Letters: 'Increasingly, children are in charge of their parents'

Maclean's readers write in

(David Malan/Getty Images)

(David Malan/Getty Images)

Who’s the adult here?

I’ve been in the child care field for 18 years now and, yes, there is what you call, “The collapse of parenting” (Society, Jan. 18). Increasingly, children are in charge of their parents. Every year I see more and more aggressive behaviour by children toward their parents. Parents need to understand that sometimes the right choice may not be the favourite choice, but that’s okay.

— Michael Brookhart, Victoria

I have been a high school principal for 22 years. Recently I have witnessed an alarming trend I call the ABCs of parenting: abdicate, blame and capitulate. Many parents choose to shift responsibility for child-rearing to teachers, social workers, psychologists and, tragically, even prison wardens. Parents require their children to make adult decisions and choices that require executive functioning, abilities that are only totally developed as an adult. This kind of abandonment permits parents to blame others for their child’s bad behaviour. Many parents capitulate because it is easier to surrender than it is to fight. By modelling this behaviour, parents teach their children to give up when things get tough and to deny responsibility for their actions. Good parenting includes defining and enforcing boundaries; ones that are tight enough to prevent children from hurting themselves yet loose enough to encourage exploration and growth. Ultimately what children crave most is their parents’ attention, the safe structure of their families and the assurance that they are loved.

— James Watts, Montreal

In the last 10 years of my teaching career, “self-esteem” was the be-all and the end-all. So many of my parents would challenge me with, “What about my child’s self-esteem?” I would want to say, “What about it? Millions of children around the world are dodging bombs and bullets and we’re worried about your nine-year-old’s self-esteem?” So many times when I met with parents and their children, I wondered, who’s the adult here? So many times I had to jump in and admonish the child with, “Don’t you talk to your parents that way!”—but only after marvelling at how much disrespect and verbal (and physical) abuse an adult would take from a child. Many parents were upset with me—because, after all, their child was just learning how to express himself.

— Fraser Petrick, Kingston, Ont.

I was rather disappointed to see the discussion end with children in adolescence. While important, it neglects a worsening situation, largely an outcome of our failure to deal with the problem earlier: your “adult” children. Children in control as adolescents are only getting started. In too many cases “I need a ride” turns into “I need the car” turns into “I need money” turns into “I need more money” turns into “I’ll be dropping the kids off early tomorrow” turns into “we sold your home.” Nip it in the bud, I say. If you missed the bud, you’ll need a bigger saw.

— Bob Lucier, Harrietsville, Ont.

I wonder if this decline in deference isn’t some societal failure of parental will, but just a demographically induced shift. In Canada, the average number of children per family decreased from 2.7 in 1961 to 1.9 in 2011. With smaller families, children don’t need to compete with a passel of siblings for parental attention, love and resources.

— Laura Lind, Toronto

I have often wondered if parents are looking for their kids’ approval as a way of fortifying their own self-respect. This reminds me of the advice I got while at teachers’ college preparing for teaching high school almost 50 years ago: “Remember, you’re not trying to be their best friend; you’re aiming to be their best teacher.” Parents need to feel better about themselves instead of relying on their children’s approval to do that for them.

— Norm Esdon, Glenburnie, Ont.

I’m an orthodontist who sees lots of kids and parents during those difficult years of preteen through late adolescence. I have two grown children of my own. Being a kid and being a parent have never been easy. But in my practice I see more healthy relationships between parents and kids than in the past. I see more respectful behaviour. I see kids and parents navigating the challenges of living in a world more complex than the one I grew up in. I see lots of love, respect and genuine caring. I see things getting better and not worse. By all means, read the books mentioned in this article, even the ones preaching doom and gloom and fear. But take them with a grain of salt. Love, respect and peace go a very long way. They always have and they always will.

— John W. Campbell, Winnipeg

Small-town murder scene

I was disappointed in the lightweight approach taken in the article, “The saga of Saint John” (National, Jan. 11), concerning the outcome of the Dennis Oland murder trial. The author seems to look at the case through the eyes of the voyeuristic women, the tricoteuses, who sat knitting while heads rolled off the guillotine during the French Revolution. It would not take much research to know that Richard Oland had only one brother, not two, and his name is Derek, not Patrick nor Andrew as reported. Derek Oland has four sons—two of whom, Patrick and Andrew, work for the brewery. The author did get one thing right. This case is a tragedy. A man is in prison that should not be.

— Bill Rankin, Saint John, N.B.

What’s in a word?

