Friday, June 24, 2011

FF: Is Our Parenting Preparing Our Children For Real Life?

Happy Friday, friends!

This morning, among other things, I'm thinking about this post I read over at Today's Mama.
It talks about how our (parents') obsession with our kids’ happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods. The article gave several examples of ways that parents shield their children from the unpleasant realities of life (everybody wins sports leagues, intervening when a child doesn't receive a birthday invitation, shielding them from consequences and real-life responsibility, etc.) Even though we think we're being loving and attentive parents in those instances, in actual fact, that kind of sheltering yields unprepared, maladjusted adults.

What do you think about this?
Do you do too much?
How do you expose your children to a sense of reality
while still allowing childhood to be playful and fun?
Is your parenting preparing your children to deal with real life?
(It's hard to parent with the end in mind, isn't it?!)


sarita said...

Today's FF is very timely for me because just last night I finished reading The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. While I think some of her parenting tactics were absolutely crazy, I felt inspired to push my children harder and shelter them less. I'm just not sure where the line is. I find myself at times not knowing how to be a loving parent while at the same time pushing my kids to reach their potential, no matter how many tears are shed along the way (by me and by them).

Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

Natalie said...

This is something I think about ALL the time. It's so hard to know what things will yield which results. I am always asking my mom, and moms who are a little bit further down the road, what things they regret or are glad that they did when they had little ones. Learning the joy of working hard seems to be a big one. Family life yields some great teaching opportunities, I always pray that I can see them and then seize them.

Dani said...

This is something that I've been working on a lot lately. I think the hardest thing for me is watching my children make choices and then allowing the consequences (whether natural or mom imposed) to happen without interference. So hard to tell your child if they don't clean their room, they don't get to go out and play, and then watch them fritter away all the time and completely lose it when all of their siblings get to play without them.

I read once that our job as a parent isn't to make our children happy, it's to help them be responsible and capable. I think if we take away all of the consequences and don't allow them to deal with some of the hard things in life, they never build the self-confidence to do so as adults.

Emily said...

I too have been thinking about this lately. I have recently gone back to work at the office (I worked from home for almost 4 years) so I have had to put my children in child care/school. My 4-old-daughter started going to preschool in February and did really great until the end of May. She made new friends, fell in love with her teacher and excelled in learning and the preschool atmosphere. However, when she went "back" to summer school after a short break, everything seemed to just blow up. She cried everyday and begged me not to go. Naturally I felt horrible! No one likes to see their child like that. This has been going on for 3 weeks now and seems not to be getting better. I did find out on Wednesday that she has been having problems with a little boy at school. I haven't got all the details from her teachers quite yet, but for some reason this little boy really upsets her. Even though it breaks my heart to leave her there when I know something upsets her so much, my husband and I have decided that this could potentially be a good thing for her. It teaches her to problem solve, hopefully react to similar future situations differently, and learn to love others and try to be kind. With lots of conversations and encouragement at home about how to deal with this problem, we have hopefully given her some peace of mind. We'll see. The one thing that I have learned from this experience (hopefully many more things!) is that it is so important to let her know that I LOVE HER! The only way she can show love to others is if she learns about that love from me.

bechtold clan said...

I heard this on the radio the other day and completely agree. Love and logic teaches this as well...natural consequences...and not intruding so much in our kids lives. Im SO oppposed to medals in sports ( soccer, baseball etc) you get an award for participating? Preschool and Kindergarten graduation? Blah Really??? We should celebrate and honor TRUE acheivements of hard work dedication and a+ performance not just the passing of time or participation...I think as a culture trying to make our kids happy all the time makes for spoiled, lazy children. They should work out their conflicts( albiet not bullies etc)lose on occassion, have disappointments - so they can learn from mistakes and grow...( as you can tell I feel pretty strongly about it.. LOL)

Kristyn said...

I love what Dani said in her second paragraph. I've been thinking about this too, but I don't think I'm at any point to give a decisive solution yet. I've also been thinking about how to teach my kids to really work, as so many others have said. With small homes and smaller yards, there's sometimes not a great way to teach them chores when there's not as many to do (I'm thinking about when my dad would help with the farm they had growing up, and he is one of the hardest workers I know).

