“How should we bring up our next child?’
PHOTOS BY WALTER CURTIN
June Callwood and Trent Frayne (who already have three children) ask this panel of experts
“What should we do about sex education, religion, television and spanking? Should we interfere in his career? What about the theory that it’s all right to drink, swear and argue in his presence? And what mistakes have we made with our other children?” Here are some surprising answers . . . straight from the tape recorder
A MACLEAN S PANEL DISCUSSION
Like many Canadian couples with growing families. June Callwood and Trent Frayne (in private life they're Mr. and Mrs.) have read a lot of books about the complicated business of raising a child. Indeed, they've read so many books and absorbed so much advice, some of it contradictory, that occasionally in exasperation they've thrown up their hands and cried: “If only we could get some of these experts together in a room for a few hours!”
Because the Fraynes are a well-known Canadian couple whose articles have been appearing in Maclean’s for almost ten years,
they recently had this exact opportunity in the course of their work-a-day duties. At this magazine’s invitation, seven of Canada’s leading child-raising experts were assembled together on a Saturday morning in May and for more than three hours the Fraynes fired questions at them while a tape recorder took down the answers. Sidney Katz of Maclean’s staff, himself a trained sociologist, acted as moderator.
The Fraynes were well qualified to ask leading questions about the raising of children because they have three of their own: an eleven-year-old daughter named Jill, an
eight-year-old boy named Brant (but called Barney) and a five-year-old girl. Jennifer. This is slightly above the Canadian statistical average of 2.4 children per family and like many other Canadian couples the Fraynes have been doing some hard thinking about driving that average higher. And so Maclean's chose a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a general practitioner, an educator, a pediatrician, a social worker and a parenteducation expert to answer the Fraynes’ uppermost question: “How should we bring up our next child?”
“We hoped,” the Fraynes reported later, “to solve marry of our difficulties and lighten some of the murky corners in our understanding of children. We accomplished most of this with the panel and we got some answers that astounded us.”
How should we bring up our next child? Continued
The discussion covered such familiar territory as sex education (“Answer all questions frankly, create opportunities for discussion with school-age children, try to keep a liaison throughout adolescence”) and grandparents (the panel was for grandparents who “kept their mouths shut”). It also touched on less-explored territory, such as religion, rules in a home, discipline and whether or not parents should be
influenced by their children’s disapproval. The Fraynes were particularly cheered to discover that child experts can disagree just as sharply on raising children as neighbors do. More significantly though, the experts agreed that children require consideration, consistency and faith. Parents, they said, need to extend this same faith to embrace their own decisions and philosophies. It was felt that the human family, toughened by closeness and confidence, is the sturdiest element on the face of the earth — and the best.
The Fraynes discovered, at the beginning of the tape-recorded three-and-a-half-hour session,
and the children
Here are the Fraynes’ present offspring and what they think about the idea of another child
that none of the panel members believed that a fourth child would cause any maladjustment in the other members of the family or would be likely to become spoiled—a point that had concerned the couple. One expert believed firmly in the maxim. The More The Merrier. Dr. Victor Johnston, a general practitioner for thirty years, observed: “The larger the family, the easier it is for parents since more and more of the training is left to the other children. The best-adjusted people l know come from large families.”
Mr. Frayne: How about the economic factor? If the house starts getting cluttered up with children maybe they won't be able to finish their schooling. When should the parents sit down and say, “Now we can't afford another child”?
Dr. William Hawke, psychiatrist: Whenever that question comes up I think of the clergy who have reasonably large families on a minimum income and yet are able to send many of their children to university. It seems to me that if the family wants an education, it can always be managed.
From the comment on large families, the discussion drifted to special problems of individual children. The oldest child, the panel
agreed, was often more tense and anxious than succeeding children because “parents tend to make all their mistakes on their first child.” Middle children in a family of three also have a particular problem and the youngest often is indulged.
Mrs. Frayne: Our oldest. Jill, is a motherly person who accepts responsibility, such as caring for the others if we are going to be out of the house a short time, very well. We found ourselves too busy to take her to speech-therapy class when she was nine so she learned to take streetcars and buses in downtown Toronto, equipped with a map. sufficient money for a
phone call and the knowledge that a policeman was her best friend. Our Barney is trapped between the two girls and seems to be having more difficulty.
