A license is required to become an adoptive or foster parent. The same should apply to becoming a birth parent.
In all of life, there’s no activity so important as parenting. Non-humans do it perfectly by instinct. Our great grandparents did the same. But soon after the invention of television and the mall, kids were captured by a cult that replaced natural instinct with artificial ingredients. Now kids are raised indoors by computers and peer networks. They’ve no idea what it means to be natural or parented. Neither do their parents, having grown up in the same cult. The result is wholesale abandonment of life’s most important activity. Kids view parents, not as role models to emulate, but as puppets to manipulate. Parents view kids, not as apprentices to mentor, but as royals to mollify. Money serves both parties, and, at first glance, that seems good for the economy. Domestic tranquility is for sale. But the price is extracted from character, and lack of character isn’t good for anything.
Kids learn to want what can be bought, and parents the peace that comes from buying it. Whether what’s wanted contributes to health or habitat or social fabric is irrelevant. Poor families suffer by comparison: Kids feel deprived, parents inadequate. Unlike our great grandparents, contemporary poor seek remedy in entitlements rather than sacrifice.
Poor kids don’t do they’re schoolwork, and their parents don’t make them. They’re disrespectful to teachers, and their parents don’t punish them. They drop out of school, become chronically unemployed, and turn to crime or welfare as a way of life. Poor kids suffer more than rich kids from obesity and diabetes because their parents don’t make them eat right and exercise. Poor parents like to claim they can’t afford good food, but good food is cheaper than junk food. Brown rice, dry beans, powdered milk, and vitamin/mineral pills make a perfect diet. Add some olive oil and vinegar and herbs and it even tastes good. Jumping rope, jogging in place or up and down stairs, and push-ups and sit-ups are free and safe, and all the exercise anyone needs. Poor girls, more than rich girls, get pregnant and contract HIV because poor parents don’t enforce safe sex. When poor kids become parents, they perpetuate the cycle of deprivation and entitlement.
Rich kids do their schoolwork and treat teachers with respect, but they also cheat more than poor kids do because rich parents care about success more than integrity. Rich parents shower their kids with unequal opportunities, e.g., elite schools, private lessons, summer camps, travel abroad, influential internships. When, eventually, rich kids join the executive ranks, they assume they’re entitled to exorbitant compensation, and they’re not ashamed to hurt health, habitat, or social fabric to get it. When they become parents, they perpetuate the cycle of affluence and entitlement.
The woes of our world – chronic diseases, environmental devastation, social and economic decay – emanate from lack of character. We shouldn’t expect legislatures or schools to solve these problems. But we can demand that legislatures require schools to teach parenting skills, and to prohibit parenting by kids who fail to acquire these skills. What are parenting skills? More than anything else, they’re about saying “No” to selfish desire, and teaching kids not to want more than they need. Parenting isn’t fun or easy, and it breeds domestic discord. But it can empower children to “sit down together at the table of brotherhood and judge each other,” not by physical or intellectual achievements, or worldly possessions, or popularity, “but by the content of their character.”
According to a recent Brookings Institution report, Connecticut residents lead the nation in social and economic mobility. Let’s take that leadership to the next level by demonstrating how to empower all kids to parent for the good of the whole. Let’s require schools to teach kids how to say “no” to selfish desire and “yes” to good character. Let’s award a “License to Parent” to high school graduates who acquire these skills. And let’s make pregnancy without a license an automatic “Hotline” call to the Department of Children and Families.
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