Friday, May 26, 2006

Good Habits are Hard to Break

One of my friends was told by her family that she was “inflicting” her values onto her children by raising them as vegetarian. Which brings up an interesting question: Isn’t all parenting really just about inflicting your values onto your children?

I mean, isn’t that the fun part? You get to tell little people what’s right and wrong and pray to god that they follow a little bit of what you said when you’re not around. Or pray to god that they follow a little bit of what you said without your standing there asking them to do it 18 million times. Or pray to god that they follow a little bit of what you said without your having to resort to begging and tears.

It seems to me that parenting is all about creating human beings who will make the world a better place – and that’s all about inflicting values, people.

So I began to look at some of Zane’s most recent interesting habits and share with you the values that I think they express.

Habit 1: Zane burps and says, Good Burp. After some prodding, he will say, Good Burp. Excuse Me.

This comes from the fact that when Zane was just a wee one, we – being parents of only one child who’s every coo, gurgle, or burp was adored – would say, Good Burp, Zaney. Let’s do it again. Now we insist that he say, Excuse Me, but we just can’t extinguish the Good Burp comment first. I figure if I get the Excuse Me in there, I’m not going to push it.

Value: It’s important to have good manners – after some self-congratulation.

Habit 2: Zane blows raspberries against the window and then wipes the spit off the window with his socks, shirt, or whatever other cloth object is available. He usually says, Zaney Cleaning. Mama Cleaning. after that.

This one seems to come directly from my over-the-top cleaning of our house right now. As you may recall, our house is on the market, and I’m a little obsessive about making sure that it shows well. This includes various and assorted odd tasks to be completed every time we leave the house.

Value: You must clean up the messes you make in life. Although most likely, your mom will come behind you with Windex to really clean up your mess.

Habit 3: This habit is best exemplified by a recent conversation that I had with Zane.

Me: I love you, Zane.

Zane: I love you, Mama.

(Pause while Zane looks at me expectantly).

Zane: How are you doing, Mama?

Me: I’m good, Zane. How are you?

Zane: I’m all right.

(This time the pause is accompanied by an I’ve-almost-got-her grin).

How this conversation ends is not really important.

Value: You must appreciate your family and consider their well-being at all times – especially if you are about to ask them for something.

So, I figure I’m about 50-50 in this inflicting values game of parenting. The value itself is good, but Zane’s self-interest is the motivation behind his following the value.

Before you child development experts go crazy out there, I am aware of Kohlberg’s Stages, and I know that Zane’s not at the age where his moral judgment should be governed by anything other than self-interest.

But it’s still kind of funny how transparent he is. No subtlety to that kid at all.

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