Mr. Frayne: He’s having trouble gaining assurance. We’ve tried various methods but he's rarely satisfied wáth himself or what he is doing. Sometimes we’ll play hockey together in the basement. The instant we get down there he thinks of the next thing we are going to do. We no sooner start to play hockey or catch than he wants to know if we can play catch with one hand, let's catch with the other hand, let's catch down on our knees or sitting down How should we bring up our next child? continued
Mrs. Frayne asks:
Should she wear what she wants to?
llow about the business of getting dressed in the morning. Jill will come out in w hat she thinks she ought to wear to school ... Should she be allowed to wear what she thinks she ought to wear?
Mr. Frayne asks:
How do we make him feel he’s wanted?
Barney, our second child, sometimes seems lost between the two girls. We’ve done everything to make him realize he’s wanted. But he doesn’t seem to believe it. When I play catch with him I praise him for the way he throws the ball but he announces that Jill can throw it better—and of course Jill can't throw it across the street.
Sidney Katz asks:
Should we stop them bickering?
What do you do with children who are always arguing? Why do they wrangle and what can be done about it?
Sometimes it seems to us that we need a Supreme Court to decide the many arguments that come up.
We spend part of our time just being referees.
Yes. But I think it's up to you to advise her. If she comes down in a party dress on a Thursday morning going to school, for instance, you might suggest to her that she'll want to save that for a party two days from now. If she decides she should go up and change into a school dress, fine. But nevertheless if she wants to wear the party dress to school I'd let her. She'll find out soon enough at school that she’s the only one with a party dress, and she’ll probably come home at noon to change.
He's really got you trapped. I mean, you’ve been so concerned about this lad that even if you chastise him you are giving him a lot of attention. He's managing to manipulate things so that his relationship with you involves a great deal of time and attention. When he starts to say unrealistic things (“Jill can do it better”) he is really playing you along that fine. He is getting himself a great deal of attention and a very close relationship that, in many ways, excludes the girls. You see, in his way he is solving his problem.
It seems to me some of the skills children these days are going to need when they get out in the world is the ability to have convictions and be able to present them. These convictions will be assailed and so I think being able to argue is a necessary skill. It should prepare children for getting along in life.
Dr. Johnston: This strikes me as one of the best examples that has occurred recently of a child thinking all the time how he can outwit his parents . . .
Dr. Hawke: He's using the best meat for a lure to get extra attention from you. It's his way of solving his problem. The middle child often tries to manipulate things so that his relationship with his parents involves a great deal of time and attention.
Vernon Trott, psychologist: There's nothing the matter with the boy. He is doing something to adjust, something he has developed from his repertoire of techniques to make himself teel comfortable. It may not be what we leel he should be doing; this is a quite different stand.
Mrs. Frayne: Should we give him more responsibility? Would this be an antidote?
Mr. Trott: On general principle. 1 would say yes.
J. D. Ketchum, psychologist: Working with thousands of families of students, the thing that impressed me was the similarities in the problems of all the eldests, the middles and the youngests. The middle child often seems to be concentrated on a need for power.
Mr. Frayne: What does a parent do?
Mr. Ketchum: My goodness, I thought I knew' all these things before our children were born but it didn't help much. Our second is five years younger than the first. At about eighteen months, he wants to play the piano, so you sit him on your knee and let him bang away. As soon as you get him there, the big six-year-old comes dashing over and wants to sit on your knee and bang, bang. bang. Well, the parent is amused when the little kid bangs the piano but he resents it when the larger child does the same thing. The resentment is felt right away and makes her act that way more. It’s one of the things that invariably happens in a family relationship in one way or another.
Sidney Katz, the moderator: How’ about your youngest child. Jenny? Do you have any problems with her?
Mrs. Frayne: Oh. no. She’s hardly ever spanked. She’s so easy to raise she’s a dream.
Mr. Trott: Now’ w'e’rc getting some clues. This may be at the base of the trouble with the other ones.
Mrs. Frayne: No, they're extremely fond of her.
What work should they do?
