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Child Rearing According to Jim Morrison

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Basic Training

I love kids – and not just my own. At parties, I always have more fun playing games and acting goofy with the young ones than I do discussing mortgages, politics, and the pathetic state of our highways and bridges with adults. As far back as I can remember, I’ve connected with and thoroughly enjoyed children. In fact, I’ve often said: "I never met a kid I didn’t like."

But now that I have kids of my own and I am meeting more and more of their friends, I have to admit that can’t say that anymore. It’s unkind, but undeniable: there are way too many bratty kids out there.

Nobody wants to admit it, but you know it’s true. They are your nieces, your nephews, and your neighbors. Your friends’ kids; kids in the checkout line; and the kids’ on your kid’s soccer team; sometimes it seems like yours might be the only kids who aren’t brats. They tend to gather in malls and classrooms, and as I recently learned on a trans-Atlantic flight: they are travelling.

I won’t pretend to know why or how it happened, but the kids are running the show these days, and doing a predictably poor job of it, too. It doesn’t matter who is to blame, we need a fast, simple solution and I believe I have it. The oft-heard complaint that children don’t come with instruction manuals is no longer valid. The books are there, you just have to know how to find them, and I’m here to point you in the right direction.

The most useful books on child-rearing are not found in the "Parenting" section of the bookstore. Those shelves are quivering under the weight of the very books that probably did as much as anything to get us in the fix we’re in today. The books you want are much thinner, cheaper, and found in the "Pets" section.

I’m serious. Everything you can learn about parenting from a book can be found in books about training dogs. Think about it. Most dogs are well behaved and the out of control ones are rare. Seems like there’s an out of control kid in every other aisle in the supermarket (except the cereal aisle where they tend to cluster). A good dog training book spoon-feeds you the basics:

· Feed them appropriately.

· Give them plenty of rest.

· Keep them clean and get them to the doctor regularly.

· Keep an eye on them and get to know them.

· Don’t hit them or scream at them.

· You can’t play with them too much.

· Ignore their whining and it goes away. Give in to it and it gets worse.

· Be firm and patient in all things, but most especially discipline.

· Keep them away from anything they might hurt themselves with.

· And finally, limit your interference with their grooming to issues of health and safety. Boy poodles don’t like looking like girls, and your kids do not want to look like you. Matter of fact, most of you don’t want to look like you. There’s a real image problem in this country, but I can only solve one problem at a time.

That’s the skeleton and we have to flesh the rest out on our own. If you can train a healthy, well adjusted dog, you know how to raise a child. Kids are infinitely more important and a lot more work (puppies are pretty well trained in about 6 months), but I like the puppy training books so much because they cover the basics and keep it simple.

Parents today are so terrified of making mistakes that they’ve lost all confidence in their own instincts. This creates a huge market for these parenting books (and thankfully, newspaper columns), so every Early Childhood Development PhD with a laptop is churning out their latest theories for $24.95 in paperback. I’m sure there is good information in those books, but the nuggets of wisdom are tough to find because they’re buried in so much fluff. If you boiled them all down to their essence, what you’d have left is a puppy training book.

Come on, folks. We’ve been cranking out these little homo sapiens for between 3 and 400,00 years now and very little of substance has changed in that time. Kid’s never did come with directions and that’s because you really don’t need them. Be patient, trust your instincts, and love ‘em to death. It sounds simplistic, but anyone who has raised a child and a puppy knows it’s true. It gets complicated because parents make it that way - and it’s not too late to reverse the trend.

When you run into a problem with your kids that a "puppy training" book can’t handle, call their grandmother, then try your pediatrician. If they can’t help you, then what you have isn’t a problem at all, it’s just part of life and you either have to figure it out on your own or get used to it.

Jim Morrison, home inspector and humor columnist, is President of Allan Morrison Home Inspection Co., Princeton, MA (http://www.AlMorrison.com). Jim's column, The Morrison Boys â„¢, can be found at www.sanitycentral.com.

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