Severe lack of judgement or sign of the times?

Toula Foscolos
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LaSalle incident is example of permissive parenting

The thing that probably shocked me the most about the incident in which a LaSalle high school teacher let his students watch the video of the alleged murder and dismemberment of Jun Lin, was the explanation given. “Students took a vote and decided they wanted to watch it, so I complied.”

Toula Foscolos

Am I the only one who did a double-take at that? At what exact moment did we decide that the tail would now wag the dog? And while I’m fully aware that I sound like a crabby septuagenarian hiking up their pants and angrily yelling at the kids to get off my lawn, I can’t help but notice a serious sense of confusion among parents (and often teachers, who have to deal with “helicopter” parents constantly hovering over their kids) over where exactly we now draw the line. How does one raise responsible, accountable, well-adjusted children and still relay the message that not everything is permissible, that boundaries still exist?

Aside from displaying a severe lack of judgement, this teacher (in what was probably a misguided attempt to be the cool substitute dude) allowed minors to make a very adult decision and to override his initial doubts. While I find it unfortunate that this mistake may affect this man’s career, it came as no surprise to me when he was suspended.

The very same day this was on my mind, I was involved in a five-way back-and-forth e-mail conversation with friends, frantically trying to figure out conflicting nap times for their kids, so we could make brunch plans. I don’t have kids, so I won’t pretend that I know what I’m talking about, but I was once a kid, and I distinctly remember my parents not giving much thought to my nap times or planning their social lives around my need for one. To this day, I have fond memories of dozing off in the next room, as the happy lull of my parent’s social circle serenaded me to sleep. I wasn’t traumatized and I survived the occasional disruption to my schedule. Most of all, it indirectly send home the clear message; the world didn’t revolve around me. Like Mark Twain so eloquently once said: “The world doesn’t owe me anything. It was here first.”

Now, I’m not blaming 15-year-old kids for a bad judgment call by an adult teacher. What I do feel deserves consideration is the overall climate of permissiveness that has permeated child-rearing and somehow made such a decision even a possibility. The fact that we, as a society, have swung so far away from the authoritarian style of parenting that an educator would even contemplate the possibility that his students get a vote in the matter.

There are moments in life when we don’t negotiate with our children; we simply inform them of the rules.

I suspect that since many current parents experienced a stricter, more authoritarian, “wait till your father gets home” approach to child rearing, many have gone overboard to a warmer, more approachable, more permissible way of raising kids. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. It’s wonderful to see parents connect and have the kind of relationship where anything can be shared. To raise children that feel confident in who they are, possessing healthy self-esteem, ready to take on the world. But it’s equally important that kids learn, early on, that there are rules and, while they’re special, they’re no more special than anyone else.

These students “took a vote” and decided that they wanted to watch a snuff video. While I would never discourage future voters from applying the valuable tenets of a democratic system in real life, this is a clear example of permissive parenting entering – and affecting – daily life. The simple fact is that this vote should have never been allowed to have taken place. There are moments in life when we don’t negotiate with our children; we simply inform them of the rules.

Study upon study has recently confirmed that more and more children are developing allergies because overprotective parents are doing everything in their power to sterilize their surroundings. Equally important, how are children supposed to learn to become emotionally resilient if they don't get any practice with frustration or failure inside their protective bubbles?

While it’s very natural and very laudable to want to protect one’s child from physical and emotional harm, short-term protection from life’s little setbacks, will only result in long-term consequences, as sheltered and overprotected children grow up and confront a world that simply isn’t so inclined to bend to their whims.

Organizations: Cavelier-De LaSalle, Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys

Geographic location: LaSalle

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Recent comments

  • The Mommy Psychologist
    June 15, 2012 - 12:32

    As a child psychologist and a mom, I've spent lots of time discussing what I think is "wrong" with our generation of parents (myself included). Here's one of the biggest differences that I think exists and that is that we are the generation who have all been to therapy and blame our parents for our mistakes. So, when the table is turned and we have children of our own, we are terrified of "damaging" them in the way we feel our parents "damaged" us. I talk more about it here: