People have been saying that for as long as there have been kids on the earth. Nowadays the complaints frequently expressed have to do with laziness, lack of focus, entitlement, technology-obsession, just to name a few. Opinions on what to do about the problems with today’s young people vary from country to country, city to city… in fact, they vary right under our own roofs. That’s precisely what makes step-parenting one of the toughest jobs there is.
Case in point, my husband will probably disagree with most of what I’m about to say in this post. I told him I was going to write about how this generation is turning so many of our children into wimps and he gave me that look that says he thinks I’m crazy. I told him to be thankful he’s married to an expert. I’m not sure he thinks I’m very funny.
Agree or not these are 3 ways I believe we are wussifying our kids…
1. We don’t let them fight.
“Quit fighting!” “Don’t hit your brother!” “Break it up you two!” Why are we constantly trying to prevent our kids from settling their own disputes? Whether it’s with their siblings, step-siblings or other kids… I think sometimes the best way for kids to learn a lesson is from another kid. If a 3 year old takes a cookie from another 3 year old and the kid smacks him, he learns a good lesson. If we prevent the smack, our 3 year old may keep taking cookies until those cookies or consequences are much more dire than getting hit by a fellow toddler.
2. We hand out trophies for showing up.
I played soccer as a kid for one season. I was not very good and didn’t enjoy it at all. No one gave me a trophy. That’s okay. I didn’t want one, earn one, or deserve one. Our kids on the other hand have received more trophies than I can count. Every team sport they’ve tried has handed ’em out at the end of the season. Why?! If our kids have fun and learn a skill, isn’t that reward enough? Save the trophy for an actual achievement, one that requires a little blood, sweat & tears. Otherwise we’re teaching our kids that all it takes to succeed is to show up.
3. We worry too much about their happiness.
No decent parent enjoys seeing their children unhappy, but I see so many parents totally overcompensating in unhealthy ways. Kid is sad, give him a piece of candy. Kid is angry, buy him a toy. Kid is bored, hand him an iPad. We get so busy “helping” our children stay happy, we may not be giving them a chance to feel their feelings, to figure out why they’re sad/angry/bored. We may even be cheating them out of finding their calling. It might be in those sad, lonely times that a young poet will write his first poem, or a future musician realizes that only a sweet song will calm his anger. It’s not our concern for their happiness that causes problems, it’s our lack of faith in their ability to deal with it.
(For more about helping kids find their calling, see When Kids Don’t Fit In)
Deal with it. That’s really the theme here. Our kids need to be given a chance to deal with their own arguments, success and failures, feelings and emotions. They are stronger than we realize, smarter than we give them credit, and like it or not, they are our future. Let’s prepare them for it.
(For more on helping kids mature, see Time to Grow Up )