1. First, students, remember to major on minors: Make no differentiation between social guffaws and moral absolutes. In fact, invert your response if possible–For commandment-breaking acts, throw up your hands and say, Oh, she didn’t actually mean to lie. And, for matters of indifference, go bat-crud-crazy: HOW DARE YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT SHOES, and so on and so forth.
2. Concern yourself with externals like ‘modesty’ over internals like ‘a growing resentment that will take years of therapy to even begin to undo.’ Your daughter wants to do what?? Wear a tank top?? Doesn’t she know tank tops are of the Evil One? Refuse at once, shame her for even asking, and then turn a blind eye when she goes to chat on her iTouch with a 14-year-old boy who wants her to talk dirty to him.
3. Care more about what the church ladies think than what God thinks. Discipline only for behaviors that embarrass you during the coffee hour between Sunday School and church, then ignore the same ones at home because no one’s there to watch Miss Sassy Pants give you the lip.
4. Frustrate your child at every turn: She wants to go to her friend’s house? Make her pay. She can only go if she does ALL her chores, WITHOUT complaining once even though you are forcing her to do her brother’s dishes as well as her own, her homework, her piano practice. Make her clean her room and babysit her baby brother whenever you need a break or have a headache, even if that’s seven hours a day. Should she dare to defy you on this, cancel the get-together at once. Better yet, wait until the very last moment and THEN cancel it. How will she ever learn to submit if it doesn’t hurt?
5. Treat her like a slut. Again, crucial. Shaming her for liking that sundress is only the beginning. Showing an interest in boys? Flirting? Caught kissing once, even? Label her ‘loose,’ immediately. Freak out well out of proportion to her ‘deed.’ Give her every indication that you believe, deep down, she is a bad seed and has some sick perversity no other girl has. Whatever you do, steer clear of honest talk about sexuality, periods, and what is normal (and God-given) in that arena. It’s integral that she feels dirty as young as possible.
6. When you see what she wants/needs, make it a priority to give her the exact opposite. Is she needy at night, wanting to take up your precious bath time to chat? Push her away. Teach her the meaning of ‘me-time.’ Roll your eyes. Does she need an outlet, a friend, advice, encouragement? Toughen the big baby up by just ignoring whatever wheel is squeaking loudest. Make her life an obstacle course of pleasing you, of avoiding your mercurial wrath, of lying just to keep you off her back and have a moment of peace.
7. Never, ever say you’re sorry. What, and risk her thinking you flawed, or, worse, human? Shame on you for even considering such a thing…
8. Keep your distance. To make sure she knows who’s boss, it’s important to remain aloof and detached. Whatever you do, don’t cuddle up on the couch and watch a chick flick together. Be as cold as possible, let her know your displeasure in her very being, and be sure to never tell her that you, too, have bad days, wonder who you are or who God is, or hate your thighs like she does hers. Instead of living life alongside her, live across the river, detached and indifferent, but be sure to flip out when she gets the attention and affection she craves elsewhere.
9. Never smile at her. This may communicate that, no matter her weaknesses and struggles, you actually adore her. Make sure you are distracted when she talks and be sure not to praise her most recent accomplishment too lavishly. In fact, try not to attend her recitals or games or play performances if at all possible. What, and risk her getting a big head?
It’s so easy to look at a rebellious child and think, what is her problem and to further shame her in our attempts to pull her back onto the straight and narrow. But, what if we are to blame, at least in part, for creating our prodigal? What if we’ve been boorish and unreasonable and perfectionistic and relentlessly demanding and too harsh? What if we’ve toyed with our child’s psyche or bludgeoned her vulnerability and withheld from her the warmth and love she so desperately needs? Perhaps the first stop on the road to a prodigal’s return is a heartfelt apology from her parents.
I hope this class is one we all fail abysmally.