“The Most Powerful Question a Parent Can Ask…” by Neil Millar and “Be-ers and Do-ers” by Budge Wilson both deal with parenting and the importance of properly raising children. The excerpt from Wilson’s short story briefly tells the story of her brother, Albert, an individual who, as a child, is pushed to his limits by his mother, and Albert’s subsequent retaliation as a young adult. She strictly tells Albert to focus on his school work, not allowing him to take part in any other activities that he enjoys, frustrating him. Diametrically opposed lies Millar, with his article about young independence. Supported by statistics, Millar uses anecdotal evidence to persuade the reader that children fare better when given the chance to display their capabilities. Although the parents from both texts have good intentions, the Millar’s article displays a more respectful approach to parenting, and the mother in Wilson’s short story displays parenting techniques that could potentially harm her children, rather than help them.
The most outstanding differences between the texts is their reinforcement techniques: Millar in the article uses positive reinforcement in order to teach his children, while the mother in the short story believes negative reinforcement to have a greater effect. Whereas the mother in the short story uses criticism, calling her son, “rock-bottom lazy” (11), the parent in the article uses encouragement, suggesting that parents reward their children by showing their appreciation for their work, and “giving hugs” (11). Apart from being more pleasant overall, positive reinforcement is a more respectful way of raising children. Deterrence from punishment, as well as being an extremely degrading method of instruction, will not teach children to what is right and wrong, but only injure their self esteem, turning them into adults with little confidence and poor judgement.
The article denotes a parent’s role in their child’s life as “a guide and leader” (10). These two words, capable of summarizing the idea behind the article, reveal that the basis of respectful parenting is allowing children to allow children to learn from experience and do things for themselves, while still pointing them in the right direction. Conversely, the mother in the short story is convinced that children learn from violent shoves in the right direction. She tells her son exactly what to do, and when, saying that she would “light a fire under his feet” (11) in order to move him along. Her fire, however, does not spark in Albert the inclination nor enthusiasm to try harder in his school work, but only instills in him a bitterness which festers late into his young adulthood, implied when Albert says that his mother is not proud of him (34). As noted in the article, independence is the key to successful children, and although the mother in the short story wants Albert to be “educated and successful,” she is going about supporting him in the wrong way.
The chart at the end of the article displays that giving a child more responsibilities, such as work and extracurriculars, can help them develop as an individual and perform better at school (Figure 1). The article greatly enforces this idea, emphasizing on the fact that youth should be given tasks to complete in the house as a way of “handing over responsibility,” to them (10). In the short story, however, the mother is extremely restrictive of her son’s activities, even going so far as to not allow him to play baseball (17). The former method of parenting allows children to take on new obligations, as well as be engaged in various types of activities, and not restrained to simply one pursuit. Youth raised in this way grow up to be well-rounded individuals with varied interests, and ultimately better adults.
Evidently, Millar’s article about parenting demonstrates the more respectful approach to raising children. Even though the parents in both texts want their children to grow up to be successful, educated and responsible adults, their actions towards their children can have very different outcomes. Millar’s use of supporting stories and logic defeats the assumptions made by the mother in Wilson’s short story, however. Ultimately, her son, Albert, grows into a caring and welcoming adult, but only after being put through the struggle of a repressed childhood. There is no denying that being a parent is a stressful and arduous task, and that all parents have their child’s best interest in mind, but parents should be sure to treat their children with as much respect as they would treat another adult and to allow their children to blossom into their own selves, even if that is not the parent’s perfect image of them.
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