The suggestion that responsibility can be fine therapy for a child suffering from the pangs of being in the middle then brought about a discussion that started with the definition of the word. Responsibility, according to the panel, was the knack of finishing an assigned task. It w'as of secondary importance to the qualities of self-reliance and self-confidence, both of which give a child a sense of capableness and ability to master his chores. There was general agreement that self-reliance, self-confidence and responsibility must be encouraged early in a child.
Mrs. Frances Johnson, supervisor, Institute of Child Study: It seems to me that in the beginning the way to train children in responsibility is simply to let them take responsibility for small things that they can do for themselves. It’s a case of letting them try anything they want to try and not insist on doing for them things they can do.
Mrs. Frayne: And not insisting they do
them well, that they do better than others?
Mrs. Johnson: And not insisting they do them well. Also, not insisting that they do them all the time, because a small child has alternating periods of responsibility and irresponsibility. When they don’t want to take the responsibility you just rc-assume it without any fuss at all and let them take it back when they want to. I have seen times in a girl’s life when you wouldn't insist on her making her bed in the morning because at that period of her life there might be things that could be much more important from the point of view of her personality development than making the bed.
Mr. Ketchum: I’ve noticed that the eldest child in a family is sometimes too responsible. They have the feeling they must achieve and that they’ve always got to do well. In the end they suffer a desolation.
Mrs. Johnson: A responsible person isn't necessarily a secure person. A person who takes too much responsibility can be very insecure, always striving.
What about religious training?
Mrs. Frayne: Jill, our eldest, is also the churchgoer in our family. We are not— and we are concerned about raising our children in a Christian religion because of its intolerance toward other religions. As a result we seem to be raising them in a vacuum for which no building has been provided. We have wondered whether we should pretend to practice one of the Christian religions rather than let the children go to church alone.
Mr. Ketchum: Are you talking about conforming to churchgoing?
Mrs. Frayne: Yes. Jill goes to Sunday school. We told her to choose her own religion and she's tried three. She’s settled down with the United Church and . . .
Mr. Frayne: I might add that she can barely tolerate her parents who don't go to church.
Mr. Trott: I don’t think you can separate the religious component out of experience.
I haven't found a religious institution yet that didn’t have some two-faced aspects to it, but that isn’t important at this stage. I think we must face the fact that the church represents very desirable values in our community life and although 1 don’t approve of all the general procedures and points of view, by and large I approve of most of them anil so I'll buy the whole institution with all its weaknesses.
Mrs. March Dickens, social worker: I think it w'ould be much better if you asked your children to think and feel as you do.
It’s better if they think that the family is different from the community than they, individually, are different from the family.
Dr. Johnston: I'm firmly convinced that every person needs a faith for the very simple reason that it brings the best out of people. You have a faith but you’re in the difficult position of not falling into a highly organized group and I would agree that you have to develop your thinking to the point of it being a faith and impart that to your children. It’s not a matter of whether it’s right or wrong so much as the necessity of a positive approach.
Mr. Frayne: If we believe wrongly, then our children are going to believe wrongly.
Mrs. Dickens: You have to sort that out * for yourselves.
“Some off color jokes are quite witty. Â lot of adolescents enjoy a minor off-color joke“
I)r. Carnet llambiin, pediatrician: Don’t you think you're trying a little too hard on that? You might give them a chance to make the same decision you made. I don't think the church is propagandizing your daughter Jill.
Mrs. Frayne: No. hut she’s a missionary-type person. She’s going to he a nurse and care for colored people in the Carolinas—you know that kind of a little girl.
On the related subject of religion causing intolerance, many of the panel felt that the attitudes of the parents were overwhelmingly more important in teaching tolerance than any outside influence.
Dr. Hawke: The really important
thing about intolerance is the fundamental feelings of the parents, which the children absorb in daily living. So much more is derived from daily living than from discussions.
Dr. Johnston: 1 would suggest that there is too much emphasis on tolerance. To me, tolerance is a veneer; basically we’re intolerant. It’s preferable to have a faith beyond reason than to have a lack of faith.
