Up Close With Dr. E

Parenting power


Hello parents. Today’s column was written for you. It begins with three family stories, each used to illustrate how parenting power can be increased, so that parental authority at home can be established before your child becomes a teen. The column ends with a clear message: The contemporary culture our children live in is poisonous. The antidote is a family deeply connected by respect and a commitment by parents to raise their children to have a sharp sense of right and wrong (these stories came from my childhood).

Story #1: Mrs. E goes to market. It is Saturday morning, and my mother and her four children (ages ranging from 8-13 years old) are loading groceries into her car. Because the trunk is full, several grocery bags are placed in the back seat, next to three boys. Halfway home, the back-seat boys begin a rough-and-tumble game of push and shove. When the youngest boy — who likes TV shows about karate and judo — grips two bananas, one in each hand, and begins to use them like weapons to pound the heads of his brothers, war breaks out. A package of lamb chops is hurled directly into my sister’s face. She screams.

Without words, my mother takes command. She pulls her car over and turns off the engine. She reaches over to my sister and picks up the package of lamb chops, placing it on the console. She waits, and waits. For reasons unknown, my eyes are riveted upon the package of meat. Tension, like a rising tide, builds and builds. Inside the car, it is the silence of the lamb chops. When the tension reaches a crest, she fully extends her right arm and hand, and points to the sidewalk outside. Three boys, heads bowed in resignation, exit the car, and slowly begin their trudge home — three blocks away — on foot.

Story #2: Who drew first blood? Young boys often resort to aggressive acts, especially when a sibling violates basic property or privacy rights (I have been surprised by recent research which has proven that in today’s culture, young girls are just as physically aggressive as boys). Parents struggle when one child physically attacks or hurts another. Especially if blood flows. Here is how my mother handled this situation.

When I was 9, by brother, having discovered that his piggy bank was missing, accused me of theft. When our tempers boiled into rage, a fight broke out and I was bitten, hard and deep, on my left shoulder. Shocked and outraged, I ran to my mother: “look, he bit me, it’s all bloody”. Speaking calmly, my mother said, “if someone bit me like that, I’d bite them back”. Realizing she would not support me, I raced back to my brother to re-start the fight. Next, he runs to our mother to seek support, and she tells him, “work it out with your brother”, as she used her right arm to make a left-to-right sweeping motion, like a broom. Her broom signal was a clear message that she would not be pulled into a sibling conflict. Forced to deal with each other, my brother and I successfully worked things out.

Story #3: Runaways need warm clothes. At the age of 7, I became inflamed when my mother punished me — I had lied about completing homework — by not letting me stay overnight with my best friend. Like a volcano erupting, I spewed out mental debris such as, “You’re a horrible mother, I am going to run away and never come back!” With no reply, she left my room. Two hours later, I came downstairs and saw my heavy jacket lying next to the front door. My mom then came up to me and said, “It’s chilly out, so when you run away, take this jacket.”

Our children are like tiny, silver minnows, swimming in waters which have been poisoned by the very culture they live in. Each additional year of poisoning cause our children to become less polite, angrier, less respectful, more selfish. What to do?

My mother parented her children in a way which was powerful. She never felt guilty about her parenting, therefore, it was not diluted down like most parents are today (I believe the guilt in today’s parents comes from their knowledge that they have not spent enough time with their children). My mother also used non-verbal parenting - hand signals - to raise us. This prevented us from arguing about her parenting. Her action-based consequences (walking home) were clear, precise, and swift. She held great faith in a child’s ability to “work it out”, be it with a sibling, or any other type of child struggle. She never confused her role as a mother, with being a friend. She was not my friend. She was much, much more and, because of her powerful parenting, I was raised with a clear conscious and healthy moral beliefs. Thank you, Mom. 

The content of this article is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for treatment by a professional.


Dr. Richard Elghammer contributes his column each week to the Journal Review.


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