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3 Flaws in Conventional Parenting

Here is some conventional parenting advice:
Good kids don't suddenly go bad. Drug abuse, irresponsible and early sex, and teen opposition to authority are all preventable acts.
The examples chosen are telling. What, in particular, constitutes a teenager "going bad"? Drugs, sex, and disobedience. Comments on each follow:

I don't like recreational drugs. I think they are bad. But it's not the end of the world if someone smokes some pot. It's common, and arguably better than getting drunk. It's definitely not true that a child has "gone bad" if he tries some drugs. Lots of the parents reading this advice tried drugs when they were younger, and don't consider themselves to be ruined because of it.

If teens have sex, it's ridiculous to say they have gone bad. Our culture values sex very highly. Why shouldn't they want to have this thing which is held up as one of the best parts of life? Adults are the hypocrites here. They teach that sex is good, then they tell young people not to do it. Why not? Because that's slutty. Because sex is only for married people. Because young people "aren't ready". And so on. But there are no actual reasons on this list. What preparation do young people lack? What about marriage makes sex work better? Calling youthful sex "slutty", and therefore bad, is just labeling without giving a reason.

What's going on regarding sex is that our culture believes that as great as sex is, it's also sinful, unless there are special circumstances (marriage) which justify the sex. This is a horrible way to approach life which is very good at hurting people. It tells teens that sex is great, but then rebukes them if they try it. It tells people to enjoy sex, but to feel bad about having sex. It's created a culture where words like "slut" and "nympho" mean something. People are hateful towards girls who have and enjoy sex, while simultaneously being jealous.

Add to this that young people are considered most attractive, and also pressured most strongly to avoid sex, and you have a recipe for hurting children. But how do parents react? By blaming children who have sex as having "gone bad". That's so unfair. Teens are put in an impossible situation, and then somehow the whole thing is blamed on their age.

Lastly we have opposition to authority. This, we are told, is preventable. What would that mean? That teens obey without question and without independent thought. Obey who? Authorities of all types: parents, teachers, priests, government officials, even experts with PhDs.

This highlights one of the major clashes between conventional parenting and reason. Parents wanted their children to "listen" (obey), whereas reason says we should discover the truth and do that. Parents want to assume they are right, instead of finding out what is right. This is a way of entrenching error -- if they make a mistake, it won't be corrected.

Elliot Temple on December 8, 2007


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