Georgetown couple weighs in on parenting
It’s 7 o’clock Monday morning after a long, leisurely weekend. Normally, Jamie makes waffles and bacon while Doug gets the blueberries. It’s a team effort for the Arnold family, who has the same breakfast most mornings. But events soon disrupt this particular morning for the clockwork family. Their son had a bloody nose, so Jamie spent much of her morning washing his linen and pajamas. By the time she got to the kitchen, her other son decided he wanted something different for breakfast and asked for a smoothie. Jamie made the smoothie, but before she could fix the waffles for the rest of the family, her son had spilled the smoothie all over the kitchen floor.
Meet Judge Doug Arnold and his wife, psychologist Jamie Arnold. If you already know Doug and Jamie, you know that they’re accomplished professionals working hard to keep a routine as they raise their two boys. If you really know the Arnolds, you may concur that they struggle with the same hurdles as everyone else involved in the sport of parenting.
Georgetown View caught up with this busy couple to get their perspective on parenting in today’s culture.
First, Jamie, tell me: What do you remember about Doug from when you first met him?
Doug: Remember—we’re being recorded.
Jamie: I remember one time he and I were driving after church, and we saw these two girls on the side of the road with a flat tire. The next thing I know, we’re pulling over, and Doug, in his church clothes, changed their tire for them. I was really impressed by that.
Doug: You know I paid them to stage the whole thing.
What were your views about parenting before you became parents?
Doug: Well, you know, you’d be in public and you’d see this kid acting out. Where are the parents? Well, the parents are under the table in shame. I’m not nearly as judgmental as I used to be.
Jamie, you mentioned that when you were growing up, your parents weren’t overly concerned about your emotional comfort and that they let you figure things out for yourself. How does that translate to your own parenting?
Jamie: We encourage our kids to take risks. You can put your children in situations where they have to adapt, where they’re not just comfortable with the same friends and the same teacher and doing the same thing all the time. What happens when you face what seems like an insurmountable task is that you think, I survived that, and now I can survive this.
Many parents are able to do more for their children than perhaps their parents were able to do. What does delayed gratification look like in your home with your children?
Doug: Our kids have a lot more materially than we did growing up, and I worry about that sometimes. Part of it is the times we’re living in. Kids were a lot more independent in my generation. I was mowing the lawn when I was eight. I think in this society [that would be] very unusual. We are much more protective of our children today. There are a lot of really good things about that. But there’s a flip side to that. We’re almost over-protective in some ways. We don’t allow kids to take risks as much as we did a generation or two ago. I think there is a happy medium between the time I grew up, when parents were more laissez faire about children, and now. And I’m not sure what it is because I’m not an expert.
Jamie: I think there needs to be a balance. I think with technology, there are things in our culture that we were not exposed to. I think parents do have to be vigilant when it comes to computers, the Internet, and things like that. We don’t let our kids get on the computer without us knowing.
Doug: But we’re not perfect.
Jamie: We’ve made mistakes.
Jamie: The other thing with delayed gratification is being able to say “no.” I don’t think everybody should have everything they want, even if they say, “Well, we can afford it.” I tell my kids that I don’t think it’s necessary to have that right now. Making them wait and making them earn things . . . they don’t get an allowance just for breathing. It’s interesting when they have to pay for things themselves.
Doug: Yes, they’re much more conservative.
Jamie: You want to be generous, but you don’t want to spoil. And that’s what I struggle with. I worry because I don’t want them to be spoiled. That’s hard sometimes.
Doug: I don’t know where the balance is.
How has parenting psychology changed from your generation to your children’s?
Jamie: It used to be, at least in this culture, that everyone believed the same way. At least from my perspective, it used to be more homogeneous. [Now] we have many different beliefs, cultures, and viewpoints. You might have your values, but they may be different from those of the people next door. You want your children to adopt your values but be sensitive to others’. If you did something wrong at school, you were going to get double-dosed at home. Now, some parents will kind of support the teacher, but a lot of times parents will come to the kids’ rescue and make excuses for them. Children think that they should get something that they didn’t earn. I think that stems from the 1980s and the self-esteem movement where everybody gets a trophy. A lot of psychologists are discovering that that didn’t really work because you had people with an inflated view of themselves. When people get into college and the real world, they have to actually work for things. They have to perform. Not everybody gets a trophy. They’re not successful just because everybody’s told them how wonderful they are. If our child doesn’t do something well, I don’t tell him he did it well. I believe the fear of failure is a really powerful motivator.
Doug: This is why I really like sports. In a lot of ways, sports are like the last bastion of meritocracy. It doesn’t really matter who you are. I know there are exceptions to this . . . but sports are a meritocracy. You’re valued by what you can do. You get self-esteem based on what you’ve done.
Jamie: People feel good about themselves when they’ve actually accomplished something.
Doug Arnold is judge of County Court at Law No. 3, Williamson County. Jamie Arnold is a psychology professor. They live in Georgetown with their sons, Drew and Dan.