Does anyone remember this article from the Huffington Post?
I’ve hemmed and hawed about it, and I’ve decided to share a few of my thoughts in response.
Here’s the thing: I’m not about to throw a list of problems at you and not offer up solutions. Also, people need to understand that there is no one “correct” solution. Families are diverse. So instead of a laundry list of the things parents are doing wrong, I’m going to write something actually helpful.
1. A fear of our children.
Umm…what? Okay, let’s talk about the sippy-cup test. If your child is unhappy with the cup they are given, the way I see it, we have a few options.
• Buy all of the same color of sippy-cups – Problem solved.
• Ask the child what cup they would like before pouring – Hey, even I have a favorite cup. And I’m a grown up.
• Make the child wash the cup – If it were me, it would sound something like… “I’ve already dirtied this cup. If you want a different cup, you’ll need to wash this one out, because I don’t like having a bunch of dirty cups sitting around.”
• Say, “Sorry, I’ve already used this cup. You can have the other cup at dinner. Be sure to remind me.”
• Parenting is hard. Work is draining. The world will not, I repeat WILL NOT, fall apart if you give your child the sippy-cup they ask for because you’re exhausted, and you’re trying to get out of the house, and you still have work to do, and you just want to get past this moment in time… Maybe you say something like. “Next time, please tell me before I pour.”
• Or maybe you say, “No.” Yes, it can be that simple.
I’ve just given you six options to this huge catastrophe that is ruining America. You’re welcome.
And by the way, if you need me to come up with more, I can, and I will. Go ahead, throw your circumstance at me. Okay, what’s next? Oh yes…
2. A lowered bar.
It’s not a lowered bar that’s the problem here. The problem is that we’ve adopted this mentality that our number one goal should be to raise obedient children. Umm…no, that’s not going to cut it. You’re supposed to be raising a functioning member of society.
Your children learn the behaviors that you model. No amount of barking commands at them will make them better people. Speak to them how you wish to be spoken to. If you want them to be generous, be generous yourself, every day. “Respect for elders?” No, respect for EVERYONE. Children deserve respect as much as anyone. Though, let me tell you, I know quite a few adults who don’t deserve any respect at all.
If you want your children to do chores…then do chores. See how that works? Modeling appropriate behavior is the way to go every time. If you can’t be responsible and respectful, why should your children have to?
3. We’ve lost the village.
Yay! This is a GOOD thing! Have you met most people? Do you honestly want any old person to impart their usually screwy ideas on to YOUR children? I should hope not. If you want to give child-discipline carte-blanche to anyone, make sure it’s someone who shares your values. Someone who is the kind of person you want your child to be. Someone who doesn’t still subscribe to the tired, old ways of punishing children, which have been proven to not work, over, and over, and over again. Positive guidance, that’s what you want. Only give carte-blanche to people whose only method of discipline is positive guidance.
I do agree that parents are too judgmental. But I have to tell you, it’s been my experience that it’s all lies when it comes to their own children. If you don’t believe me, go sit in on a parent discussion group at a Gymboree class. Or work in early intervention and do home visits…oy vey. Parents lie. If you are not yet a parent, be prepared, you will lie too one day. It happens not because of the desire to raise perfect children, but rather to raise children better than someone else’s, as if it’s a competition.
Good news! It’s not a competition. Development is not linear. All children have personality traits that are valued by society, even if they aren’t identical to other children. So, no worries.
4. A reliance on shortcuts.
The world is becoming more streamlined, not less. Technology is advancing, not retreating. Just because you didn’t have an iPad, doesn’t mean your child shouldn’t be allowed access to one. They are, after all, going to need to be more tech savvy that you can ever imagine right out of the gate. If you didn’t grow up with it, you don’t get it. But you need to. When it comes to technology, the better you are with it, the more meaningful the activities will be that you introduce to your child. YOUR skills will help your child use technology for some pretty amazing things, like publishing their first book at age four. I’m not kidding.
That said, there is a pretty simple solution, and that is to not introduce them to TV shows so early. Let’s be honest, all of the technology we let children use is somehow based around a TV show. I’d love it if we could just take commercialism out of childhood altogether. However, this is the world we live in. If your child watches the Backyardigans all day because you have a migraine…oh well.
If you want your children to be able to occupy their time with blocks or crayons, then give them opportunities to do so. I’m talking hours of free play, not the 15 minutes between ballet and soccer.
If you want your children to know where a good meal comes from, cook with them. Or don’t. If it will make you insane if your child drops flour all over the kitchen, then just don’t do it. Nobody needs that stress.
If you want your child to be curious about the world, and persistent in reaching goals…guess what? YOU have to be that way too! Do you see what’s happening here? Your children learn what you DO, not what you say.
5. Parents put their children’s needs ahead of their own.
I happen to agree with this one, but I see it as a lesson in boundary setting. Absolutely, you are not your child’s butler. Oh and by the way, you’re not ANYONE’S butler. Unless, of course, you ARE a butler, then never mind. But for most of you, remember, you’re teaching your children how to be functioning members of society. Boundaries are a HUGE part of being a functioning member of society!
If YOU have boundaries, then your children will learn how to set their own boundaries, AND to expect that other people have boundaries too. There is nothing wrong with saying no. What isn’t good is when we blame children.
Effective boundaries should sound something like, “Please speak to me in a kinder tone”, not “Don’t talk to me like that!” Do you see the difference? The first one is actually how you might want your child to handle someone who is being loud, or rude, or angry. The first one says, “Hey, I don’t like it when ANYONE speaks to me that way. Please stop.” (In fact you can add that in.) The second one has an air of “what the hell is wrong with you!?!” It immediately puts people on the defensive, yes even children can be defensive. It often leads to all out fighting. Again, nobody needs that stress.
If you remember that your boundaries are about how YOU expect to be treated (and hopefully how you treat others), and not about pointing out all of the inconveniences your child puts you through, you’ll do just fine.
Here’s the truth. These problem have been around since the dawn of man. Parenting hasn’t changed, the accessories have, the environment has. The next generation will have a whole “new” set of problems, and so will the next. It will never be perfectly balanced, and that’s okay. We’re trying to live in real life here, not in a book. Life throws curve balls, and people strike out all the time, yet life keeps going. As long as there are parents, there will be mistakes. None of which are likely to put an end to humanity all by themselves.
My number one parenting rule: No freaking out!