If I had to select a word that best describes the majority of American parents that word would be guilt-ridden. Itís often sad to see parents becoming the willing victims of the ďgive-me-gameĒ only to discover that, no matter what they do, itís not enough. Finally they are despised for the lack of firmness and blamed when their children get into trouble. With this in mind Iíll try to answer the question: ďWhat do parents owe their children?Ē, but Iíll start with what they donít owe them.
Parents donít owe their children every minute of their day and every ounce of their energy. They donít owe them round-the-clock car service, singing lessons, tennis lessons, expensive bicycles, a motorcycle or a car when they reach sixteen, or a trip to Europe when they graduate.
I take the firm position that parents donít owe their children a college education. If they can afford it, fine: they can certainly send them to the best universities. But they mustnít feel guilty if they canít. If the children really want to study, theyíll find a way. There are plenty of loans and scholarships for the bright and eager who canít afford to pay.
After children marry, their parents donít owe to buy a house for them or give money for the furniture. They donít have an obligation to baby-sit or take their grandchildren in their home when the parents are on vacation. If they want to do it, it must be considered as a favor, not an obligation.
In my opinion parents donít owe their children an inheritance, no matter how much money they have. One of the surest ways to produce a loafer is to let children know that their future is assured.
Do parents owe their children anything? Yes, they owe them a great deal.
One of their chief obligations is to give their children a sense of personal worth, because self-esteem is the basis of a good mental health. A youngster who is constantly made to feel stupid, constantly compared to brighter brothers, sisters or cousins, will become so unsure, so afraid of failing, that he ( or she ) wonít try at all. Of course, they should be corrected when they do wrong- this is the way children learn. But the criticism should be balanced with praises, preferably with a smile and a kiss. No child is ever too old to be hugged.
Parents owe their children firm guidance and consistent discipline. Itís frightening for a youngster to feel that he is in charge of himself; itís like being in a car without brakes.
Parents owe their children some religious training. The fact so many strange cults are enjoying such success is proof that children feel the need for something spiritual in their life.
Parents owe their children a comfortable feeling about their body, and enough information about sex to balance the misinformation that they will certainly get from their friends.
Parents owe their children privacy and respect for their personal belongings. This means not borrowing things without permission, not reading diaries and mail, not looking through purses, pockets and drawers. If a mother feels that she must read her daughterís diary to know what is going on, the communication between them must be pretty bad.
Parents owe their children a set of solid values around which to build their lives. This means teaching them to respect the rights and opinions of others; it means being respectful to elders, to teachers and to the law. The best way to teach such values is by example. A child who is lied to will lie. A child who sees his parents steal tools from the factory or towels from a hotel will thing that itís all right steal.
No child asks to be born. If you bring a life into the world, you owe the child something. And if you give him his due, heíll have something of value to pass along to your grandchildren.
1) Do you agree with Ann Landerís opinion? Do you disagree with anything she says?
2) Do you think that children prefer firm parents or parents who let them do
what they want? What can you say about your parents?
3)Are teenagers really frightened when they feel that they are in charge of
4)Do you agree that boys like girls should know how to clean house, cook, sew
buttons, wash their clothes and so on?
5)Do parents have the right to know where their children are, with whom, and
when they will be home? Do parents have the right to forbid their children to
communicate with some of their friends they donít like?
6)Which is best: to be the oldest child in a family, the youngest child or in between?