Howard Stern Illustrates A Reality in Which Most Folks are Not Aware

As I noted in my last post, we are going to look all over to place to understand what I want to convey. This relates to a rut many well intentioned otherwise good middle class parents fall into. There are “bad” parents. Those who neglect, abandon, and/or physically abuse.

What the Stern example illustrates this problem endemic to middle class parents. His were “good” parents, in a comparative sense (they always provided and didn’t do the “bad” things above mentioned).

But the way they dealt with him on an emotional level was unhealthy, suboptimal, and caused damage.

Scenario One: Young Howard pushed his father’s buttons which caused his father to flip out and humiliate him in public.

Truth: His father failed to properly react to the situation. Humiliating your children, especially in public, is wrong. That’s not to say it’s okay for them to misbehave. But the right way is to be patient, but firm. Getting angry at your children and taking it out on them is always wrong. It may be unavoidable. If my underaged son took my car out without permission and got a DUI and ended up in prison, I might, understandably, get angry and take it out on him. But I still fail to properly react to the circumstance.

And it is NO EXCUSE that everyone does it. If everyone does, it’s akin to original sin.

Howard claims: He doesn’t take his anger out on his kids. When he finds himself yelling at them like his father yelled at him, he leaves the room because he remembered what a jerk he felt like when his father did that to him. If he is being honest, he does the right thing and is a better father, at least in that respect.

Personal example: I remember in law school, one of my classmates — she seemed like a perfectly nice lady — middle aged (if I remember properly she had a PhD) regularly brought her kids — her three little girls — to school. They had to wait outside when mommy was in class. She used emotional pressure, guilt, and humiliation to “keep them in line.” I remember a number of occasions where she got frustrated with them, screamed at her little girls, took her furious anger out on them, seemingly completely unaware of the incident it caused.

I thought in my head, “man I wouldn’t be surprised if those girls grow up to hate her.”

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7 Responses to Howard Stern Illustrates A Reality in Which Most Folks are Not Aware

  1. Mr. Rowe:

    I enjoyed this post. I should say that one important reason why I do not want to be a parent is that I do not believe I could avoid acting emotionally or verbally abusively. I suppose every parent, even “good” ones, do that sometime or another. But it’s the type of thing I wouldn’t want to put myself in the position of doing. I would hope that, if I ever were a parent, I would rise to the occasion, but I am not optimistic.

    And it is NO EXCUSE that everyone does it. If everyone does, it’s akin to original sin.

    Agreed. Is there, however, a corresponding obligation to put oneself into the position where one has to resist the temptation? In other words, under the formulation that you are using, is it wrong not to become a parent because one fears not being a good one?

    If this is not where your headed, then I apologize. But these are my thoughts upon reading this post.

  2. Scott S. says:

    If it is wrong for people who recognize their own limitations and strive to overcome them to become parents, then who should be parents? People who are un-self-aware? People who make no effort to control their emotions?

    Being worried about how to be a good parent is the best prerequisite for becoming a parent.

  3. Jon Rowe says:


    It’s an interesting question. As Scott noted, because you have that concern, you’ll probably be a better parent than most folks who are unaware.

    However, you have to balance and decide. My best and his wive have depression that runs in their family, likely in their genes. And that’s one big reason they decided not to have kids.

    Likewise, what if you and your spouse have genetic predispositions for horrible diseases? These are tough issues in bioethics.

  4. AMW says:

    Nice post, Jon. If I may, allow me to offer a broader truth that envelops your proscription against humiliating your kids in public: parent your children with humility. Humility is a great prophylactic against tearing other people down. I think humility vis-a-vis your children also implies the following good parenting particulars:

    1. Whatever the rules of your household, they shouldn’t just exist to make you personally comfortable at the expense of your children. And when you enforce those rules, it should be clear that the consequence is because the child has violated a just, reasonable principle, not because he’s annoyed mom or dad.

    2. Whenever you’ve been unjust to a child, admit it openly, apologize, and offer restitution if appropriate.

  5. Jon Rowe says:

    AMW: Many thanks.

  6. Michael Enquist says:


    Your example of your friend and his wife brings up the point that just because someone may have a biological limitation to becoming a parent, that doesn’t mean they have a psychological limitation. There are so many children right now who need even pretty good parents that almost anyone who can, should adopt.

  7. Heidegger says:


    The most troubling and difficult theological question I have is, why would God ever need to create a universe? What purpose could it possibly serve? If we live in a created universe, how could space-time be finite in reverse but infinite/eternal forward?

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