Parenting Matters: Teach Your Kids to Discriminate

By Parnell Donahue
Parnell Donahue
Parnell Donahue
Dr. Parnell Donahue is a pediatrician, military veteran, author of four books, and the blog ParentingWithDrPar.com, and host of WBOU’s “Parenting Matters” show. He and his wife, Mary, have four adult children; all hold doctorates, two also are MDs. Contact him at Parenting-Matters.com
July 27, 2021 Updated: July 27, 2021

When we were kids, our parents taught us right from wrong. They had rather strict rules we had to follow. In addition, they helped us evaluate and judge the actions of other kids and allowed us to make friends only with those who were doing the things our mom and dad considered right and proper. We were not to have friends who did not follow our parents’ rules.

In short, they taught us to discriminate, not based on the color of one’s skin or by the clothes they were wearing, but by their actions. They also discussed how we should love the sinner, and hate the sin. At a young age this was difficult to understand, but by middle school we could see their wisdom.

Today’s kids are at a terrible disadvantage. They are taught at home, in school, and in church never to judge. Parents are warned that they too, should not judge others, not by their actions, their beliefs, or their habits. Their kids often wear “DON’T JUDGE ME” T-shirts. But I was taught to judge and discriminate, and by the time I entered high school, I planned to follow the same path with my kids.

When our third son was born, my wife Mary and I took him and his 5- and 3-year-old brothers to their pediatrician, Dr. Ruppa. I was a pediatric resident at that time and knew Dr. Ruppa as a learned pediatrician with great bedside manner and considered him my best mentor.

We had about finished our visit when our 5-year-old son, bored by watching his baby brother get all the attention, punched his other brother in the tummy. It didn’t hurt, but I was mortified.

“Naughty, Boy,” I chastised through the hole in the front of my red face.

Dr. Ruppa frowned at me and said, “Mrs. Donahue, stay with boys a minute while I talk with Dr. Donahue.” We were all so formal back then.

When the door was closed he looked at me, smiled, and said, “He’s not a naughty boy. He did a naughty thing. Good boys often misbehave, but that doesn’t make them naughty. Calling them names and demeaning them in front of others makes them naughty. He felt he was being ignored because we were talking and not being attentive to him. Now, go back in there and love up all four of those wonderful people. Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you on Monday at the hospital.” He shook my hand and was gone.

Dr. Ruppa judged my behavior, I judged my son and condemned!

Several years ago a Vanderbilt freshman woke up at 2:30 in the morning as his roommate and a group of friends carried an unconscious woman into the room, put her on the cold tile floor, and took turns raping her. He later told authorities he didn’t want to judge them but didn’t know what to do, so he turned over and tried to go back to sleep. Most people would say he had bad judgement, but I would say he had no judgement at all!

Parents and teachers are so afraid of judging they ignore bad behavior. No good can come from that. Kids need to know right from wrong, be able to discern good from bad peers, and judge whom they should associate with. That’s how they learn, and parents must teach them.

How do parents teach judgement?

Parents teach every day by their actions, their words, and their attitude. They follow the rules they made and insist the kids follow them, too. They avoid actions that are harmful, are careful with the words that come out of their mouths, and maintain a positive attitude. Their actions must be good, their words pleasant, and their spirit uplifting. They also correct their children if they do something wrong, and as the kids mature, good parents take them aside and explain why what they did was wrong.

If the kids do something that damages or hurts people, places, or things, the child, not the parent, will need to make amends with those offended. In the meantime parents must, in casual conversation, let the kids know there are rules we must all follow. That’s another reason why it is so important that the family belongs to a religious organization that reinforce these rules. Parents must judge and discriminate, but never condemn.

Every day we hear about people who do nothing but stand and watch hoodlums snatch purses, shoplift, or assault others. As good citizens, good parents must judge and intervene when we see others being abused. If we do nothing, we can expect our kids to follow our example.

Allow me to tell you a story about that “not naughty” boy that happened 30 years after Dr. Ruppa corrected my “judging” of my son.

Son was on a plane sitting in the aisle seat next to another young man whom he did not know. Sitting next to the young fellow was a girl of 9 or 10 sleeping, or at least her eyes were closed. Son noticed the man had his hand high up on the girl’s thigh, massaging her. He poked the guy on the shoulder and asked him what he was doing, and why? The man grinned and said, “It don’t matter, she’s asleep.”

Son told him to stop. He did for a minute and then went right back to abusing her. Son went to the airline attendant and told her what was going on. She contacted the flight captain who left the cockpit and moved the abuser to a different seat. When the plane landed, and before anyone exited, the police entered and took the man away in handcuffs.

Thank you Son, and thank you Dr. Ruppa!

Dr. Parnell Donahue is a pediatrician, military veteran, author of four books and the blog ParentingWithDrPar.com, and host of WBOU’s “Parenting Matters” show. He and his wife Mary, have four adult children; all hold Ph.D.s, two also are MDs. Contact him at Parenting-Matters.com

Parnell Donahue
Parnell Donahue
Dr. Parnell Donahue is a pediatrician, military veteran, author of four books, and the blog ParentingWithDrPar.com, and host of WBOU’s “Parenting Matters” show. He and his wife, Mary, have four adult children; all hold doctorates, two also are MDs. Contact him at Parenting-Matters.com