When did children become the center of life, as we know it? When did parenting become an all-consuming job? Why do we need to be involved in every aspect of our children’s lives? When did their entertainment become our job? When did good behavior become something that was coaxed and rewarded and not just expected?
Something happened from last generation to this one that caused this change in parenting our children. A fear has developed. We fear more for our children’s’ safety than our parents did. We worry about our children being successful. We worry about their health, their feelings, and their self-esteem. We don’t want them to make mistakes unless we are overseeing it. The list is endless.
All of the actions that come from these fears are bankrupting our kids from normal, necessary childhood experiences. Our work to raise this generation is not allowing us to have the same freedoms in adulthood that our parents enjoyed. We don’t have time to do the things we want to do. We don’t read the newspaper. We don’t go on date nights with our spouse. We don’t pursue our hobbies. We need to let go of our children. We need to allow them the room to make choices and mistakes and find their own happiness, their own path in life. We can’t coddle them for their entire childhoods and then set them loose in the world and expect them to survive, much less be happy.
We, as adults, need to be living our lives and finding our own happiness, separate from our children. We all know in theory, that you can’t make anyone else happy. They need to find it themselves. Anyone who ties his or her pursuit of happiness to another is only going to be dragged down.
Children that choose to play sports are doing so because they love the game, may be really good at it, and enjoy playing. That will sustain them. They don’t need their parent at every game cheering them on. The younger siblings of those sporty children don’t need to be at each game either. When they start working, we won’t be there to praise their successes and comfort them when they fail. They need to experience that aloneness now to ready them for it in adulthood.
Parents who sit with their kids night after night doing homework are stealing from their children. Are you going to go to work with them someday? Are you going to assist them in the operating room? Are you going to sit at counsel’s table? No. You did your homework thirty years ago. Sit down and read the last week’s newspapers you neglected because you’ve been driving your kids all over creation, cheering them on and doing their homework with them!
Good behavior can be expected without any fancy, fun stuff. A kid can and will sit in a regular barber chair for a haircut. They can go to the dentist without kid-size chairs and televisions. They will be good in these situations. For one, they are the center of attention of the stranger who is working on them. And two, you expect it of them.
They can eat healthy food that is not fun-shaped and fun-colors and sweet because you let them get hungry and tell them that that is all they are getting. They will eat. They will do these things because we are the parents and can demand and expect it. We’ve all heard it before. Kids want limits and we need our children to have them for our own sanity.
We will not always be there for our kids to cheer them on, transport them and entertain them and help them with their work. They will need to learn to do all these thing for themselves. They want and need to start doing this now. Ask them.
Originally Published in The Doings Newspaper in Hinsdale, IL