This post has been weighing on my heart for a long time…I’m talking years. This particular aspect of parenting keeps creeping into my life and then I get busy and forget about it, but it’s one that I think is important to discuss. Now, this post is mainly for parents, however, I know I have at least a few teen readers out there and I would love to get your perspective on this topic as well. Please don’t be shy! Leave me a comment with your thoughts so we can some more insight into whether or not this phenomenon actually exists and if it does, what we can do as parents to make a few changes. Let’s get started…
When I was growing up, things were different. I was at the butt-end of a huge family, so by the time I came around I had 2 brothers who were grown and out of the house and my oldest sister was a senior in high school. Needless to say, by my teen years, my mom was just done. She was spent…done raising kids for all intents and purposes. I had to do a lot for myself. I drove myself to school, work and sports practices. I still had chores to do when I got home and was expected to keep up with my school work. I did my own laundry…well, you get the picture. My mom wasn’t neglectful by any means, she was just ready to not have to do that stuff anymore. I didn’t whine and complain. I didn’t fuss about it…I just did what needed to be done. And I didn’t die. As a matter of fact, I was actually better off for it. I will never forget my first experience doing laundry in my college dorm. I walked through the door of the laundry room with my laundry and supplies and chose a few empty machines. As I was sorting and loading my laundry into the washers, a boy came up to me and said, “You actually know how to use these things?” Why yes, yes I do.
You see, my parents grew up during WWII. Times were tough. There was nothing extra so there absolutely was no waste. You worked hard and were grateful for everything you had…and if you weren’t your parents certainly made sure you knew what it was like to not be afforded such comforts as a hot meal or a comfy bed. When it came time for my parents to have a family, they raised us with those same values. I couldn’t see it then, but now being a mom of many myself, I am so grateful for the tough love I received as a child. My parents did what was best for me regardless of whether or not I liked it. They actually parented.
Fast-forward to 2018. Today we have all kinds of parents with all kinds of theories about parenting ranging from the strict parenting style to “unparenting” if you can believe that. The thing about parenting that I think we sometimes forget is that sure, parents can choose whatever parenting style they like but remember, society has to deal with their kids when they become adults. The parenting style they choose will affect their child forever so I hope they are choosing wisely. It seems parenting has done a complete 180 since I was a kid. Take a look at the meme below. It explains this perfectly:
Think about it. These things would be considered child abuse by today’s standards, but they were acceptable when my siblings and I were kids we didn’t die. Let’s take a gander at how some kids are raised today. We have the dawn of “helicopter parenting” where Junior can’t go three feet without a fresh juice box and a quick once-over to make sure not a hair’s out of place. Kids are basically bubble wrapped before they are allowed to leave the house and they are armed with cell phones by the age of 3…and they know how to use them! There are parents who micromanage every aspect of their kid’s lives to the point where they have basically handicapped their children. By the time they are adults, they have few skills that actually set them up for success in the real world. They think they are helping them by making things easier on them when in reality they are doing them a great disservice.
Let’s face it. Doing everything for our children and holding back discipline because we don’t want to hurt their feelings is churning out adults who are lazy, can’t fend for themselves, and don’t know how to lose. They are unmotivated (did you read the story about the 30-year-old guy whose parents had to evict him from their home because he refused to leave?) and are unable or unwilling to make the life decisions that will lead to a productive lifestyle where they are contributing members of society. They lack these skills because they’ve never had to use them before. It goes back to that whole “Give a kid a fish you feed them for a day, teach a kid to fish and you feed him for life” theory.
Now some would argue that the way I and others in my generation were raised was archaic or even abusive as I mentioned earlier. Some would say we need to be more attentive to children’s feelings and not push them out of their comfort zones for fear of sparking anxiety when they fail at something. What do you think? I’ll tell ya, when I was a kid I played on a baseball team where, if you won, you got to go with the team to a magical place called Open Kitchen and the entire team got to get large ice cream cones…Coach’s treat. The kids on the losing team…they went home. There was no crying or fit throwing, they packed up their gear and went home. That was it. Nowadays you couldn’t get away with that. You see where I’m going with all of this.
I have raised a few kids in my day, and if it’s one thing I know it’s that when a child is presented with a situation and is forced to come up with a resolution they will indeed find a resolution all on their own. In fact, experience has shown me that many times the resolutions children come up with can, in many cases, be better than the ones we as adults would have presented. Homeschooling is a great example. When done correctly, homeschooling allows kids to move through their curriculum at their pace, not one set for them based on the performance of the rest of the class. Homeschooling allows kids to work independently and in many instances forces them to do their own problem-solving. It’s guided learning but not overly guided. Kids are capable of doing much more than we give them credit for but we will never know what they are truly capable of until we put them in situations where they have to do things for themselves.
Our kids have had age-appropriate chores since they were about 2 years old. When I say age-appropriate I mean my 2-year-old was helping sort socks not taking the garbage to the road. The simple fact that the family depended on them to do their chore regardless of how big or small it was, gave them a sense of responsibility to the rest of the family or community. They learned at an early age that if you want a happy family you have to contribute, and thankfully, they have taken what they’ve learned into the world and continue to contribute in many ways to others outside of our home.
My point is this; it is our job as parents to raise children who are loved and well cared for but who also are able to properly care for themselves and be contributing members of society when the day comes. We are not helping them by coddling them, doing everything for them, or protecting them from the inevitable pains that life can bring about. Kids have to learn to lose and be okay with it. They have to learn that they aren’t always going to be the best and the brightest and be okay with it. And they are going to have to learn that you don’t always get what you want in life and be okay with it. We can raise them to be all of this and more by challenging them to do for themselves and letting them know that when they fail, and they will fail, but when they fail we will be there to support them as they pick themselves up, brush themselves off, and start again.