Is Alex Murdaugh the poster child for modern parenting?
We can learn a lot about ourselves from his story.
Originally published in the Moultrie News.
Alex Murdaugh to me seems like the poster child for modern parenting in the extreme. Can we learn anything from his story?
Anyone who knows even a little about the case realizes that Alex Murdaugh used his power and privilege to instill in his children a sense of power and privilege. That this would end tragically was predictable. That it would end violently was not especially shocking. What’s novel is that it would end at the father’s own hand.
Murdaugh’s conduct was obviously extreme, but the underlying parental values that helped cause it have become decidedly mainstream. Those values faithfully followed the predominant philosophy of too many parents: shield children from all discomfort with deflection, indulgence, and delusion.
Murdaugh’s trouble allegedly started when his son caused the death of a young woman while boating under the influence of alcohol. That’s serious trouble for a kid, and a lot of misguided parents would have taken severe actions to protect their child from prison. Not being lawyers nor possessing as much influence, they wouldn’t have taken the precise steps that Murdaugh took, but they still would have deflected guilt, perhaps blaming the son’s negligence on his “mental health,” the other passengers, addiction issues, insufficient lighting, faulty steering or the server who sold him alcohol. Many would have blamed the alcohol itself while exempting from fault the parents who allowed, encouraged, and glamorized it.
This attitude is reflected in something a friend recently showed me. On a neighborhood social media app, someone posted that an unleashed dog had defecated on her driveway. Reaction from neighbors was uniformly against the dog’s owner, who was fiercely vilified for his irresponsibility.
Then came another post from a neighborhood mom who had tried to shoo away a group of kids causing damage to shrubbery at the clubhouse. The kids taunted and defied her. She blamed the children’s disrespectful actions on their parents.
The reaction to her post was also unanimous — against her. The outcry followed predictable 21st-century themes: “Why don’t you leave the kids alone?” “You deserved it for not minding your own business.” “You don’t even know those parents.” Neighbors consistently blamed the woman, shielded the kids, and exonerated the parents.
We can learn a lot about a culture from what it values and what it condemns. We clearly still value the duty of pet ownership. We hold caretakers totally answerable for the behavior of animals that comprehend little beyond conditioning and response. But for their children — who can listen, learn, love, and understand — parents are off the hook. If anyone has the gall to question a child’s faults, it is that person we condemn, not the parents.
This has significant repercussions for education. When a student fails, we blame the school or teacher. When a student gets in trouble, we blame the rules, the principal or uptight educators. When a student is violent, we blame a disorder. When a student is chronically absent, we blame the entire system. Since 2020, we’ve blamed all of the above on the pandemic. Some may venture to suggest that the child is negatively influenced by “home life” but would never implicate the individuals responsible for the condition of that home.
All of this deflection only obscures a still-vital truth: the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world. Parents have more control over all of the aforementioned problems than anyone else on earth. The Murdaugh tragedy — and a thousand smaller tragedies that occur every day — might never have taken place if parents had taught their kids the value of duty over denial.
Sadly, we demand more from a dog owner than a father. This is not a healthy place for us to be. When adults are held more accountable for the behavior of their pets than their children, we, like Murdaugh, forge a path toward a dark and disastrous future.
Read the original article here.
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