I remember back when words like “inappropriate” and “not ok” were meant to ramp down moral judgment in the playroom. “Kid, you aren’t a bad person; you just shouldn’t do that action in this situation.” But it turns out that just speaking non-judgmental language is not enough. If we are secretly terrified that our children might be immoral, our choice of euphemisms does not matter one bit. “Not appropriate” ends up meaning wicked. “Not ok” means shameful.
Now the generations raised with this language have grown up, or at least reached adult age, but never updated their disciplinary jargon. Non-judgy nursery school talk has become public moral absolutist talk.
I’m celebrating father’s day by dispensing parenting advice, so indulge me: Your kids are not evil. They’re not particularly good, either. They’re somewhere slightly north or south of neutral, depending on how much sleep they got and what you fed them today. And please stop thinking about morality. Unless you are a serious religious person, good and evil probably doesn’t play nice with the other concepts sloshing around in your head. And frankly, being good isn’t as important as you think. This obsessive compulsive need to be good is producing very little real good, and it might be freaking your kids out. Just teach your damn children to be polite so it isn’t too awful for other people to be around them. Things will probably turn out ok.
Happy fathers day.