Every so often, a friend of mine sends me a copy of Rod Smith’s “You and I” column as seen in The Mercury newspaper. He is a family therapist in America and I find his views insightful and so true. He hits the nail on the head and this week’s column was no different.
He wrote an article on how we as parents are doing our children a disservice by making them the centre of our universes. Of course, he received a lot of flack for it – we mothers take these sort of comments seriously! Do you think we give up our lives, sacrifice our time, money and sleep because we want to? We do it so as to provide the best for our children of course! So when
a man someone comes along and says that by so doing, we are creating monsters, it’s offensive!
Alas! The simple truth is that Rod is right. I read this article a few times; at first I thought he was being a bit brutal. I mean every mother (in her right mind) wants to over provide, rather than under provide for her children, right? Every mom wants to meet her child’s every need, and sometimes that means sacrificing a lot of yourself and your needs so that your child wants for nothing. Having a child means that your social life gets put on the back burner and instead, you spend your time at kiddies parties and school meetings. And your free time is no longer spent reading a book, but sowing name labels on little clothes and washing and sterilising bottles. We don’t do it selfishly, but rather selflessly… for our kids. Right?
But then I realised where he was going with this. And then I started to think about that show on TLC, World’s Worst Mom and then I thought about how I freak out if my kids get hurt (freaking out should be reserved for blood or big lumps only) or how I jump to help them if they are in a sticky situation – like Liam not being able to pull his underpants up properly after being on the toilet and Hannah not being able to thread the string through the hole in the cubes with her threading toys. By constantly jumping to their aid, I think we are prohibiting them from learning and understanding the bigger life lesson. And it’s a number of lessons that you could be teaching in such a situation:
- Slow and steady wins the race – let them learn and understand that not everything is easy but that practice does eventually make perfect.
- It’s ok not to be the winner, as long as you have tried your best.
- It’s ok to be frustrated, but freaking out when you don’t get your own way or you can’t reach the toothpaste or you can’t put the CD into the DVD properly, is not cool and doesn’t help the situation.
- And most importantly. Mommy loves you, but I want you to LEARN to do these things for yourself. Because quite frankly, I am not going to be around forever, and I need to equip you to DO life.
And I think children love the independence of being able to do things for themselves. And by constantly butting in and doing things for them, we are giving them less credit than they deserve. And I get Rod’s point, I have seen children whose parents do everything for them, who fuss and fret over them, and who treat their kids like demi-gods. I’m not judging (ok I am), but these kids are plain down BRATS. There I said it. In today’s society the parent / child role has become so distorted. In trying to be the best parent, and over compensating for other areas of lack like time or money, we are creating little monsters. I am a helicopter-parent, no doubt, but I’m taking this as a wakeup call; tough love isn’t a bad thing. And I don’t mean tough love as in boot-camping your kids, I mean letting them do age appropriate things for themselves, letting them make mistakes, letting them battle things out before jumping in and saving the day. Teaching them that mommy and daddy have lives outside of them, that staying at home with the nanny so the big people can go out and let their hair down is necessary, and that the TV is not only for them and Disney Junior, and if mommy and daddy want to watch something else, you must obey and go play outside without throwing a hissy fit (I bought a TV for them, instead of teaching them this lesson– what a sellout, but I’m working on it).
So Rod, kudos to you. You are right, it is a travesty to watch parents scurry around their children and jump at their every demand. And it’s embarrassing. I know this because even in a two year old “normal” toddler rage, when Liam and Hannah go 666 on me in public, I am embarrassed by my children’s behaviour and feel like a complete loser when I sheepishly give into them to shut them up. So if you are allowing your kids to rule the roost on the regular, they WILL embarrass you one day, and truth be told, it will be your own fault. Read Rod’s article for yourself, below.