The secret of proper parenting

The little voice that says “you could have done better; you could have worked harder” is the curse of the veteran parent. There’s quite an industry out there to make you feel guilty that you didn’t adopt all of the latest trends, that there are perfect children out there and none of them has your last name.

This week has supplied plenty of opportunities to wallow in parental guilt. There was the 60 Minutes piece on redshirting kindergarteners to give them a leg up on their competition. On Daily Circuit on Monday, we endured Pamela Druckerman, who wrote a book on why French kids seem to behave better and throw fewer tantrums, and how French mothers are able to maintain their pre-children life after having children.

That page was the “most shared” page on the MPR website yesterday, which means a lot of parents got a bucketload of “you should’ve been more like the French” in their inbox.

Today’s news provides the antidote in the “at least I’m not them” category.

It’s the sad story of a 9-year-old boy in Washington state who found a gun at home, brought it to school, and accidentally shot an 8 year old girl.

He was sentenced yesterday to 12 months of probation, and ordered to undergo 48 hours of counseling and write a letter of apology to Amina Kocer-Bowman, who remains in serious condition at a Seattle hospital. More serious charges were dropped. The lad was also expelled from school for a year.

It was a picture in the Seattle Times this morning that caught my attention. The boy was being escorted out of the courtroom by his uncle, who is his guardian. No parents were in the courtroom. Why not?

The parents relinquished custody of their three kids several years ago. They were adopted by their grandmother, but she died of pancreatic cancer in 2010, so their uncle took on the role of parent.

Then there’s this part of the story, from CBS News today:


The case has put the boy’s family under the scrutiny of authorities, who on Monday issued arrest warrants for his mother, Jamie Lee Passmore, and her boyfriend, Douglas L. Bauer. Police allege that the couple left several guns unsecured in their home, allowing the boy to gain access to the .45 caliber gun that he brought to school.

Passmore, who is a felon, is not allowed to own firearms, although investigators found guns in her home on the day of the school shooting. Bremerton police Lt. Peter Fisher said the warrant for Passmore lists two second-degree counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. Bauer is wanted for a second-degree count of unlawful possession of a firearm.

The couple is reportedly on vacation in Las Vegas for a NASCAR event, said the boy’s attorney, Eric John Makus. Fisher said police were “confident” that the couple will return later this month.

Some kids are doomed by the biology of their birth.

The secret of proper parenting? Just do the best you can and try to ignore the people who tell you you’re not doing it right.

Please forward this to the French.

  • Greg W

    I agree on the sentiment about having to endure that segment about French parents. There was a lot of “self high-fives” thrown out between the callers and the guest.

    The whole premise reminds me of a quote I heard recently, “The plural of anecdote is not data”.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Parenting is the one job that no one has ever done perfectly.

    I think if we can teach/were taught a healthy balance of respect for self and respect for others, we’re ahead of the game.

  • Ryan

    //The secret of proper parenting? Just do the best you can and ignore the people who tell you you’re not doing it right.

    Amen, Bob.

  • Curtis

    “The secret of proper parenting? Just do the best you can and try to ignore the people who tell you you’re not doing it right.”

    Although good advice on the surface, it seems likely the 9 year-old’s parents followed it to the letter. I assume they ignored a lot of people who told them they weren’t doing it right.

  • Bob Collins

    You left off a pretty important part of the advice and one that they clearly ignored.

  • Kirk W

    //The secret of proper parenting? Just do the best you can and ignore the people who tell you you’re not doing it right.

    Huh? Learning about best practicesin our society (which is what the book is about) seems like a good idea to me–not only for parenting but everything we do.

    Keeping your head down and ignoring things can lead you down the wrong path just as easily as always following people’s advice.

  • Kat S

    Kirk W,

    There’s a pretty big gap between ignoring people who tell you you’re not doing it right and refusing to learn about different parenting practices.

    I am happy to learn about how the French parent (they all parent the same way, huh?), but I do object to being told that I am not doing it right because I’m not doing it how the French do it.

    Just tell me “these are practices the French use, and some of what we think results from these practices.” I’ll decide whether or not they’re best practices for my child and my family in our environment. That’s not ignoring data and evidence, it’s ignoring officiousness.

    One thing I have found nearly impossible to avoid, as a newish parent, is the articles/blogs/forums/products/random people on the street that implicitly or explicitly say “this is how you must do it, or you’re not doing it right,” and that’s the message that I think Bob is trying to counter. I’m glad someone’s trying to counter it– in my experience Bob’s message is outweighted 10 to 1 by the messages that You’re Doing It Wrong.

  • Bob Collins

    Doing the best you can doesn’t mean doing something blindly.

    It means trusting what you know and having some confidence in how you approach things, and avoiding the overgeneralizations and declarations of those who think they have the miracle method.

    Parenting is very much a ‘grass is greener’ arena. People lack confidence in what they’re doing, especially when they see other people doing it that look so much more confident and successful at it. Quite often, it’s a mirage.

    One of the things I’ve always found fascinating about people who write parenting books, blogs, websites etc., to dispense their newfound knowledge, is how young their own children are.

    These parenting writers sometimes remind me of kids who go off to their first semester at college and come home at Christmas to tell you how much of the world you simply don’t know. Oh, yeah, that’s another fun part of the chore of parenting. :*)

    Do the best you can.

  • Kirk W

    The book is merely the author’s observations on how parenting is different in France than in New York. You may view it differently, but it is pretty good. If you don’t want to hear about different ways, it is your choice to not read the book.

    Bob–I like your comment about not being smug about your parenting abilities. Quite true. The best you can hope for is to get your kids pointing in the right direction and the tools to stay clear of the ditches.

  • Bob Collins

    And also: don’t answer the phone after 9 p.m.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Trained as a behavioralist, I’ve been tempted to put a chip in my kids that could be activated to emit a mildly uncomfortable charge if they misbehaved. Much like that which is used with dogs.

    I abandoned this plan when I realized that my wife and I would always be fighting for the remote control.

  • Bob Collins

    // and I feel like so much parenting advice out there comes from parents whose kids are older.

    Yeah, and that’s fun as a parent of young kids, isn’t it? ;*(

    I suppose in the middle of all of this “do it this way” parenting advice, my one-chapter, one-page, one-sentence book probably wouldn’t sell.

    My author book tour probably wouldn’t be a hit on the talk-show circuit, either.

  • http://www.mybabybooster.com/strollers/ baby high chair

    I don’t think there is any secret to proper parenting. We all need to do the VERY best that we can do BUT I still think you should have to have a license to have children. I truly believe that some kids are just doomed to do badly in life and end up in jail because of the parents they have. people have to have licenses to breed animals so why not children. And if you are a good parent you would not object to this because you would have nothing to worry about getting a license.