We Spoil our Dogs and Train Our Children

A relative of mine observed at some point that here in America “we spoil our dogs and train our children.”

If one was looking for a reason why America is going through incredibly difficult times, they’d need to look no further than the very foundation of the relationship between parent and child.

I was blessed with a father who usually went against the social tides of the time especially in the ways he raised us, and a mother who followed his lead in a loving and attentive way. As such, I had a happy childhood, and, despite life not being perfect, I came into adulthood with no traumas, and a very close relationship with both my parents and my brother.

So, from a kid with no traumas or maladjustment issues (knock on wood), here are some observations I believe might be helpful.

Treating children like a full person, worthy of both respect and effort while understanding that they are also in need of guidance and teaching is a healthy way to go about parenting.


There are volumes to be said about this subject, but let me be concise on a few vital points.

  1. Children need to be seen.

They need to know that they are both important and under a constantly watchful eye. This means loving supervision, not authoritarian monitoring.

Perhaps the best analogy I heard on this was: “It’s like a horse with a drunk carriage driver. The horse will go home as long as it feels the rains pulled on from time to time because the way, which was shown to it multiple times, is familiar. And, if the reins are only pulled when the horse tries to get off track, it will head home in a calm manner as it knows that the driver is always watching.”

On the other hand, a militaristic way of treating kids, where there is little explanation and understanding but many orders, makes their existence feel like a tight leash. And, the tighter the leash, the faster and more vehement the bolt for freedom.

An approach which is too hands-off will leave them with feelings of insecurity and low self esteem.

  1. Don’t train them!

Potty training, sleep training, social skills training…so much training.

Firstly, the language used here creates a reality and relationship of “superior parent- inferior kid”.

We are here to be good stewards of the gifts which are our children, not to mold them into little annexes which fit our individual plans.

A ‘trained child’ is not free to think or be aware of how they feel. They are lost in a haze of ‘what needs to be done’ and ‘what they feel should be done’, but left with no capacity to recognize the dilemma.

Critical thinking and a peaceful heart are created by freedom within common sense boundaries, which are explained and repeated constantly so they make their way, as an inner voice, to the child’s subconscious.

  1. They are not annexes!

I have heard some interesting things in my short adult life: “They need to know I loved their mother first”, “Kids are annexes. Eventually they leave and you are left with your spouse.”, “I want my spouse back”, “If your relationship is ok the kids are ok” or the famous “If you are ok the kids are ok”.

Let’s leave aside the fact that studies show even a broken relationship (not an abusive one!) is better for children than divorce (and the fact that often one of the spouses dies first and you are in fact left with the children), how do any of these statements make sense?

From a logical perspective, such proclamations work to alienate the youngster, and hide them away in a place of isolation from the love of their parents. They also castrate the natural instincts we are born with regarding sacrifice and love.

There is no competition between the love one has for a child and their spouse! Or at least there should not be any.

First, the two are not the same type of affection. 

Second love itself is not a finite unit, nor is it distributed on a first come first serve basis.

From a Christian perspective, such comments as I listed above are beyond ridiculous. After all, the very essence of love is the diminution of the self.

Your child is both you and your spouse. Children are the spiritual and physical embodiment of the flesh made one.

But even in other cases, no matter how they came into the world, their conception happened for a reason. They are the future we are building, the world we are changing, the ones we are sending out into a time to come, of which we likely will not be a part in a physical sense. 

Upon their arrival, any other love in our life becomes a partner in our mission for their thriving.

4. Parenthood is not a job.

A job implies breaks, days off, retirement, and quitting. Again, the language matters for building psychological reality.

A job is what you do. But a parent, sibling, son or daughter is who you are.

Let’s stop getting things confused. One is a parent even beyond death. Whether one loses a child or the child loses them, they are forever known as that child’s parent. The only choice we have is whether we are good or bad parents.

The castration of good sense and healthy natural instinct needs to stop. And our relationships with our children need to change, or the betterment of society is not possible.


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