- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 14, 2009

The first question of the week is “Why should children be served what everyone else in the family is served at dinnertime?”

This question never would have occurred to my parents (or any of their peers or ancestors), but the parenting worm has turned mightily since the 1950s, the last decade during which parents were completely comfortable with their authority. The present generation of parents is confused and uncomfortable, which is why they allow their children to make decisions that make no sense.

The answer to the question is “Because the operative condition is family. A family is a group of people who share resources. In a family, no one is more special, more deserving, than anyone else. It follows that when a family sits down to dinner (an increasingly rare event), everyone in said family should partake of the same meal. Excepting verifiable medical grounds, no one should be allowed to occupy exceptional status.”

Someone in reader land protests that she fixes Little Johnny a boiled hot dog and precisely browned tater tots when the rest of the family is eating roast beef, mashed potatoes and broccoli because the latter trio triggers LJ’s regurgitative reflex.

Then put a plastic bucket next to LJ’s chair and instruct him to aim his reflex in that direction. If he misses, make him clean it up. When he is finished, instruct him to occupy his chair and try again. If he refuses to eat, excuse him from the table and cover his plate. When he later complains of hunger, microwave his plate and set it in front of him, plastic bucket to the side. LJ will survive this ordeal — it may take several weeks from start to finish — with significantly lower self-esteem and a significantly more liberal palate, meaning he will be a much happier child.

The second question of the week is “Why should a child not share his parents’ bed?”

Like the first, this question never would have occurred to parents of 50-plus years ago. They would have known that whereas “family” applies to a meal, it does not apply to a bed. This is common sense, but then common sense in child rearing is anything but common these days.

In this case, the issue is boundaries. Parenting is a form of leadership, and in any leadership environment, there must be a boundary between those who lead and those who are led. This boundary distinguishes and generates respect for the leaders. The so-called “family bed” eradicates this boundary, creating a condition wherein children are de facto members of the wedding.

The marital bed is Boundary Number One. In its absence, parents will pay the devil trying to establish and enforce any other boundary. Since discipline is mostly about boundaries, this means they will pay the devil when it comes to discipline (about which they will be in a self-protective state of denial). Their children are doomed, therefore, to disorders of opposition and attention (which everyone but them will notice).

So, a reader asks, “How do we get our children out of our bed?”

Easy. You tell them, today, that Dr. Van Meanie has said tonight is the last night the children can sleep with you. “So,” you say, “let’s have as much fun as we can! How about a pillow fight!” And then, tomorrow night, remind them of the good doctor’s orders, tuck them in their own beds, kiss them goodnight, tell them it’s fine with you if they feel the need to scream and cry for a while, lock your door, and take a second honeymoon.

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

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