- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 22, 2006

I tried to write a column, but I could only manage to write pieces of columns. So, I strung them together, and — voila — a column.

From the Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction Department: A teacher in the Northeast was reprimanded for telling a youngster that he shouldn’t do to others what he didn’t want others to do to him. This happened after she had stopped the child from bullying a smaller youngster.

The bully’s parents complained that the teacher was imposing her moral values on their little Most Royal Highness. Need I point out that the controversy in question involves nothing less universal than the golden rule?

The school administration, fearing litigation, caved in and disciplined the teacher. This is consistent with what teachers regularly tell me: One disciplines a child with trepidation because it well may turn out that the adult doing the disciplining ends up on the hot seat while the child needing the discipline gets off scot-free.

From the Department of Common-Sense Preservation: I often put this question to my audiences: “Is it easier to house-train a 4-month-old puppy or a 1-year-old dog?”

The answer: The former, of course. In fact, if one waits until a dog is a year old to begin house-training, the dog may not “get it” for quite some time, if ever. On the other hand, it takes several days to house-train a puppy of 3 months to 6 months of age. After that, accidents hardly ever are a concern.

Obviously, where dogs and “toilet training” are concerned, the issue revolves not around age, but habit, which strengthens with age. So it is with children, who also are easier to toilet train when they are 18 months old than when they are 2 years or 3 years old.

From the Depend on This Department: Responding to the fact that American children are being toilet trained later and later, disposable diapers come sized for 3- to 6-year-olds. Needless to say, they’re big sellers.

It occurs to me that the way things are going, it won’t be long before toilet training becomes a thing of the past. Around age 7, children simply will graduate to “big boy/girl diapers,” also known as Little Depends, which they’ll wear until they grow into adult Depends.

What a wonderful world it will be when there are no toilet jokes because there won’t be any toilets.

From the Department of Ironies Abounding: We live in the age of rights. Women, children, every ethnic minority group, the handicapped, pets, barnyard animals, wild animals … why, these days, even trees have rights.

I’m not about to deny that the concept of rights is valid, and I’m not suggesting for a moment that some of the above have no rights, but I wonder; what ever happened to obligations? I haven’t heard anyone use the term in a long time. I mean, have you ever heard of the “human obligations movement”?

I think I know how this one-sided state of affairs came to be. It stems from how children are reared. Once upon a time, children had obligations toward their families. For one, they were obligated not to embarrass their families. They were obligated to pitch in and help with the work of the family, whether it was cleaning the house or bringing in the crops. They were obligated to respect their parents.

In short, the family was where children practiced and learned obligation. Later, obligation transferred to nation, employer, spouse and one’s own growing family.

Many, if not most, of today’s children, I notice, are being reared in families where the only people who act as if they have obligations are parents. Modern parents act as if they’re obligated to buy children what they want, take them where they want to go, do their homework for them, fix bad grades, and so on.

It should surprise no one that lots of today’s children act as if their first and only allegiance is to themselves. The ideal that has held our fragile democracy together through thick and thin — the willingness to make personal sacrifice for the common good — is going quickly by the wayside.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).

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