Parenting: Protection First, Love Second
I feel so frustrated by American parenting today. When I look around me at the playground, the local Food Coop or 7th Avenue to see how other parents are raising their children, I am sickened by the total indulgence, lack of affection between parents, and general dog-wagging-the-tail...
I see you as the anti-attachment parent. You practice... detachment parenting. I agree with your belief in the importance of marital intimacy to family harmony. If children do not witness loving and sexual parents in the home, they will have no idea how to enter into healthy and loving relationships as adults. But in so many of the relationships I see, the children are the center of the family. Parents seldom go out alone or vacation alone, the sex life is nonexistent and by the time they begin to get it back they feel social pressure to have another baby – which only puts it on hold for another few years. Men look at online porn; women watch America’s Next Top Model, eat Ben & Jerry’s, and nurse chardonnays for the intimacy they’re no longer getting in their marriages.
I do not think, as you say, that “teenaged sexual activity . . . robs them of their childhood and precious innocence.” I think much depends on the age of the adolescent and the relationship. Two seventeen-year-olds in a respectful, committed relationship may be more capable of lovemaking than two drunken twentysomethings who just met at a bar. And if a teenaged girl is lucky enough to have a committed partner who cares about her pleasure, she will compare future lovers to that first, attentive one, knowing that a man who doesn’t care about her pleasure isn’t worth it. Your categorical insistence on abstinence in teenaged years is naïve, out of touch, and will only encourage children to hide their activities from their parents instead of ask advice on such matters as birth control and STD production, advice they desperately need.
The reason why parents cannot enforce discipline among their children today is three-fold. The first is physical exhaustion. Since we define success today primarily through our professional endeavors, that is where we exert out energy. There is very little of us left by the time we come home. And it is easier to give in to our kids and let them do their own thing then lay down the law. The second is guilt. So many parents do not give their children the attention they need. So they give in to them as a way of compensating for their neglect. The third is the most interesting of all. In an age where so many parents have bad marriages, they depend on their children as their principal source of affection.
Now, would you punish or alienate your only source of love?
...disagree profusely with your comments on teen sexuality. Indeed, research suggests that there is even a direct link between teen sexuality and teen depression. A study by the Heritage Foundation, in-turn based on the government-funded National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, found that about 25 percent of sexually active girls say they are depressed all, most or a lot of the time, while only 8 percent of girls who are not sexually active feel the same.
While 14 percent of girls who have had intercourse have attempted suicide, only 5 percent of sexually inactive girls have. And whereas 6 percent of sexually active boys have tried suicide, less than 1 percent of sexually inactive boys have. The report challenges the previously held notion that teens become sexually active in order to self-medicate their own depressions.
"Findings from the study show depression came after substance and sexual activity, not the other way around," says researcher Denise Dion Hallfors of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, analyzed data from a national survey of more than 13,000 teenagers in grades seven to 11.
Pretty tragic, huh, that it takes children slashing their wrists or sinking into a morbidly dark depression to awaken parents to the dangers of children engaging in activities that should be reserved exclusively for adults, and married ones at that.
Many parents mistakenly believe that the first job of a parent is to love their child, when really the primary responsibility of a parent is to protect their child from harm. You can't love that which is no longer extant. An object of love that is destroyed will forever remain unloved.
Thus, prior to loving your child, prior to teaching your child, prior to even to feeding your child, your first objective is to protect your child. Your role as guardian comes before any other. A parent who allows harm to come to his or her child is a parent who has been delinquent in the very fundamentals of child rearing.
Most parents believe that protection involves guarding children from physical harm. You lock the door at night so that your kids won't be injured by robbers. You drop them off at school so that they won't be abducted by kidnappers. You teach them how to cross the street safely so that they won't be hit by cars.
But protecting your children from external dangers is minuscule compared to the task of safeguarding them from absorbing influences that will corrupt them from the inside, and it is much easier to recover from physical scars than from their emotional equivalents.
Healthy parenting involves the dual role of nurturer, on the one hand, and protector on the other...