I also realized recently that I used to think my job was to entertain my kids all day: go to the park, color, play with toys, dress-up play, etc. But now I'm starting to think, how I can push them more? When I ask my 4 yr old to help me unload the dishwasher (and I know this is typical) he says it's not fun. I guess I want my kids to learn the value in working, because TRUE JOY (fun) is when you accomplish something and do a great job at it.

Sarah D. said...

I think about this, too! A tiny example, but the other day my 4-year-old's balloon got away from her after a party, and I wouldn't go in and get her another. She was very very sad and disappointed, but I thought it was a good time to let her feel that and try to deal with it. Give them little chances to learn to handle disappointments and failures so they'll be ready for the bigger ones.

Kristyn said...

I also wanted to say that I've been visiting my parents this week, and as I was walking around my old elem school, a flood of memories came back from those days that I had forgotten. WOW! I remember having no friends for a while, people sayings things to me, me saying mean things to other kids, me being absolutely petrified of some things, and me feeling complete joy and happiness too ... I think I was a totally normal kid, and I grew up fine. I have a great supportive family, and I know that helped a lot. And as a whole, I've always thought of my childhood as idyllic.

I think truly loving our kids, and helping them cope is the best thing we can do for them, not remove them from the situation. Because in the end I've learned to love the at times horrible and awkward past I had because it has shaped me into who I am. I worked really hard as a high schooler to change because I didn't like who I was before. And as much as I don't want to be that super shy person anymore, it was because of those days that I became different as I grew up.

(On a different note, sometimes I wonder how much, as an adult, I remove myself from situations because I don't like how they make me feel. But if I were like a kid and was forced to just deal with it, how much better would I be for that?)

Primary Female Caregiver said...

I also agree that the goal is to help our children to be happy successful human beings - meaning that their happiness is not short lived, but will last through adulthood. I think one way to do this is to give them the framework for success as adults, i.e. hard work, discipline, responsibility. But I think hand-in-hand is to teach them to have fun all the time - even washing dishes, doing homework, losing a game. Teach them to have a good attitude and a positive outlook on life. Then even when the hard work and discipline fall short and they have disappointments, they will still know how to be happy. Oh! And we have to help our children develop good self-esteem, which means that they have to feel that they can do hard things - which means that we have to let them do hard things! I'm sure if I thought 10 more minutes I'd come up with 10 more things I wanted to teach, but I'll quit now and ponder this some more on my own :)

Danielle said...

I wish I had time to make a longer comment but I just wanted to say real quick that I think this is a great topic and something I try to think about and would also add that I try to have this same attitude when it comes to guiding "Am I doing this just because I don't want other mothers to think I am doing a bad job or is it really what I want to teach my child to help them be successful later in life?"

Rachael said...

Great topic, and something that I too am working to figure out. I think there's real value in just letting kids enjoy being kids--when else in your life are you going to get to lie around reading books and playing dress-up for as long as you want?--but we've also talked a lot about how a family is everyone working together. And since I just had a baby six weeks ago, we explained to the kids that there are certain things that they'll just have to help out with if they want life to run smoothly. I think taking the time to explain this to them helped a lot.

I also think, like some other people have commented (Dani) that learning consequences is vital. We can protect them now from the consequences of their choices, but we can't do this forever, so we might as well introduce them to this concept in a more gentle way than the world will. (At least this is what I told myself the other day when a child who refused to pitch in when everyone else picked up one room then had to pick up all the rest of the toys in the house. Not surprisingly, we've had excellent levels of clean-up cooperation since...)

toddnjoelle said...

We have being thinking a lot about this topic in our home lately too. My 6 year olds best friends get a popular toy each time her mom takes her out. She is now up to 18 of these. Our 6 year old has two and she has had to pay for each of them with her allowance. She is frustrated that we don't do what her friend does. I think it has been a good learning experience that life isn't fair and she does have to work for what she wants. We are leaning along th way too.
My MIL said you have to teach your children that this is how our family does things and this is about our family not someone elses.
I want my children to be hard workers and see the rewards of that work.

Lorene (just Lu) said...

I, too, think about this ALL the time. My son isn't even 2 yet, so we haven't crossed a lot of these bridges yet, but I worry about this a lot. I just keep reminding myself that my job as a parent is NOT to make my child's whole world super sunshiney and always safe (because that's not reality), but to teach him how to be happy in a cloudy world and navigate dangers safely. And to make my home, where I have more control, as sunshiney and safe as possible while still teaching real-life lessons.

Oh, how idealistic, eh? :)