The other day, one of the few liberals that is still speaking civilly with me on Twitter suggested that I write something on a David Brooks column. I dutifully warned him that it probably would not be something that he would like, and have no doubt this could very well annoy him enough to stop paying attention to me altogether.
First, I need to point out that Nick Crews – the object of that column – is now a hero of mine. It isn’t because he wasn’t a great parent, and not because he was smart enough to admit that fact. It is because he was honest to his children, and told them what they should have been told repeatedly throughout their lives. The article recounts an email he sent to his adult children after all of them had failed to rise out of decade-long patterns of failure. Crews used tough love to tell his children things they probably should have heard long ago.
“The predictable result has been a decade of deep unhappiness over the fates of our grandchildren. If it wasn’t for them, Mum and I would not be too concerned, as each of you consciously, and with eyes wide open, crashes from one cock-up to the next. It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven, and then helplessly to see these lovely little people being woefully let down by you, their parents.”
Crews has become somewhat of a hero to parents in Britain and abroad because of the letter he signed, “I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed. Dad.” As if Crews’ final commentary were a prediction instead, one of his daughters chose to release the letter to the press in hopes of gaining publicity for a book she was translating.
David Brooks, the author of the article, takes issue with Mr. Crews’ letter.
It’s foolhardy to try to persuade people to see the profound errors of their ways in the hope that mental change will lead to behavioral change. Instead, try to change superficial behavior first and hope that, if they act differently, they’ll eventually think differently. Lure people toward success with the promise of admiration instead of trying to punish failure with criticism. Positive rewards are more powerful.
Brooks and the psychological establishment are so off base with all of this “positive reinforcement” garbage, I’m starting to believe that they are doing this just to ensure job security in the future. Screw up the masses, and there will be a need for psychologists and psychiatrists forever.
I’m not saying that kids do not need positive reinforcement at all – they do need it. But, it needs to be given when the kids are actually doing something positive to deserve it. Conservatives have been complaining about the stupidity of giving trophies to kids for just showing up, and for good reason. Question the problem with making every kid think they are better than they really are? Obviously you’ve not gone to a fast food restaurant recently, or you haven’t paid attention to the folks getting your bag of grease wrong.
And then there’s the problem with this warm and fuzzy nonsense invading our schools. Remember when teachers actually got respect, because they actually disciplined children? Good luck finding that now in the “new and improved” public school system today. Telling little Johnny that it’s not right to beat the crap out of the kid sitting in front of him might hurt Johnny’s feelings, don’t you know! Today, teachers and administrators apparently wait it out for when the truly evil children do something decent, and praise them for that, instead of punishing them when they do something wrong. At least that’s how it’s done in my kid’s school. Even better, our school district freely admits that they have a problem with kids acting badly on the buses. But there’s no talk about actually doing anything to put an end to those problems!
But back to Crews – the fact that he broke down, and told his adult children the truth. It’s good that he finally said it, but he probably should have spoke up long ago. As long as parents don’t get to the point where all they are saying to their kids is negative, and as long as they do not become verbally abusive, there isn’t a problem with being honest about when kids disappoint. Bluntly, it does more harm than good to lie, and fail to tell children when they have done something wrong. The whole point of raising responsible children is to prepare them for the real world. When they are on their own, they will not be coddled by employers. If they do something wrong, there will be real consequences. And worst case, if they end up getting in real trouble by breaking the law, they will have to face the music in court. Failing to teach children that there are consequences for their actions is bad parenting. Finally, failing to teach children that there are winners and losers in this world might make them feel good for the short-term, but it will discourage excellence in the long-run. It’s a simple enough concept – if a child learns that no matter what he does, he will be praised, there is no incentive to do anything well. There is no incentive to attempt to do better than anyone else.
It’s no secret that the liberal agenda has been to level the playing field. That necessarily causes those with the greatest potential to have no real incentive to perform the best they can. It breeds mediocrity, not excellence. If the liberals want to raise their kids with blinders that make them not see where they can improve themselves, so be it. That just creates less competition for the children of conservatives.