Parents who drone on
No wonder kids switch off to these parents who just never stop lecturing, says Karin Schimke.
It is generally accepted that one of the most important duties a parent has in raising their child is to instruct them.

Feed them, protect them from harm, love them... and teach them.

Loving and teaching are nebulous ideas. How you love and how you teach are as individual as your sense of humour, your taste in music or the shape of your toes. But there is one way of being taught that I am almost pitifully glad my parents did not expose me to: the ongoing life lecture.

Have you met parents like those?

Their love and sense of teaching duty are so mixed up that they seem to think that their love is expressed through the constant verbal moulding and shaping of their children.

Two droning parent types

They usually have two modes of delivery, often aligned according to the parent’s gender.
  1. The ponderous, self-satisfied, superior, been-there-know-it-all delivery which is usually dished out in long speeches in a patient authoritarian voice. This is usually the province of the father.
  2. The shrill, unabated stream of instruction and correction usually delivered by the mother. Here the narrative is less cohesive, more staccato and more varied in tone and pace.

While I think all parents take on these – and other - voices in the line of duty, it’s the parents who only have this pitch that I am glad I was spared. They are the parents who will use every single opportunity to attempt adjust, calibrate, modify, rectify, regulate, tweak and tailor their children’s every move.

The shrill ones will dab with saliva-tipped thumbs at faces, straighten ties and ask as a greeting in the school yard: “You didn’t forget your blazer again did you? I’m not going to walk through this whole school again looking for it. Come, let’s go, you have to do your homework as soon as we get home, otherwise you’re not going to band practise later. Don’t slouch like that. How was your day? Don’t slam the door, for goodness sake. Did you tell Ms Whatsherface we can’t find your reader? You’re not going to watch TV until you’ve found that book.”

The dour ones will use every daily incident to launch into a what-I-know-and-what-I-expect-you-to-think lesson.

Two percent lower on last term’s maths mark? Sore stomach? Just discovered the joy of somersaulting into the pool? Wonder how planes fly? Wonder who Eminem is? Hate your biology teacher? Bad day on the cricket pitch? Stubbed your toe? Bumped your glass of water over? Forgot to flush the toilet?

No daily event is too inconsequential, too mundane to be allowed to pass without tedious, pedantic advice.

Personally, I like to keep instruction down to a minimum so that when it is necessary, the children have not been droned into deafness by my pompous, supercilious life lessons.

I think it is because my parents practised a more hands-off, learn-your-own-way parenting that I now generally value their input when they feel moved to give it. Quite often they have important experience that can guide me – even in adulthood – so I’m really glad they didn’t dilute it with a monotonous stream of guidance.

Do you know any droners?

Read more by Karin Schimke

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