Welcoming the first of occasional columns by Dennis Mansfield, a veteran of Idaho Republican politics. His book "Beautiful Nate" will be published next month.
America’s future is found in its children, the saying goes. We must center our lives on them. All children must be allowed to succeed. And if we truly love our children, such individualized formula will work, the saying continues. Each of us feels this to one degree or another. As parents, Americans have ensured the success of their progeny via a highly controlled environment and well executed plans.
What if we’re all wrong?
In my own case, as evangelicals my wife and I raised our oldest son, Nate, in an atmosphere of faith-based formulae. Cocooning is too strong a phrase, but not by much. And it didn’t work. In time, he became a drug addict; arrested several times, placed in jail and ultimately he went to prison. His drug of choice was oxycodone and other prescription opiates, until they ran out and then heroin became the suitable substitute.
The result for a family, steeped in formulaic fear-based living, is often that we’re surprised and shocked by the teen that emerges.
It should all work, right?
But again, what if we’re wrong? Apollo 13’s famed comment that “failure is not an option” may in fact be incorrect. Learning from failure changes all of our lives. Why would we exclude our own children from that truth?
When something jars us from our formula and the unthinkable happens – our child gets high, she crashes a car, he physically hurts people, they rob a store, he escalates his drug of choice, becoming an addict.
Or as in the case of my son Nate, he dies from his involvement in drugs.
The child-centeredness of a fear-based parenting model can create the exact opposite of what we wanted, of what we planned for. My reliance on formulae was convenient, but invalid. Rather than the joyful smile of our little 4th grader at the table we began to stare into the surly, self-focused, uncaring and arrogant face of our young adult.
You too? And at twenty, or thirty-something, many adult-sized children still demanding the keys to the family’s car.
What in the world happened? (more…)