Saturday, April 15, 2006

Macho parents

As I was writing my previous post and now, as I reflect on it some more, I realize that there is, among the different types of parents who feel compelled to defend the Pearls, one type that particularly stands out in my mind. I'm sure you have met at least one of them:

The macho parent. The tough guy. The one who believes that they have answered a call for special parents, a stirring slogan: "We're looking for a few good men". These parents, if they are women --- and often they are --- believe that they have to be on constant alert against any sign of feminine weakness in themselves. Parenting is a manly job; being womanly just gets in the way.

OK, I might be exaggerating...if only a little...but I'm sure you recognize this type of parent. The most extreme of the bunch, the men especially, love to brag about how tough their parents were. They recount, with laughter, the whippings, being sent to bed without supper, being tied to trees, being spanked for "whatever you did that I didn't catch you doing", and more. They all claim to have been holy terrors, and to be eternally grateful for their parents who were tough enough for the job of raising them and bringing them into line.

"Yup, I needed to be spanked with that two by four. Only thing that ever could have put some sense in my head."

"One time, when I was a teenager, I stayed out too late and then I got in a big fight with my dad when I came roaring in after midnight. Finally he'd had enough of my lip, and he just hauled off and slugged me. Knocked me to the ground. Best thing he ever did. I tell you, that's what kids nowadays need."

Those of us who managed to obey our parents without being smacked around by lumber cannot help but wonder why, if this method is supposedly so effective, it didn't seem to work on the young terrorist. After all, he is full of stories of the most rebellious escapades that, supposedly, explain why this parenting method was necessary. At the same time, this person --- after just telling us how he chased his siblings around the kitchen with sharp knives, how he purposefully shot his brother with his BB gun, and how he destroyed his mother's garden by driving his car across it --- will claim with a straight face, "I think kids would be a lot nicer and more respectful today if they just got half the lickings I did."

Not all macho parents are like that. Some were raised by far more reasonable parents. But, for various reasons, these parents have come to believe that parenting requires almost a "don't smile before they are fully trained" attitude. "We are no-nonsense parents," one mother told me. It was obvious that she was also a no-humor parent.

These parents are always afraid of "where things might lead". You don't dare cuddle a baby too much or, when that baby is 16 years old, you'll never get him off your lap. If you don't wean the baby by six months at the latest, he'll still be demanding to nurse when he's in kindergarten. If you let the baby in your bed once, he will take over and you'll end up fighting to the death over who has to sleep on the bottom bunk. If you let a toddler run and giggle, he'll never stop --- and he will get kicked out of school because of all his constant running and giggling. If you let your preschooler decide what color t-shirt to wear, next he'll turn into a teenager who demands to wear all the latest fashions. If you ever let the child stay up past his bedtime, even once, the next thing you know, he'll be trying to stay up all night. If you don't spank him, hard, the first time he ever shoots you a disrespectful look, he'll never again obey you. If you let him ride his tricycle as fast as he wants on the driveway, he'll grow up to be a speed demon who crashes the family car. If you don't potty-train him soon after his first birthday, he'll end up as a teenage juvenile delinquent in diapers. If you let him splash in the bathtub, he'll turn into a destructive vandal. If you let him hold a doll, he'll turn into a homosexual child molester. If you ever stand him in the corner, instead of spanking him, he'll end up deliberately committing crimes just so he can go to jail.

These parents are always "nipping things in the bud". Because of this constant state of suspicious hyper-vigilance, they see problems where none exist. They are convinced that their newborns arrive with one purpose only: to overthrow the parents as quickly as possible. These parents, however, are not going to be conquered; they are on to the wicked newborn's nefarious schemes. The battle lines are drawn and these parents will never, ever retreat or admit defeat. They are tough parents, and they are up to the daunting task ahead of them. They see themselves as having to fulfill several roles:
  • drill sergeant
  • prison guard
  • policeman
  • private investigator
  • judge
  • special forces soldier behind enemy lines, battling terrorists and guerrillas
Once the battle is won and the child has been conquered and trained, i.e., once he is a successful adult, then maybe they can declare victory, breathe a sigh of relief, and try to be friends. But, until then, they cannot relax their guard for a moment.

[First two sentences edited for clarity]


  1. Hmmmm... This was a great read (as usual) because you are a great writer...but I think I disagree. I've only met ONE "macho parent" who has (kind-of) followed the Pearls. The rest of the people I know have been much like me, disarmed by the humor and "took what they liked, dumped what they didn't." Their homes are not macho, but very warm and loving.

    There have been only a couple people I knew who were actual 100% Pearl followers, and they didn't really fit the macho parent bill either. They rather fit a "But if I don't do it this way, I'll be missing God" bill...

    The only "macho" parent I ever met *thought* he was very macho (at least, he talked that way) but his only child was an incredibly wild boy who certainly wasn't a good model for the Pearls...nor did they use the Pearls method on him... (though they LOVED the book and liked to hand it out to other people)...I think they just liked the *idea* of being strict... :)

    So, er, not to disagree, but...


  2. Good point, Molly. I certainly am not implying that all, or even most, "Pearl parents" are also "macho parents". I have, however, met a number who are.

    I also liked your post about people who just like the "idea" of being strict. Even some of the macho parents are more talk than action.

  3. I am enjoying these posts, as well as much as I did your "kitchen wife" posts, Rebecca.

    All the brouhaha over the Pearls and the Ezzos reinforce with me once agan the danger of latching on to any parenting guru. We need to search the scriptures diligently and pray and follow God's leading with our discpline. I also think the day when women supported other woman has faded,and many mothers feel so alone in their struggles that they need people like the Pearls or the Ezzos or the Tripps, or whoever.

    Good post, Rebecca.

  4. Parenting is so complex.

    I think sometimes it is best to be tough, nip it in the bud.

    Sometimes it's best to be take it easy, have some humor, don't expect too much.

    How to know when to do what?

    Maybe use the law, "Do unto other what you would have done unto you." Would you want your parent to have disciplined you or ignored or used humor or a lecture or? Then apply.

  5. "Not everyone who disagrees with the Pearls is a nonspanking parent or a permissive parent or someone who wants to shirk their parental duties. I've said this before; however, it is a difficult concept for many people to comprehend. Not everyone who spanks believes in adults hitting children with plastic toys, or in adults pushing toddlers into ponds, or..."

    Thank you for again emphasizing that point.