Mr. Ketchum: You just have to be honest and sincere right through in your own point of view. Children have to put up with a lot of things with their parents. There is plenty to compensate for the fact that you don’t go down the line with them on a particular thing, like church, if they get lots of love from you and sharing in other ways. You can't get rid of what you are. My poor son was called “professor” at school. He hated it. 1 said, "1 suppose it's because you wear glasses.” “No.” he said, "it's because of you.”
Mr, Trott: To be the children of a psychologist on our street is probably the greatest handicap that I’ve handed to my kids.
Should parents conform?
Parents are criticized by their children. the panel noted; all parents, all children.
Mrs. Frayne: Jill, for example, is horrified by us having a beer when her friends are visiting. And she said to me one time, “Nobody else at our school has a mother who drinks wine and eats cheese for lunch." Must 1 change?
Mr. Trott: No, your attitude there is: “Well, that’s the way they are, hut I'm just queer this way. It's one of the things I’m not going to do anything about.”
Mrs. Johnson: The pre-adolescent child always criticizes the things that parents do. They are sort of agin adults in general, and parents often think they’re agin them personally. You don’t give up things because they criticize.
Mr. Trott: You don’t just give up anything to them, do you, Mrs. Johnson?
Mrs. Johnson: No. not just because they criticize.
Dr, Hawke: If you do change, they’ll criticize you because you’ve changed.
Mrs. Johnson: They are going to criticize you no matter what you do at this particular age level.
Dr. Hamblin: They’ll criticize your drinking this time and the way you wear your hat the next time.
Dr. Johnston: 1 think also that it is most important that we should always drink openly in the family. 1 don’t think there is anything harder on children than parents trying to hide their drinking habits.
Mr. Trott: Would you say the same thing. Dr. Johnston, in relation to dirty stories and sex stories? You are making the point. 1 believe, that parents shouldn’t be two-faced.
Dr. Johnston: That’s correct. I think the same thing applies to jokes and stories.
Mr. Trott: As a matter of fact, there
arc some families I've come across where it is all right to tell your stories in the family, but you don’t tell any outside. This is a reversal of what 1 grew up in, but 1 approve of it.
Mr. Frayne: Don’t children tend to be shocked by dirty stories?
Dr. Ilawke: 1 think there are jokes that are merely vulgar and there are off-color jokes that are quite witty and humorous.
1 think a lot of adolescents enjoy a very minor off-color joke.
I)r. Johnston: I may be prudish, hut I wouldn’t tell my wife a dirty joke if it killed me. Maybe there are exceptions . . .
Mr. Frayne: Then if parents are to he completely natural in front of their children. can they also bicker between themselves?
Dr. Johnston: Well, children shouldn’t hear that.
Dr. Hawke: Now. wait a minute. We’re saying that you should drink in front of your children and tell jokes mildly offcolor. Why shouldn't it be natural to bicker? It’s human to bicker, so let’s not set standards before our children that are not realistic. Surely we can't have major quarrels that are devastating, but they have to learn that bickering is a normal part of daily living.
Mr. Frayne: What about parents swearing?
Mr. Ketchum: Swear if you want to swear.
Dr. Hamblin: Your children learn by example; if you do not ordinarily swear, your children won't either.
Mrs. Frayne: We have a double standard at our house. We tell our children there are a number of things we can do because we are adults that they can’t do until they are older. One of them is smoking. We've let the children puff on a cigarette once when they asked to and
then we say that smoking is for adults. Swearing is all right if an adult wants to swear, but not all right for children. And so on.
Mr. Katz: Do you approve of this double standard?
I)r. Hamblin: Yes. Children can't drive cars.
Mrs. Dickens: Don't you think you have to explain to them about the difference in values? You can’t just say an adult does this and children can't. You explain, for example, that we can smoke and you can’t because it is going to harm your health, it’s going to be expensive and people will he critical of you.
Should children conform?
This raised the subject of conformity in children and Mrs. Dickens commented that she didn't believe conformity should be exaggerated. She felt that children must learn what is socially acceptable in certain groups and what isn't, however, so that they will understand the consequences of their acts any time they go into action.
Mr. Katz: Is Jill making an effort to conform?
