgusting things I was mortified,especially when we could hear the whole conversation."We'll take care of this for you.Your mom doesn't have to know." The girl was already there for Hep B.The mom like a sheep willingly walked out and then came back in and was asking if everything was okay.The girl said nothing.Is it any wonder there is such a mess in society? So many parents willingly surrender their kids to teachers,coaches,medical profession als and we as society get to pick up the pieces.

  22. Interesting about the doctor visits. I have a homeschooling friend who experienced the same thing with her daughter's doctor - he wanted her to leave the room. My friend refused, then (incredulously) listened as the doctor started telling her daughter that homeschooling is tantamount to child abuse, and was she happy at home, etc. Needless to say my friend was outraged and marched her kid out of the office, then filed a complaint.

    We're fortunate that we have a friend who is a doctor and also homeschools his kids. Guess who we take our girls to for appointments?

  23. Patrice,Yes you learn very quickly to shop around for good doctors.Thankfully my kids doctor is a Christian homeschooling dad.They also have an awesome Neurologist.Three of my kids are Epileptic.I mainly only have problems when we go to certain hospitals in the extremely liberal area of the state.I try to stay away from those as much as possible.Linn

  24. AMEN.

    I remember being taken to nice restaurants as a child - but weeks before, we would "practice" at the dinner table with all the silverware, napkins - even dressing up.

    Today, with our children and my nieces, we still go to nice restaurants - in fact, we have an upcoming family birthday dinner at the Petroleum Club in the nearest city where all children, 16 to 2, will be in attendance, seated, decked out, hair slicked back or done up and they will eat and chat quietly, sipping their Shirley Temples and chewing with their mouths closed :)

    When we leave and the waitstaff are so kind and still in shock that we didnt burn the place down and my littlest holds the door open for his Nana, I am grateful that we were the "mean" parents who actually expected our children to behave.

    I am glad to know that there are others out there the same - may my sons find your daughters and my daughter find your son :)

  25. While I do not know Janet, I know my own grandkids were headed that way - my gentle offspring didn't even want to use the word "no." By 2, the oldest was showing every sign of being a demanding bully (not just a normal, selfish 2 year old.) Now he's fast approaching 4, his mom is tired of it, and I'm hoping it's not already too late!

  26. What you were saying about doctors is true. I'm in college to become a medical assistant, and we're being taught that we are legally required to get the parent out of the room to talk to a teen (maybe younger, I need to read up again), especially about sex because "it's their decision."
    If a parent asks us what their child said, legally our hands are tied; we cannot tell them anything without violating patient confidentiality. I can understand this in cases of abuse, but in almost every other situation this is nuts.