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February 20, 2011

CUMMINS: There are two ways to raise children

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — If you are raising children, or in a supervisory position telling your children how to raise their children, and you are suffering, call me. No, don’t. I’m too involved with the younger generation, those 55 and below, who are about to drive me nuts. When growing up, I never broke a Ten Commandment, especially, the one that says, “Obey.” Have you ever had a child, who, when you said, “Obey, it’s in the Bible,” said to you, “You’re not God.” A foreign observer remarked what surprised him, “is the way American parents obey their children.”

I’ve warned you to fear China. They hold our purse strings, and now they are telling us how to raise children. They use the tiger-mom method. I used the king-of-the-beast approach, which did have its flaws, but a lion must rule his hill.

 Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua has stirred up a Bengal nest in the land of the free, which, apparently, includes all ages. Chua’s book presents the Chinese way of raising children, which is like putting 5-year-olds in a boot camp and training them survival of the fittest. Consequently, they have a greater chance of attaining the highest rung on the success ladder, like Barrack Obama, Sarah Palin, Bill Gates and Lindsay Lohan have.

Chinese parents are unyielding disciplinarians. Pre-school children practice violin and ballet until they get it perfect. A child does his/her/its homework to perfection no matter how long it takes. Chua says to her daughter Abby, a first-grader, “If the next time’s not perfect, I’m going to take all your stuffed animals and burn them.” Burn a stuffed animal in America, and you are accused of both animal and child abuse. Chua says Chinese parents “assume strength, not fragility,” which is insulting to me, because I’m rigidly stiff. My kids don’t tell me what to do. Screaming fits didn’t affect me one bit. I turned them over to the mother, who said, “Daddy knows best, he just doesn’t want to hurt you.”

Doesn’t Chua understand our society is much different from theirs? Half our kids have two strikes against them when they are born. In our society, nearly 50 percent of children born today can expect to live with only one parent before reaching age 18. Forty percent are born to unwed mothers. Admittedly, in my day, we escaped humiliation through a process known as a “shotgun wedding.”

In the old days, dads were tough. Kids worked at home and school, and if they got a spanking at school, they got another at home. Today, a kid getting a low grade is the teacher’s fault. Extremely irate dads rush to the school and hit the teacher.

The major change in how we raised children happened after World War II. When soldiers returned home, they said, “I went through the Depression and war; my children will have it much easier.” Nine and one-half months later, millions of Baby Boomers were born, developing into an anything-goes  hippy culture. Then Dr. Spock wrote a book, which said, “Make sure your children do not fall into the low-self-esteem trap.” Parents responded, “Is your self-esteem near empty today? How can I express my love and help you? Do you need a pill?”

Then, child psychiatric experts promoted the “tough-love” movement. Parents said, “You don’t understand, my heart loves you more than you will ever know, but right now, my heart has temporarily turned to steel. Although it hurts me more than it does you, give me the remote.”

Meanwhile, China is creeping up on us economically. How? Although our children now learn to read and write by texting and tweeting, Chinese children learn the difference between a verb and a noun, or their parents will send them to a labor camp. What better way to learn social studies than on Facebook?

I spent 34 years working with thousands of America’s youth using broken English. They responded to me as if I was speaking Mandarin. Despite the broken homes and turmoil in their lives, I explained, “You have tremendous potential. Why don’t you use it?” It was a way of saying, “Get with it and in a few short years, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.” Some, or most did, and I was amazed.

If we get back on track, the USA will remain number one. I will never adopt Chinese methods. Advanced as they may be, they eat with sticks.

— Contact Terry at TLCTLC@

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