Mrs. Frayne: She is so far as her dress is concerned. She wants to dress like everyone else, do her hair a certain way, carry her books in the same kind of container everyone else uses.
l)r. Hamblin: Conformity in dress is one of the best-known forms of children conforming. But I notice that while their daughters want to look like every other kid on the street, the mothers don't want to wear the same hat.
Mr. Frayne: Should children be allowed to wear what they like?
I)r. Hamblin: Exactly.
Mrs. Frayne: The mother doesn't say, “Take that off and put on your denims!”?
Dr. Hamblin: Oh, that’s horrible.
Mr. Trott: It depends on what you want. Do you want your children always to depend on you for their decisions? This is the initial stage of what we were talking about earlier — self-reliance and responsibility. Parents must he prepared to be shocked when they see orange lined up with purple and all that sort of thing.
Mr. Ketchum: How about a little girl who starts off on a wet day and refuses to wear anything on her feet except tiny girlish shoes. Do you let her go?
Dr. Hamblin: I think it's up to us to advise our daughters to wear rubbers, not to order them to. If a girl comes down on a Thursday morning in a party dress and wants to wear it to school, you might suggest that she should save it for a party. If she insists on wearing it. let her. She'll find she’s the only one in the school in a party dress and she’ll come home at noon and change it.
Mrs. Dickens: I think parents have a responsibility to anticipate what is likely to happen in such a situation. I think a girl would feel she had been failed pretty miserably by her parents if she were allowed to go to school in a party dress.
Dr. Hamblin: 1 disagree completely. Anything you know in life is what you’ve learned yourself, not what your mother told you.
Mrs. Dickens: I think what we both agree on is that we should explain to the children the consequences of their act and then let them decide for themselves what they will do.
Mr. Fraync: Our major conformity problem is bedtime. Our children leel maltreated because their bedtime is earlier than their friends’. Barney goes to bed at eight o'clock, to the ringing shouts of kids who are younger than he is and are out playing under his window. He doesn’t complain too bitterly, but 1 would if I were in his position.
Mr. Ketchum: 1 don’t think you’ll be able to keep it up very long. While it works, okay.
Mr. Frayne: It is working. Our children have had fairly early bedtimes for eleven years.
Mr. Ketchum: It won’t forever. The pressure will get too strong.
Mr. Trott: It’s the old issue about who is going to be boss. It's fought out differently in different families. Sometimes it’s television, sometimes meals, sometimes music lessons, sometimes bedtime. The real issue is always w'ho is going to be boss: "Am 1 still boss and are you still going to do what I say?”
Mrs. Johnson: I think at adolescence the real need of the individual is to feel comfortable in his own group.
Dr. Hawke: I would like to say at this point that there is a period that Jill is now' running into when it is important to her to be accepted outside of her family. Up to now it has been important to be accepted within her family. Now you are beginning a time w'hen she must be identical, she must be the same. She is going to be a person with a tremendous drive to conformity with other adolescents. The adolescents need to conform to a group because they are trying to organize themselves to emerge as adults. All our lives we must compromise between our own drive and our need to satisfy this drive, and the need to be accepted by the community. That’s why we become socialized, that’s why we don t grab food, steal and do what we want. An adolescent has reached the time where those two drives are coming into contlict. You don’t force Jill to conform. It is coming from within herself: it is a real need.
Mr. Katz: This raises the problem of how' can you preserve your child's personality.
Dr. Johnston: We can promote individuality by encouraging the child to do his own thinking, work it out for himself even if lie’s wrong.
Dr. Hamblin: I think we should ask our children their opinions. There are certain things we can’t ask their opinion about—for example, we can’t ask them what they want for dinner because it is physically impossible for Mrs. Frayne to have five menus at every meal. We can ask them where they want to go on Sunday afternoon, instead of announcing that the family is going to the park. Let’s ask them where they want to go, what they want to wear. Mothers get into an ellicient routine of get up. go to bed. sit up straight at the table, do this, do that. T he mothers do all the thinking necessary for the whole family, including the husbands.
Mr. Trott: Before we leave the subject of conformity. I’d like to ask a question about the contlict of conformity which sometimes arises between the need to conform to family standards and to the group standards outside. Which is more important for the healthy personality development of a young person?
