Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Parenting Congress

As I scrolled through yesterday morning's Facebook feed, littered with descriptions of how the government shutdown is hurting a far flung cross-section of people, it occurred to me our elected representatives, on both sides of the aisle, are behaving like children.

It just so happens I have some experience dealing with recalcitrant children and so I've drafted a short plan for encouraging better behavior and avoiding governmental gridlock.

1. Immediate Consequences.  Even pet owners know consequences for bad behavior should be immediate and relate directly to the bad act.

If my children refuse to eat dinner they don't get dessert. This consequence wouldn't be nearly as effective if, say, their refusal to eat dinner meant the neighbors didn't get to eat dessert.

If Congress can't pass a budget, they should go without pay. Immediate. Connected. Consequence.

2. Time Outs. Time spent alone is an effective, nonviolent reminder that your inability to play nicely will result in a set period of time where you are disengaged from all your normal activities.

Elected officials who engage in bad behavior could take a time out in their office (minutes equal to their age, of course).

Maybe they'll miss a vote on the floor. Maybe they'll miss two. I can guarantee the parenting public will reap the benefits by seeing a pleasanter Congress that knows its boundaries and how to be first time listeners.

3. Bad Behavior. Of course we'd need to define what constitutes a time out-worthy offense. Since Congress can't even agree on a budget, I'm under no illusion they'll be able to agree on something as basic as behavioral guidelines.

Don't worry, elected officials! My son's third grade teacher has a list of expectations that are similar to those that have decorated classrooms every year since my children started Kindergarten. Even if you can't agree, the rest of us can, have and will expect you to comport yourselves with dignity and respect equal to that which is required of our nation's school children.

4. Loss of Privileges. I admit it. Sometimes time outs and immediate consequences aren't enough.

Those are the times when I have to dig deep into my parental bag of tricks. Phones and screentime are a favorite privilege of my children which means they're first on the parental chopping block.

Clearly, threat of not being re-elected is not a sufficiently immediate consequence (see point #1). But that doesn't mean our elected officials don't have privileges they enjoy.

Their staffers, their drivers, their exclusive access to the Congressional café? It doesn't have to be a one-size fits all answer, but like a good parent, I have faith a good group of constituents would have that special insight necessary to determine their Congressman's favorite privileges and then deny them until good behavior (the kind on classroom walls throughout the country) is achieved.

5. Perspective. I want my children to understand their desires aren't the end-all, be-all.

Yes, I know that new Skylander is really, really cool and possession of it might open up all kinds of video game doors, but we can't drop everything to go buy it RIGHT THIS MINUTE because we have things like homework and dinner and the daily grind of life that takes precedence.

And yes, Congress and President Obama, I understand Obamacare either (depending on your political viewpoint) needs to stay in place, as is, because it's really, really cool and will open up all kinds of health care doors or the failure to defund it will be the end of modern civilization.

But I also have the perspective necessary to understand we shouldn't drop everything to have it pass RIGHT THIS MINUTE because there are people who need their paychecks to buy the groceries required to make dinner and dying, indigent people who can't get treatment until their Medicaid forms processed.

No parent worthy of the title would put up with this behavior from their children, so please, legislative and executive branches, get a grip on your perspective and put an end to your Capitol Hill tantrum before it grinds our country into an economic standstill.


Anonymous said...

Great points, Johanna. And that's as political a statement as you'll be able to get out of me.

However, I'm wondering if I can shut down the Parental Congress -- of which I'm the Speaker and The Wife is the Majority Leader -- and see how the kids handle things.

Marjorie DeLuca said...

This is hilarious! But maybe too logical!

Hart Johnson said...

Loved this...

And remember, when they AREN'T your kids, you DON'T have to invite them back again. (My kids has friends never allowed inside because they couldn't follow the rules... that is what I'd suggest)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Agree they should go without pay and fringe benefits - just like a large slice of America is doing right now.
Fight Obamacare another day guys. Don't kill the country trying to remove one blemish.

Johanna Garth said...

Josh, I think you might have localized shutdown if you try that!

Marjorie, maybe, a little. :)

Hart, yes, I'm already considering who I don't want to invite back.

Alex, it's big picture time.

Nicki Elson said...

Hilarious and logical. I don't know, maybe we're a step closer to my dream of throwing out the whole lot of them and starting fresh.

The new healthcare thing definitely needs to be figured out and actually planned for (what a concept) before we're all stuck with it w/ no way out. SNL did a great skit on this last weekend.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Touche' .... How do we make this happen? No, I'm serious!!!

Gwen Gardner said...

Well said, Johanna! And yet there won't be any consequences for their misbehavior. I vote for you :)

Cathrina Constantine said...

Good Post, Johanna!

D.G. Hudson said...

Social medicine has survived in Canada very well, even with our conservative nay-sayers.

Your politicians seem to go to the same school of behavoir as ours. e.g., 'I'm going to take my toys and go home'.

Unknown said...

I tend to avoid political discussions unless they're with my husband or close friends that I know I can maintain a civil discussion with, but I have to say, well said!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Amen. I'm with you on that. Somehow I don't think time-outs are gonna work on this group. They have a rather profound sense of entitlement. I think it falls under being a legend in their own mind...

As one of the senior GOP leaders remarked about this particular bunch, they're in an echo chamber and only hear their own agenda and their own voices. doing things for the good of country? not of great importance.

I'm with you, get a grip congress do the job.

Sia McKye Over Coffee

Morgan said...

Love this, Johanna. You always have a strong voice and I'm always interested to read what you have to say. Thank you for this entertaining post! :D

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Great post!

I'd like to see the whole bunch of them sequestered just like a jury until they can reach an agreement. That includes a budget hotel and takeout food.

Diana Wilder said...

I was looking for the 'like' button and then realized that I had strayed somewhat. Very well put! I was nodding through the post. Pithy, incisive and well put.

Diana at About Myself By Myself

Julie Flanders said...

Absolutely love the top picture - what a perfect representation of the way these clowns are acting. The whole situation is such an embarrassment.

Lisa Gail Green said...

Bravo! Both sides are acting worse than children. They're like children with money, power, and no parents watching. Sort of Lord of the Flies...