Last month I read an article entitled, "Ron Howard once explained why Opie's attitude changed after the first season of The Andy Griffith Show."
One little segment of the article grabbed my attention.
What would happen if Opie knew that Andy was smarter than him? How about if Opie actually respected his dad? I just thought it might be different.'
I'm betting you never knew that Ron Howard's dad, Rance, influenced the show to completely change how Opie behaved, especially with Andy. It's some valuable insight on parental wisdom.
Every parent is challenged by kids who think they know more than they do, and who think they understand more than they do.
Research tells us the human brain isn't fully developed until around the age of 25. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center website, the rational part of a teen's brain works very differently than adults. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the rational part of the brain. That's the part of the brain that provides good judgment. Without that, you'll never lean toward wisdom. It's the part of your brain that calculates the long-term consequences. Teens live by processing things with the emotional part of their brain. In their brains, the connection between rational and emotional is still developing. That's why teens live drama-filled lives. It's also why they're often unable to explain what they were thinking. "What were you thinking?" asks every parent! They don't know because they weren't thinking so much as they were feeling.
Parenting is hard. Really hard.
Grandparenting is way easier.
Partly because we now have a perspective we lacked when we were young. We can see things we'd have done differently. Plus, the burden of all the child-rearing decision making isn't on us. When that pressure isn't there on a daily basis...it changes everything. And that distance from these kids we love provides a mutual viewpoint - the way they see us and the way we see them - that serves us both. We're able to model behavior so they have a role model to remember. They're able to keep us lively and maintain sight of what it's all about. That life is mostly about how much value we can provide one another.
As kids grow up, they hopefully become increasingly aware of how self-control looks. Teens are impulsive. Adults should not be. Instead, we hope to display thoughtful intentions to our kids. We want them to see that we're making decisions with a long-term view. That's why we don't buy stupid crap. It's why we save. It's why we behave responsibly. We hope by showing our kids what wise behavior looks like, they'll embrace their own lives of wisdom.
But that question that serves as the title of today's show is fascinating. What would happen if kids knew their parents were smarter than them?
Sadly, I know some parents who aren't smarter than their kids. Well, to be more accurate, they don't behave smarter than their kids. Parents who are colossally selfish, highly emotional, short-term thinkers given to consistent impulsive behavior. What do their children think? Better yet, what do they feel?
I can only theorize, but it can't be good for the parent. In what surely should be one of the most important relationships on the planet, kids should grow up respecting their parents not because it's demanded (or just because God commands it) but because the parents behave in a way to warrant it. Too many don't. They betray their children and forfeit respect.
The more I thought about the question the more I kept turning it around a bit. What would happen if parents were smarter than their kids and acted like it? Then, in keeping with the theme of this podcast I changed "smarter" to "wiser."
What would happen if parents were wiser than their children and acted like it?
What would that look like? For the parents? For the children?
Rance Howard knew his son's TV character, Opie Taylor, would behave more respectfully toward his TV dad, Andy.