Dr. Hawke: There is certainly going to be that conflict between the family and the community. 1 wouldn't make a battle of it. I would accept the fact that adolescents are going to reject the family standards. It's normal and inevitable. Later on they will pick up those standards again, if the family ties are good, if there is warmth there, and affection and a good relationship.
What about spankings?
A discussion on obedience was launched with the ubiquitous word television, a subject of bitter wrangling in many households.
Mrs. Frayne: As a matter of fact, we don't have as much controversy over television as some families. At least I think we're on top of it, momentarily. We don’t permit television during meals because we say food is more important. If they argue, they can't see television the next day: so they stopped arguing. We don’t turn it on before five in the evening and it can be turned on later when the homework is finished. A lot of people have worked out other schemes, like letting the child pick one or two hours of programs every day and limiting it there. Our system works pretty well too.
Mrs. Johnson: I'm interested in how you think you have managed to have as little trouble as you have.
Mr. Frayne: It's possibly because our children are used to rules. When Jill first went to kindergarten she came home one
day and told us that there were thirty pupils in her room. We commented that this probably resulted in a lot of noise, but Jill said. "Oh no. We have rules.” If was a valuable lesson for us. We’ve had rules ever since.
Mrs. Johnson: Because the rules arc lived up to. 1 think that probably is a key to a whole lot of success or failure with children. If we are consistent, they know what the rules are and they know the framework within which they can be free. T hen you don’t have so much difficulty with them because they understand. On the other hand, you do have to be flexible with the rules and change them as they seem to need changing for the good of the children.
Mr. Trott: 1 find that families that can't solve other problems, such as going to bed and how much allowance, are also having trouble with television watching. The ones who have got these other family problems pretty well under control can fit TV into their family living. I think the method of handling this is somewhat the same sort as getting children to come in off the street at nine o'clock at night . . .
Dr. Hamblin: Or smoking . . .
Mr. T rott: Yes, any of those problems of family living.
Dr. Johnston: Perhaps we shouldn’t magnify the importance of television. At any rate, 1 don't believe the television set should ever be in the living room. It should be in some other room.
Mr. Katz: In the matter of rules, Mrs. Johnson, would you have the children^ work out rules with the parents about watching television?
Mrs. Johnson: It depends on the age of the children. You would have to keep control of a pre-school child’s viewing of television but those beyond that could enter into some agreement about how the watching time should be apportioned.
Mr. Trott: This becomes very important when you have two or three children and each one of them wants to watch different programs, some of which may occur at the same time. You should try to get them committed to a plan.
Dr. Johnston: May I ask a question? Just how valuable is it to the training of a child, educational and otherwise, to view television?
Mrs. Dickens: If you allow a child to have hours and hours of it. making it the major thing in his life, his only source of education, we would be troubled by it. But there are many sources of education for a child and much of it is coming from the parents far more constantly. I think the television is balanced.
I’d like to emphasize a point about rules. They are made primarily to handle
a group of people and to avoid clashes of individuals. You have to get through a day. you have to accomplish certain things in a period and so you set up rules to keep the routine moving.
Should you let them wrangle?
Mrs. Frayne: On a child level, which is more valuable, that the children should be arguing over who has the ball or amicably watching television?
Mr. T rott: That's different. 1 say they should be arguing over the ball.
Dr. Hamblin: They should be outside arguing over the ball.
Mr. Frayne: Why should they be arguing?
Mr. Trott: It seems to me that one of the skills that children are going to need when they get into the big world is the ability to have some convictions and then be able to present them and defend them in the overwhelming give and take of life. Being able to argue is a very necessary skill. I think it’s too bad. though, that adults can't be deaf. It would be wonderful if they could just become deaf for a long period.
Mrs. Frayne: V/e spend so much time being referees. If they were all the same age, weight and intelligence you could let them go at it but when they are all different we have to step in. It is very depressing when day after day goes by and they still don’t adore one another.
Mr. Katz: Do you think that parents are too sensitive to this wrangling?
Mr. Ketchum: Much, much too sensitive.
Dr. Hamblin: But human endurance is limited.
Mr. Katz: Are the children enjoying this?
