The Necessary Hypocrisy of Parenting
“Baby videos, fish oil, Kumon maths: it all counts for nothing unless you can stop them smoking dope before 18,” reads an amusing article in the Times of London about “how to make your child cleverer.” Unfortunately the full text isn’t online, but here’s an excerpt:
“Because it’s not called dope for nothing, or so new research from New Zealand suggests. Adults who smoked cannabis regularly from their teens were found to suffer an irreversible drop in IQ of about eight points—not cataclysmic, but a noticeable dimming of the bulb.
What dumbed the New Zealanders down was precisely this pattern of taking cannabis under the age of 18, several times a week. Cautious souls who indulged only when they were older weren’t affected, suggesting that immature brains are particularly vulnerable—something of an evolutionary design flaw when resistance to temptation often comes only with maturity, if at all.
So the sensible line for liberal parents might be to present cannabis as rather like sex: something ideally left until you’re old enough, or at least until you know when to stop, and preferably never in the middle of a crowded park (or of your A levels).
If it feels hypocritical, urging children to do as we say rather than as we once did, so what? Parenting would be impossible without rank hypocrisy, the shameless imposition on small children of standards we can’t even meet now, let alone 30 years ago. Don’t cross the road until the green man flashes, no sugar between meals—and share nicely.
It’s not wrong to expect better of, and for, our children than ourselves. But it is mistaken to think that throwing money at the problem helps, that there is always a quick over-the-counter fix to be had. What was forgotten, in the brief Noughties craze for ‘smart’ baby videos scientifically designed to teach your little genius to talk, was that infants ultimately prefer learning from conversations with real, live adults. Perhaps the same is still true of the surly teenagers they become.”
“Parenting would be impossible without rank hypocrisy”: how true. I feel that all the time as a mother, telling my children to do as I say, not as I do (or did).