Mona Charen

 Another essential entry on the "must have" book list is Betsy Hart's "It Takes a Parent." (Women conservatives are so prolific these days!) Syndicated columnist and mother of four, Hart has given us a touching, funny, wise and trenchant analysis of what the modern parenting culture has wrought. Not only do many parents fail at elementary discipline -- and there is plenty of statistical evidence that children are misbehaving more than they once did -- but adults also flounder when it comes to the basic and elementary understanding of the role of the parent.

 A parent's job, Hart argues, is much more profound than merely training a child to behave him or herself (though for many modern parents, this alone would be a miracle). This most sacred of responsibilities involves shaping and shepherding a child's heart. It is not enough to guard kids from the evils of the popular culture, she notes, though that is necessary. A parent must teach a child to face down the selfish, tyrannical, impatient and ungrateful part of his own heart.

 This is the idea with which modernity is at war. Just as Rousseau taught that man was naturally good but merely corrupted by civilization, so the parenting experts advise us that children's essential virtue should be elicited. Parenting magazines (perhaps not aware of their debt to Rousseau) advise "Seven Ways to Avoid Saying No to Your Children," and a leading authority advises that "To help our children make wise decisions in their lives, we have always given them the freedom of choice."

 In fact, as Hart most lovingly attests, children are unbelievably winsome and precious, but we do neither them nor our society any favors by failing to recognize that their characters need molding by their parents who are -- gasp -- older and wiser.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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