Mr. Ketchum: Oh sme, they’re the centre of attention.
Mr. Trott: It helps growing up.
Dr. Hawke: There will always be rivalry. It is part of development and there is no way of stopping it. The great problem here is the fact that so many people have an unrealistic idea of children getting along together. Because of their own basic feelings of rivalry and jealousy they have become extremely sensitive to it in their children. They do everything to try to stamp it out in their children when they see it developing.
Mr. Frayne: How about the mailed fist as a method of enforcing discipline? Are you permitted to lose your temper with children, and is it all right to spank them?
Mr. Ketchum: If you've lost your temper, why hit them, sure. Don’t hit them in cold blood.
Mr. Trott: As a general principle I think we could uphold the point that quick action can follow a misdemeanor of a younger child. As they get older, this is a place where parents sometimes go wrong. They keep on using devices that worked at the age of five, when their child is past ten.
"We shouldn't magnify the importance of television. The TV set should never be in the living room"
“Fathers are useless at telling children about sex. Mother must make a liaison with her child”
Mrs. Dickens: l ike spanking?
Mr. Trott: Things of that sort, yes.
Dr. Johnston: Personally, I found corporal punishment very disappointing in its effects. My feeling is that it is much more salutary to deprive a child of something he values.
Mr. Trott: I'm not worried so much about what a spanking does to a child. Children have great powers of recovering; they have been beaten, lashed, screamed at and repressed, and they still grow up all right. What I’m worried about is what this does to the person who inflicts this kind of punishment.
Mrs. Johnson: Do you think that spanking is a confession of failure on a parent’s part? I’m not a bit interested in punishment. I don’t care whether a child feels badly or not over what happens to him. All I want him to do is learn a better way of behaving. I am only concerned with learning. Spanking is a crude method because it doesn’t teach a child what to do, but only what not to do.
After several more exchanges, the panel was polled on its opinion of spankings as a last-resort measure to enforce discipline. Five were in favor. Dr. Johnston approved with reservations, and Mrs. Johnson was opposed.
Mr. Katz: Can panel members make suggestions as to how to encourage a child to be obedient?
Mr. Trott: This process has to start early. The family where this sort of thing begins with small children is not the family where you find extreme measures with fourteenand fifteen-year-olds. The idea of mutual respect should be started in the early stages; it pays off when you come to the crises later on.
Mr. Ketchum: What kind of things do the Fraynes want obedience on?
Mrs. Frayne: Oh, the sort of thing like asking that a child do something. They must do it right at that moment. But w'e’re careful what we ask. We don’t ask Jill to take care of Jenny, for example, if she has something better to do. We call a family conference if the child seems to think he’s being treated unfairly. Sometimes the child wins, sometimes we do . . .
Mr. Ketchum: Well, all you are asking is that the child should take a reasonable account of your reasons as well as his own and that very often yours w'ill be more reasonable and sensible for him.
Mr. Katz: Do you think parents demand too much obedience?
Mr. Ketchum: I don’t think they’re
doing much of it now. The middle-class parents have been scared off.
Dr. Hamblin: I can’t agree with that. In my practice I think that parents are expecting far too much obedience of their children. Their attitude is that I’m a big person and you’re a little person and might is right. You’re going to do what I say or else . . . bang!
Who should tell about sex?
The exchange of ideas on sex education contained much that is familiar to parents and some startling observations. Dr. Hamblin remarked casually that fathers are useless at telling their children about sex. Many members of the panel stressed that children w'ho stop asking questions about sex are not children, necessarily, who are not curious.
Dr. Hamblin: I find among my patients that the pre-school child is full of questions but, almost invariably, there are no more questions when they start to school. The mother must set up a liaison with her child, make an opportunity for the child to discuss sex with her.
Mr. Katz: Why is the father useless?
Dr. Hamblin: He’s shy. The mother has more to do with bodies and doctors and she is more objective.
Mr. Trott: 1 think the father can make his contribution by demonstrating to the children how a man behaves toward a woman in the consideration he shows his wife. To me this is just as important as telling them about the biological facts.
One member of the panel recounted a story about a man of his acquaintance whose son was in his mid-teens and expressed curiosity about sex. “The man just took his son for a week end in Montreal and saw to it that the boy got what he considered a full sex education. As a method of sex education, it may be a little drastic.”
