A Rant Against "I Expect Nothing of My Children that I Don't of Myself"

Soap box for the day:

In many circles and blogs, I hear the idea that we shouldn't give our children standards and expectations that we don't follow ourselves.

One blogger (who got lots of support in the comments) went so far as to say they didn't feel comfortable doing anything that they wouldn't approve their children of doing.

Oh, boy.

Okay, I get the concept, and in theory, if you stand at a great distance, squinting your eyes, it's a very nice-looking idea.

Yet I can't take people who say these things seriously, because the premise is so completely flawed.

On a very basic level, consider these examples:
  • I will not let my nine-year-old wear make-up or get her ears pierced. Does that mean that as an adult woman, I should take out my earrings and remove all make-up?
  • No way would I allow my twelve-year-old to get behind the wheel of a car. I expect her not to drive. Yet I drive. Every day. Dang. I'd better stop that.
  • When my son was six, I expected him to stay away from the hot stove. Yet that's where I made him dinner. I also used sharp knives, but no way would I let him use them. I'm such a hypocrite.
  • I also had to keep dangerous chemicals out of my children's reach, things that are perfectly acceptable (and sometimes necessary) for adults to use. Except that's a double standard. I guess I'll have to figure out another way to clear the drain.
  • Some medications that are good and useful for adults (even something as simple as aspirin) can be harmful for a child. Yet, by the "same standard" argument, I shouldn't take aspirin if I refuse to let my children take it.
And here's the one I really giggle at:

Virtually all of the people I hear insisting that they maintain the same standards as their children are married and have children.

I'm betting they live a very different standard for physical contact in their bedrooms than they expect of their children! (Or else, how else would those children be here?!)


Obviously, I have issues with the "same standard" idea. In general, I agree with it, sure. But in big, sweeping generalities. As in the sense of, "Be honest," and "Obey the law," and, "Choose media that uplifts."

It's that last one (media) I want to mention in particular. I think that various types of media can be appropriate for one person at one age and totally inappropriate at another age.

For example, I would have traumatized my children if, at the age of four, they'd heard me read Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning to them. At that age, they were still dealing with scary things like monsters under the bed; they didn't yet have the emotional and mental maturity to face real-life monsters like Hitler and the Holocaust.

But is that a book we should all avoid, just because it's not appropriate for a small child? No way. I have teenagers now, and I'd love them to read it. They're at a place where we can sit down as parent and child and discuss issues and ideas, and they are mature enough to grasp it.

I can think of dozens of similar examples of books, movies, and more, things I want to share with my children when the time is right.

And yes, I do partake of media (and other things!) that they aren't yet allowed to.

Sure, some books and movies no one should be seeing.

But some are of great worth . . . even if they aren't for small children.

Is that a double standard? Maybe by some definitions. Not by mine.

Every time I hear people go off about how they ask nothing of their child that they don't ask of themselves, I can't help but laugh. They can't possibly mean that, not if they looked at the idea in bright light.

Comments

Cheryl said…
Amen, and Amen!
Julie P said…
Ding ding! This was great.
Myrna Foster said…
I agree. And my kids are at such different ages (13, 9,4) that what is appropriate for one is not necessarily appropriate for all. It hasn't been an issue though. Not yet.
Jenny P. said…
Emotional and mental maturity is a big deal. My oldest is almost eleven and I've loved over the past year or so the growth that he's experienced so that we can have enriching conversations about things that we both enjoy - most especially literature. He's old enough now that he's read many of my favorite books. It's FUN to discuss Harry Potter with him. BUT, there are still many books that I love and feel passionate about that he simply isn't mature enough to read. Yet. This principle is clearly evident if you look at the way children are taught history in school. While first graders learn stories about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, they don't discuss the Holocaust or the read vivid accounts of Civil War era slave trade. Not because that history didn't happen, but because they lack the emotional maturity to understand it. Does that mean we should all ignore history because if it makes a 4 year old uncomfortable, then well it might make a grown up uncomfortable too? Some of my most significant growth happened because I was willing to go to a place emotionally that was uncomfortable. (A walk through the Holocaust museum, for example, or reading The Help...)

I guess, as you mentioned, it's a nice idea in theory. But in application, there are far too many exceptions to make it a standard rule. I can only think of one area of my life where I tend to say, "If the kids can't listen, then I shouldn't listen," and that's music. Perhaps because with music, it's pretty hard to deal with appropriately heavy subjects in just three minutes. What tends to be inappropriate is so because of sleaze or language. And I don't generally want to be exposed to that.

Ahem. So yes. All this to say I agree with you 100%. :)
Annette Lyon said…
For those curious, this post was inspired by a wildly popular blog by an LDS man. No, his post wasn't entirely about this issue. (I won't link to it, but I'm sure you can find it if you have a burning desire to).

But my beef was one of his main points, which said this (specifically in regards to dress and grooming):

"As a father, I am not comfortable asking my children to live up to standards that I am not willing to live up to."

Yeah, well, nice idea, but that blanket statement set off massive red flags and mental fireworks for me--obviously--and prompted this rant. :)
Jodee said…
I have argued this with a neighbor for 5 years. Thank you for putting it so simply. From a religious aspect my children are not yet ready to receive the covenants of the Temple should I not attend?
Josi said…
This can also be a problem on the other end of the spectrum--anything I do I'm comfortable with my kids doing. While the original post might have been far too conservative, there are many parents that take it in the opposite direction. They allow their kids to see all the same movies they watch, wear make-up as soon as they want to, and talk in ways and about topics that are beyond their maturity level. It would be easier if we could have these kinds of hard-line rules in regard to our parenting, but it's not realistic. We have to know our children and help them choose things that fit their ability. There might be a 14 year old girl who's okay watching certain movies and reading certain books, there might be another who isn't ready for that. As parents we get to partake of the struggle of helping them find their levels of ability and comfort, which will likely not be the same as our own.
Sounds like we have a common pet peeve. :) And fyi, kids use these nonsense kinds of arguments to their favor. Too many kids already have too much power over parents. Drives me crazy. I'd love to see more parents being adults rather than equals with their kids. Thanks for the post.
Amanda D said…
Great post! I completely agree.
Pat Coffey said…
You are spot on! Age-appropriateness is key! Grown-ups acting like grown-ups and children watching grown-ups and dialoguing with about their behavior.
Sherrie said…
So true! Well said Annette!
Sue said…
I agree with every point.

=)
DeNae / SHP said…
Of course this is a double standard. And what's wrong with that? We live with thousands of "standards" and don't bat an eye at them. If someone is living in a household where there are just TWO standards, then I feel very, very sorry for everyone in that family. And while I promise not to go on my 'adults only reading YA books' rant, this supports a portion of that complaint. Grownups are grownups, and should live grownup lives, have grownup ideas, and take grownup responsibility for their choices. Kids are kids, etc., etc.
Thumb Updown said…
Annette,
I would love to read some of your books, are they in the public libraries in Utah? Mom's Thumb is a review team and we'd love to do a review on some of your work, especially as a local Utah writer.

http://momsthumb.blogspot.com/
Perhaps the best way to look at this argument is rather than only holding kids to a standard you would hold yourself to, its better to look at more as, live how you want your kids to live. Rather than getting too caught up in whether or not its okay for your kid to drive like you mentioned in the article, just be a good role model. That's what we should all be talking about.

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