What the hay? Everyone keeps meme-ing about giving teachers a jillion dollars and how hard it is to spend the day with their kids. What the, what?
One little afternoon with two kids is overwhelming that is because the kids spend so MUCH time everywhere else.
We take them to pre-K, then summer camp and then after school care and then, over and over, we take them somewhere else – not home.
Parenting has fundamentally changed in the last forty years and in some ways for the better. For purposes of this essay, we talk about how parenting has changed for the worse.
For the sanity of parents everywhere, some things should be decided on with caution. This new generation of parents seems determined to entertain their kids non-stop. This is a parenting mistake, a decision that is destined to make a failure.
There is well-documented value in boredom. Boredom is a basis for creativity and imagination.
What I really want to talk about is a philosophical difference in parenting. Forty years ago, when I brought my daughter home from the hospital, she was coming to a very busy house. She has two older brothers, a stepsister, dogs, and parents who were renovating and moving. We incorporated her right into the crowd. As a family, we want her well fed, happy and invested in our family routine. At three months old, she is going to lay around with us on the couch, listen to our discussions and otherwise be a part of an already active environment.
That is NOT the way that parents act today. Perhaps, out of their own feelings of neglect or because of the age-old promise to outdo our own parents; new parents today are acting quite differently.
First, before pregnancy, all must be perfect. Once all is perfect and the baby is born, the world begins rotating around the child. Everything hinges on whether the child is comfortable, feeling well, entertained (in a healthy way) and on and on and on. The parents continue to behave this way even with a second or third child. The world revolves around the child instead of the child becoming part of the world.
What just happened.
According to teachers I know today, every child has an allergy. Parents communicate this fact loudly and redundantly. There are no careless cookies and cupcakes at any grade school functions – oh no – that won’t happen without a lawsuit.
When my kids were in school, we all agreed with each other, that our own child was the best, the brightest and the most special. That doesn’t happen anymore. Now there is competition and it’s brutal. Parents set out to prove the specialness of their own child and it must be more special than your child. There is no universal agreement anymore, instead it’s “My child is better than yours.”
Because we (the 80s parent) were up close and personal in our child’s business, we could see their bad behavior for what it was: bad behavior. Today, people have a hard time seeing their own child’s bad behavior. Instead, they give reasons and righteousness for otherwise minor behavior problems. Of course this encourages more and bigger behavior problems. Again, you will see that the parent wishes to explain it all away, rather than “manning up” and taking the medicine that goes with the crime. Parents not only allow the bad behavior; they encourage it by trying to explain it away with reasons. “He doesn’t feel well and that girl made him mad.”
The 80s parent did not send children away in order to ensure constant entertainment. Kids had bicycles and found their own entertainment, usually with another pack of kids doing the same thing. While the boundaries seemed loose, the monitoring was not, parents spent the time getting to know all of what the kids were into.
The 80s parents made mistakes. It was a time when we still believed authority (think Catholic priests) and we were betrayed by that authority. Perhaps that is why todays parents are hyper-vigilant, they want to make sure that these kinds of mistakes are not made again. For this I don’t blame them.
I don’t think we need to worry about entertaining kids 24/7. I think it’s ok for kids to be bored. The most important skill we need to develop with our kids is trusting communication. That is a skill that is timeless, and it is a relationship that won’t encourage selfishness and excuses in children. When kids behave badly, they need punishment (gasp). I’ve heard some parents say that nothing in the punishment realm seems to work to encourage discipline. If that is true, then keep pursuing resolution until you find it. If kids and parents need counseling and education so be it. It doesn’t mean that you have failed as a parent. “Man up” and figure it out. The best thing you can ever do is help your child understand consequences.
Self and other honesty encourages health and well-being in every relationship. That’s a sentence that all parents can buy into.