What about our child’s career?
The primary importance, in considering the future of children, Mr. Ketchum observed, is that parents first purify themselves of all wishes to get personal satisfaction out of the child’s career. “So many parents want to see their child successful. They want good reports all the way through school. It’s for self-gratification, largely, and it’s a very hard thing to cure yourself of. We all enjoy it. You must look over the situation and decide what
your kid can best do. One of the most terrible things in life is to have some person working at something he doesn’t like to do. I don’t know how we’re going to avoid it except by leaving the gate wide open.”
Dr. Hawke: I think very few children in the early high school know anything about the future. Not until fourth or fifth form arc they becoming realistic in their goals.
Mr. Trott: One of the things that concerns me is the notion that by the time you get into high school you should have your mind made up about some future occupation. 1 find children terribly anxious in grade 9 because they haven't some occupation already taped. Parents have to be careful that they don’t by some unspoken exhibition of attitudes color the general decision-making process. You must keep encouraging him with the goals that are immediately ahead of him, like passing a grade at the end of the year.
Dr. Hamblin: My son, who is finishing high school, doesn’t know what he wants to be, except that he doesn’t want to become a doctor.
Dr. Johnston: My experience is exactly the same. My son is taking law now. He didn’t know for a time what he wanted to be.
Dr. Hawke: Don't you think one of the important things is that when you grow up and mature your goals mature? One has to accept the fact that children choose careers and drop them. Jill’s goal might remain but there’s a good chance that she’ll go through three or four careers before she finally reaches the stage of settling on one.
Mr. Frayne: Do you keep your child in school as long as possible?
Mr. Trott: I don’t see how you can make a general rule to cover that.
Dr. Hawke: There are children who aren’t interested in scholastics but who are able and capable of becoming highly successful.
Mr. Ketchum: If you keep them in school you are doing them a great deal of harm, because they don't do well. They find themselves failures.
Who’s responsible for the future?
Dr. Hawke posed a final question to the rest of the panel; How responsible are parents for the way their children turn out? “I often feel,” he said, “that
in the whole process of raising children one forgets that the child brings into the world a basic personality that can’t be modified by the parents to meet their standards and goals.”
Dr. Johnston: I don’t think parents
should feel any more than fifty-percent responsible. The rest depends on what the children start off life with. Peculiar parents tend to have peculiar children.
Dr. Hawke: There is such a tremendous community feeling to make parents entirely responsible for the way their children live, the way they react, the way they behave to their future. My own feeling is that a tremendous amount is inherent in the child. If you have an active, energetic child, there is not very much you can do to change him into a placid child.
Mrs. Dickens: I agree with this, but to me parents are very influencing on their children.
Dr. Hamblin: It's poor teaching. I
feel, to tell parents that their child is the result of heredity or that they are going to be what they arc going to be in spite of everything. I’m an environmentalist, not a heredity man, on the basis that heredity is a passive sort of thing, and environment is active. If your children don’t turn out well, it’s in all likelihood your fault.
Mr. Trott: I find it’s more hopeful
and optimistic to feel that parents can do something by a better relationship with their child.
Mrs. Johnson: I wouldn’t like to
think that heredity was the only thing involved here because, if so, things are too set. Heredity sets the limit to which children can go, but environment has a great deal to do with the direction of that growth.
Mr. Ketchum: I’m extremely reluc-
tant to hand out advice and try to form children in any way. Children of the future are going to live in such a different world. We’re different from our parents in a different world, and the next jump is going to be still greater.
Dr. Hamblin: I wonder if people
didn’t always say that?
Mr. Ketchum: They always said it,
but it’s never been as true as it is now.
Dr. Hawke: What we are trying to point out is that you can’t paint your child in the image you desire. If your child tends to be dependent and passive, you can limit that, but to make that child into a leader is very doubtful.
Also, it is important to realize that it is not the lectures and the talks, the discussions and the discipline that mold children: it is really, frankly, the way in which you behave. If you are tolerant, if you are well-disciplined, if you accept control and obedience, then your children will probably do the same. ★