I was walking alone yesterday after I had let my dog back in the house, panting like crazy in the Houston heat. I wanted more exercise so I continued my walk, zig-zagging around the neighborhood. I was serene, listening to classical music and enjoying the flowers and green grass. Since our sidewalks are often not level due to tree roots, I happened to look down just in time to avoid a very large mound of dog poop, right in the middle of the sidewalk. My thoughts came like a rushing current: "How could someone be so entitled, so thoughtless and so selfish to let their dog take a dump and just walk away? Didn't they think of some unsuspecting person or dog stepping in it and having to deal with the after-effects? What the..." And then I thought about the couples that I see sometimes, that they figuratively take a dump (OK gross but I am making an important point here!) on their partner and walk away, leaving them to deal with their mess. And then I thought, "Of course they do! Their parents never taught them to manage their emotions and be kind! It wasn't modeled for them." I thought about the entitlement that we see on college campuses; you can't share your opposing thoughts/positions because it might offend someone (because it's all about me after all!) instead of modeling respectful dialogue. Let's reconsider grading because it might hurt a student's feelings, instead of allowing kids to learn from failure or learn to work harder. Or, let's not keep score because it might damage a child's self-esteem, instead of teaching them good sportsmanship. I thought about how children are not disciplined when they are being rude, how they are taught more about their rights then about living peacefully amongst others, considering the other's thoughts/feelings as they would want that to be reciprocated.I thought about living in LA and a 5 year old visiting my home for the first time and calling me Angela! Seriously? You are five!! I could go on and on with example after example of how we are FALSELY EMPOWERING our children and not teaching basic rules of kindness and mutual respect, and then we wonder why they cannot get along with others, and why they have difficulty launching, and why they have messy and destructive relationships.
Listen, when we have children, it is our responsibility to raise them for future relationships! We discipline bad behavior not because it's bugging us, but because it will hurt them and others in the future. We correct rudeness, lack of respect, pitching fits and the like because they will grow up to be rude, disrespectful and immoderate with their emotions because they were not corrected when they were young. We stop tantrums not because our ears are ringing, but because they need to use words for feelings and that being sad or angry is perfectly fine, but rolling around and screaming is not. Why? Because they will scream at their spouse, pitch fits and cuss when they feel badly or feel something unpleasant. We have to teach children that the world does not revolve around them and their feelings because if we don't we rob them of healthy relationships. They will look at their future therapists like they are aliens when we ask them about how their parents got along, how they were nurtured or disciplined and who taught them about regulating emotions.And, we will sadly understand perfectly well why couples dump on each other and have no skills to a) not do that or b) correct it when they forget to be relational. In so many ways, therapy can be like reparenting, and teaching skills to couples that were not modeled or taught when they were young. And so back to the dog mound--it made me wonder about what was going on in their household, what was modeled to them when they were younger, such that they could be so blatantly disrespectful to our community. I went from seriously angry to seriously sad.