Yesterday, I saw this awesome article in Huffington Post by Emma Jenner called "5 Reasons Modern Parenting is in Crisis." With every single reason, my head was furiously nodding, "YES! YES!" In summation, there are things this society does on the regular that seem to be helpful, and yet are only hindering children's growth into the productive, intelligent, and kind members of society we all want them to be.
I am not saying that I don't do some of the things on the aforementioned list, but the longer I'm in the parenting game, I realize I'm not doing anything to help them by catering to their every whim.
A few weeks ago, my kids were taking swim lessons. The instructor who has been teaching for a long time told another parent, "Erin doesn't give those kids an inch. That's nice to see. You don't see that anymore." When I heard this, I beamed with pride. I'm not a parenting tyrant, but my kids have boundaries, expectations, and rules. When the rules are broken there is a consequence. When the rules are followed, there is praise (and sometimes popsicles). I was happy that someone recognized my old fashioned parenting. Because sometimes, I feel like there are only a few of us on this island by ourselves.
This got me thinking about about other "favors" our society pays our kids, and the ramifications it might have for them later in life. So, I came up with a list of 5 MORE Reasons Why Modern Parenting is in Crisis.
1. No One Fails: Kids need to learn how to fail. How to cope with failure. How to ask for help when failing. And, most importantly, how to try again. I have seen parents blame teachers for their child not doing something correctly. I've seen coaches get berated for teaching a child how to do something on the field. I have seen sports where scores aren't kept, and seasons where everyone gets a trophy.
As a Mom, I know it is hard to see a kid fail, make a mistake, or not do something right. To quote my friend, Heather, "My heart is just breaking for him, but I know, as the parent, he has to go through this to learn." Kids need to learn how to fail so they can ALSO learn the process of learning how to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, wipe the tears, and try again. Your child will learn failure is a part of life, and that every failure is not a crisis. You don't want the first time your kid to fail to be when he is 25 years old, and then he doesn't know how to cope or deal with it. You also don't want your child to give up the first time he/she is presented with failure. Also, when there IS a crisis your kid will be able to handle it with grace.
2. Parents Work Out Conflicts: Parents usually mean well, and we all know that we can solve a problem faster than a kid. However, what are you teaching your child every time you swoop in and create and action plan for compromise? You are not going to be there for every negotiation of his/her life.
A common saying in our house is, "Go work it out, kindly." When the kids are fighting over a toy, a TV show, or whatever, I want them to work it out themselves using the good manners, kind words, and actions I taught them. Kids can think of a solution that will make them happy and try to execute it. How many times, as an adult do you have to negotiate through social situations in a day? Let's help our kids now learn those behaviors early.
3. Entertained instead of Entertaining: Playdate. The word alone has caused a lot of trouble in our house. My soon to be first grader prefer I use the work "hangout" as he is too big for playdates as also it implies a parent must accompany him. I love playdates, but they are not an all the time thing.
You see, I am the youngest of four children. My next oldest sibling is 6 years older than me. When I reached the age of 6, my siblings were 12, 16, and 17 and kind of not wanting to hang with their baby sister anymore. Going to Catholic School meant I didn't have a ton of neighborhood friends, so I spend a lot of time entertaining myself. I played house, and office, and read, played with my dolls, and may or may not have had an imaginary friend or two. The point being, I was self reliant. So many kids today need to be entertained rather than do the entertaining themselves. Its ok to let kids play alone once in awhile, there's no need to have playdates, or siblings, or YOU around all the time.
4. Kids Don't Work: When I was teaching computers, I cannot tell you how often I used to hear kids tell me, "but I don't want to do typing right now, can I just play a game?" The mere fact that these children thought I would be giving them a choice was a little comical, fact they said this out loud to an authority figure was hilarious. I would smile and say, "Do the work then you can have fun."
What is so wrong with work anyway? For young children, play is their work, and that I understand. However, once a child reaches a certain age, say 3 or 4 kids need to start getting some responsibility. I cannot tell you how proud my kids are when they come down after making their own beds, or sweeping the floors, or help weeding the garden. Sure, its not perfect, but they feel a sense of accomplishment, they are productive, they help. Also, the kids get plenty of praise, sometimes a reward, and I got some chores done (win win if you ask me). This is just another way to prepare them for their future.
5. Immediate Gratification: We live in a society where things are done at the speed of light or the swipe of our iPhone. However, parenting and growing up is a long process. It seems fast, but it is a day to day marathon.
Someone once told me, that when it comes to parenting: Start out with the end in mind. If you want your kid to have good manners, you should be teaching manners every day all the time, and emulating that behavior. If you want to have kind kids, you should be emulating that behavior and using kind words and showing your kids ways to be kind every day. If you want your kids to read, well... you might have to read every day. It sounds like common sense, but these are little people who are trying to grow up and navigate this big wide world. It is our job to show them, and we cannot do it in one day.
If you liked this post on parenting, you might also like: My Own Papparazzi: Why Having Kids is Like Being an A List Celebrity, Where Do Babies Come From, Letter to a New Mom, and A Letter To My Oldest Son on His First Day of School.
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