Tom’s World — Tom Westfall
Although I typically eschew television pop culture, it was with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation that I tuned in to the premier of the new Roseanne show. There were some amusing moments and it was good to see Hollywood featuring a segment of society that is often overlooked.
Subsequent to viewing the seasons premier, Ive watched a couple of additional shows. In a recent episode, Roseannes teenage granddaughter (she and her mother and brother live with Roseanne and her husband) was the focus of much of the show. The granddaughter is portrayed as having been raised in very permissive environment. She is essentially a spoiled brat and she and Roseanne were at odds over her misuse of the washer and dryer. The granddaughter was buying used clothes and selling them online and was essentially hogging the washer and dryer day and night.
Roseanne asked her granddaughter on several occasions to be more considerate and to let others use the equipment. The granddaughter refused and became verbally abusive with Roseanne. The granddaughters behavior was completely inappropriate and she certainly needed a significant consequence.
Heres where it got strange, however. Rather than establishing appropriate boundaries and enforcing logical consequences for poor behavior, Roseanne grabbed her granddaughter and wrestled her to the sink where she held her head down in the sink and using the hose, essentially hosed down the child, using physical coercion to keep her from freeing herself. She finally let the child go, sputtering and soaking wet.
My concern in watching this unfold was that the subtle message being portrayed is that when children are raised in permissive environments, the only way to teach them proper respect is through abusive and humiliating punishment.
Unfortunately, authoritarian and permissive parenting styles are just opposite sides of the same coin neither is an appropriate way to raise children. Authoritarian parenting tends to create children who are angry and lash out at others. They are often very black and white in their thinking and they may lack empathy for others. When authority is associated with violence, humiliation and abuse, children often learn to be abusive to others as they get older.
Some parents who were raised in very authoritarian homes remember the emotional scars that this type of parenting wrought upon them and so they do just the opposite they become permissive, allowing children to essentially raise themselves with little regard for those around them. Permissive parenting doesnt provide children proper boundaries and Roseannes granddaughter manifested this lack of boundaries by calling her grandmother a witch when her grandmother attempted to enforce a family courtesy.
One of the recurrent themes that I hear from many parents today is that you cant discipline your children or youll get in trouble. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course you cant abuse your children or engage in unreasonable corporal discipline but children desperately need discipline that focuses on establishing appropriate boundaries, enforcing consequences for poor behavior and reinforcing positive behavior through attention and affirmation.
Think for a moment about a highway patrol officer and imagine him/her as a parent. You (the child) are speeding down the road (disobeying the rules of the household.) The officer pulls you over. He doesnt yank you out of the car and hit you. He doesnt yell at you and belittle you. Mostly he is quite calm. He explains your violation and then gives you choices about how you want to handle the consequence (you can send in your money for the ticket within 10 days or you can choose to contest it in court). His manner is professional because he is merely enforcing the consequences of your poor choices. Interestingly as he is finishing up his business and you are preparing to drive away, he often offers kind words which may include Drive safely and have a nice day! (Voice of experience here!)
I suspect that many people watching the Roseanne show cheered when she stood up to her snot-nosed granddaughter and physically manhandled her. They shouldnt have. Roseannes behavior was abusive and humiliating. What children need is strong caregivers who set reasonable limits, expect their children to comply, praise when they do, and provide a wonderful learning opportunity for them (a logical negative consequence) when they dont.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. There are children in every corner of the land living in fear for their emotional and physical safety. There are many children whose parents laissez-faire attitude towards parenting creates a situation where these children dont learn appropriate limits and they struggle when confronted with the reality that you cant just do whatever you want to do in life. Children deserve better. Every child deserves parents who set effective limits for their children while providing them the emotional and behavioral scaffolding necessary for their intellectual and emotional growth.
Westfall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now living near Sterling down by the river, he was a long-time Yuma County resident, including a long stint as the head of the Yuma County Department of Human Services.