Your editorial of Jan. 11 makes reference to “physician-assisted suicide.” Many people and media choose to use the more thoughtful “physician-assisted dying” or “doctor-assisted death.” Physician-assisted dying is a difficult concept for many but is a long overdue personal right and is clearly something very different from what we view as traditional “suicide.” Using “assisted suicide” rather than an alternative is insensitive and a disservice to this opportunity, one that politicians have been unwilling to support but thankfully the Supreme Court has provided, to bring relief in the future to our friends and loved ones who otherwise would in their final days suffer intolerably.

— Bob King, Ancaster, Ont.

Winter warriors

Your Jan. 11 cover called us “A nation of winter wusses.” Who are you to insult all Canadians? Have you ever lived in a basement suite without power because of snowfall and the inability of hydro workers to immediately restore power? I have. Do you work in an unheated workplace in the middle of winter? Your headline is insulting. Use your brain before publishing your next issue of the rag with the Maple Leaf masquerading as an apostrophe.

— Patrick Longworth, Okanagan Falls, B.C.

Right on. Growing up in Winnipeg during the 1940s and ’50s, I can’t recall a single school closure day. After weeks of minus Fahrenheit temperatures, when it got to zero (-18° C), we figured spring was on the way. At 32° F (0° C), it became almost balmy and the long underwear came off. Celsius and wind chill changed all that. Now when it reaches 0° C, people start complaining about the cold. We didn’t start complaining until we spit and it froze before it hit the ground!

— Robert P. Brown, Head of Jeddore, N.S.

Parents do not send their children to the bus stop if it is snowing or cold outside; they drive them to school. School boards in Nova Scotia seem to close schools at the drop of a hat. Personally, there is nothing more invigorating than adding another log on the fire and having a cup of java after a vigorous cross-country ski. I may feel differently about this when I am 80, however!

— Jeff Brisbois, Port Williams, N.S.

It’s just a click away

Paul Wells dismisses the brand-new House of Commons e-petition system ( too early, and too lightly, when he characterizes the response to petition e-48 as “maybe not a groundswell” (“How to let the people decide,” Jan. 11). House of Commons e-petitions have only been in existence since Dec. 4, 2015, and petition e-48, which calls for a referendum on any electoral reform proposal, was only the fourth e-petition made available for signature, on Dec. 11. As of Jan. 14, petition e-48 has gained more than 9,600 signatures in the one month it has been active, making e-48 the second-largest e-petition in the system, by a wide margin over the third slot. Canadians haven’t yet developed a culture of directly petitioning Parliament online, and wide public awareness of the new system, outside of niche interest groups, will take time.

— Scott Reid, MP, Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston, Official Opposition Critic for Democratic Institutions, Perth, Ont.

Life after vegetative states

At last, the medical community is believing what many parents have believed for decades about so-called “vegetative states” (“Altered states,” Society, Jan. 11). Thirty-five years ago, my son, then 5, sustained a traumatic brain injury as the result of a motor vehicle accident. The doctors held out no hope for recovery. During the 10 days my son was in the intensive care unit, I was convinced that he was aware of my presence. His heartbeat and pulse would stabilize when I was with him and would increase exponentially when I would leave. My son regained consciousness after a month in a coma. His motor function had been wiped out; he had to learn to sit, crawl, stand and walk again. But he could repeat from memory, verbatim, the storybooks I used to read to him while he was in the coma. He had to work enormously hard at regaining the skills he had lost. He went on to get a university degree and lives a good life with a wife and a job.

— Ayesha Baig, Saskatoon, Sask.

Stick that in your pipes

Back in churchgoing times, the pipe organ was the king of instruments (“The last organ tuner,” Music, Jan. 18). Having a well-tuned instrument and a well-trained and musical player was like having a symphony orchestra to lead in the liturgy and hymn singing, to accompany soloists and choirs, and to provide special concerts either alone or with other instruments. Modern congregations favour different music and different instrumental sounds. For those of us who love the incomparable variety of organ music and enjoy singing with others to the glory of God, the organ will be missed. No other instrument can match it for supporting group singing. I fear time has caught up with the “king” and he has been deposed by the thin plucking sound of guitars and the beat of drums.

— J. Allan McIntosh, Westmount, N.S.

Good point

Anybody who’s not a diehard Liberal knew that the campaign goal of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by the end of 2015 was physically impossible (“Broken promises,” Bad News, Jan. 18). The plan has been shown to have been a complete sham, especially considering that many of those who have been resettled over the past few weeks had already been cleared by the previous government. All with no avowal whatsoever by the Liberals. No matter what campaign pledges of gentility were made by Justin Trudeau, this farce shows how this government is already as hypocritical and sanctimonious as any other.

— Perry Medicoff, Ottawa

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