Sometimes things just fold together nicely so, and I’m around to hear it, read it, or see it.

Yesterday three initially disparate events occurred, the lesson for us follows:

Tough Love:

Congressman Allen West, about whom I’ve written (see previous post), spoke at a Women Impacting Nation meeting; he encouraged women to stand strong because they are essential to having a country of strong American men. He used the Spartans, the most feared army in ancient times as his example:

“But when you understood what made the Spartan men strong, it was the Spartan women. Because the Spartan women gave….” their male children over at the age of nine to years of martial training.

“And when the Spartan mother gave that young Spartan warrior his shield, she gave him this basic commandment: ‘Spartan, here is your shield. Come back bearing this shield or being borne upon it!'”

Mother Superior: 

In her book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, Amy Chua observes:

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover,  have a playdate, be in a school play,  complain about not being in a school play, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities,  get any grade less than an A, or not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama.

Chua writes,  “Western parents  constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.”

Chua is crystal clear on this point… humans responds to challenge, even the smallest of them; it is the nature of things. The easiest path provides nothing, and as a society we have forgotten that, or worse, against all facts to the contrary, ignored and doubted it.

From the mouths of babes:

The last of these random events was my decision, also yesterday, to watch the documentary “Babies”; it was not boredom or remote control flick; I’ve long had an interest in early childhood development which was one of the reasons I chose to become a psychotherapist in mid-life.



“Babies” simultaneously follows four infants– from birth to first steps. The children who live with their families, are respectively: Ponijao of Namibia; Bayarjargal, of Mongolia; Mari, of Tokyo; and Hattie, who resides with her family in San Francisco.

The film affords the viewer a front-row seat… no script, no interviews or talking heads, just the inner-workings of a family in four distinct and wildly diverse cultures as it welcomes its newest member.

You’d have to have the average IQ of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals not to draw the lesson from the child-rearing styles shown. The two boys grow up a mud hut and the traditional Mongolian yurt… life is hard, even dangerous for the unwary. Siblings take on much of the care taking as parents work through out the day. Ants bite, falls hurt, frustrations abound… and crying usually doesn’t get you anywhere.    

Both boys live literally among the cattle and goats, chickens and dogs… and dirt, drink water from puddles and seem to develop into robust, assertive, adventuresome toddlers who push all the boundaries, and take correction in stride as a matter of daily life.  Extended families are large and communal. 

There is very little substantive difference between Mari’s and Hattie’s first year; both raised in apartments, without siblings, usually in the care of and often surrounded by adults. Play is organized and scheduled and always directed by parents. They are are more passive, more whiny (at least Hattie) and more confounded by life than their peers thousands of miles away.

A few moments stand out… at one point Hattie smacks her mother two or three times on the cheek, not angrily just doing what kids do; Ms. Birkenstock responds immediately: with a smile she coos, “we do not hit”, grabs a book, titled: “No Hitting” and shows it to the toddler.

Hattie smacks it too.

Later, four moms and one meterosexual father, with babies in their laps are “exercising”, they hold the babies’ arms up and chant, “Mother Earth loves you, she will protect you.”  Not kidding.

The girls never encounter dirt, they don’t even see dirt; they are clean and cleaned to a fault; at one point Hattie’s Metrodaddy lint-rollers her front and back after he vacuums the rug she’s sitting on.  

And the point in all this…?   

The rugged, strictly conforming, disciplined parenting of Poni and Byar, full of experiences, challenges, tasks and devoid of mollycoddling will produce leaders… strong, self-reliant individuals for whom life will be lived full-bore.

Conversely, Mari and Hattie (who does show a tough streak despite her parenting) are being groomed to be part of the next wave of Japanese/San Franciscan sheeple who will accumulate years of education and training, are pre-programmed to become Employee #16345-Q in the Japan’s massive IT hive, and the appropriately vegan socialist with a degree in Women’s Studies, respectively.

Essentially…. clones of their parents.   

Both Rep. West and Ms. Chau would embrace this observation… our children are owed the best training and advice we can give them…. how could it be otherwise?

But sadly… no, tragically, we have over the last several decades allowed childhood and adolescence to become an overwhelmingly indulgent process which considers discipline to be the loss of video games for a day or so.

Today children have no responsibilities. Why can’t a four-year-old make their bed?

Childhood used to be the period in which you came of age. Now childhood is nothing more than a familial kindergarten which teaches little and asks virtually nothing.

Generations back, once you could perform a man’s or woman’s work… you were an adult at the age of 14…. 12, even younger.

Instead, now we have “adolescence”, a relatively new invention, during which I believe children actually regress.

Do you know a mother who washes and irons their teen’s clothes? One who caters to their every whim… paying all costs and expenses, yet demanding nothing in return?

“The kids'” adolsecence now extends into the mid-20s and even 30s. Then… they move back home; the big ole world was just too tough.

And whose fault is that?

Poni and Byar prove this thesis… children, even toddlers, will rise to the challenge, will seek the hard and experience-ladened path on their own, and if we are to salvage Real America it is critical that we immediately demand Tiger Moms and Spartan Mothers for the new generation.   

Otherwise, it is impossible to produce another Greatest Generation.

About Gary Alexander

Volunteer coordinator for veterans support network in North Texas. Now retired from his private psychotherapy practice, I specialized in the diagnosis and treatment posttraumatic stress, working with victim assistance programs, veterans and the Veterans Administration for over 20 years. After being wounded in action in Vietnam, I was medically retired from the Marine Corps and know first hand many of the readjustment difficulties and psychological stresses experienced by today's OIF and OEF veterans. I am available, at minimal cost, to speak at your functions on several subjects including veterans issues, Vietnam, the Medal of Honor, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and critical incident debriefings.
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2 Responses to Sparta

  1. Bob Mack says:

    Speaking of extended adolescence, how ’bout this miscarriage of justice (from The Death of the Grown-Up by Diana West):

    Marco Andreoli was 30 years old in 2002 when Italy’s highest court ordered Marco’s father to pay Marco roughly $1000 a month until Marco found a job that “fit his aspirations.” Alas, this could take a while. Marco had a law degree, a house on one of Naples’ swankiest streets, and joint ownership of an investment fund worth more than $390,000. Clearly not just any job would do…After the court ordered [Marco’s father] to pony up and support Marco in the style to which his son might never grow unaccustomed…”the judges said that a parent’s duty of maintenance did not expire when their children reached adulthood, but continued unchanged until they were able to prove either that their children had reached economic independence or had failed to do so through ‘culpable inertia.’ “

  2. And this is why we should “be more like Europe”.

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