April 25, 2014

Telling our kids to do things themselves

Years ago, I remember watching this particular episode of The Simpsons where Marge has just had it with her family, books herself a vacation, and takes off for a little unencumbered down time. Of course, the stereotypical results at home (dad can't - and doesn't - handle the children and sort of falls apart without his wife, whom he relies on for most everything having to do with his home life) and the expected outcome (she enjoys her escape for a day or two, but then begins to miss her kids and husband, no matter how much they drive her crazy).

I can relate. My family drives me crazy sometimes, but I wouldn't trade them. Oh, sure, a break now and then might be nice, but being needed (all the time) - while exhausting - is better than not being needed at all. And when I stop to think about it, even though children often take their needs being met for granted, I know that I am showing my son I love him but simply making sure I "show up" in some way whenever I hear, "Moooooommmy!" shouted from some corner of the house or yard...even if "showing up" just means yelling back, "What!?!" and continuing the conversation in this way until he realizes I'm not going to come running every time he calls my name...because I have faith he can solve a lot of his own problems...and because I don't want him to get in the habit of relying on me for everything. I've raised him to be independent, and while I almost always "show up" that doesn't mean I follow the requests. "Mommy, will you get me a glass of water please?"...just as I sit down at the table to eat. "Honey, you know where the glasses are and are perfectly capable of using the water cooler." He rolls his eyes (because he expected me to say this), gets up, and takes care of it himself.

I know some women pride themselves on taking care of all their children's needs. But, as someone who works with preteens and young teens ("tweens") on a daily basis, I'm here to say that this habit can be debilitating to children. Fulfilling their every whim, picking them up whenever they cry, not letting them self-soothe themselves to sleep, making sure they are never bored, keeping them from ever feeling pain or loss or disappointment, ensuring their constant happiness...while these things might sound good, in the long run, they may just ruin our kids' lives.

I've read some pretty good articles about this recently.

"How to Land Your Kid in Therapy" (Atlantic Monthly) 
The Pursuit of Happiness (more affectionately known as "I don't want my kids to be happy") - Huffington Post

I actually linked both articles on my school website as "parent reading" recommendations. I realize we all have our own parenting styles, and some of my favorite parents are what I affectionately call "helicopter" parents (almost always, these are mothers...trained to fly by their family's insistent and never-ending requests --- some of us are easily trained...others of us are very stubborn and resist.)

For some parents (moms, especially), I think catering to our family's every need provides a sense of purpose and proves to us that we are necessary. But, there is a big difference between meeting a child's (or a spouse's) needs and being a slave. And when we take on the role of a slave, we help create "slave owners" who don't seem to be aware that anything is wrong with how they take advantage of their world at home. At first, this only affects the home. But, eventually, our little people won't be little anymore...and they'll head on off into the great abyss, looking for companions to join them on their journey. This is where it will become difficult. Because finding a life partner who wants to sign on as a servant won't be easy. And, according to the Atlantic article linked above, it may likely lead to depression.

So telling our kids do things for themselves isn't neglectful. Quite the contrary...it's one of the best things we can do to ensure their happy and successful futures.

Coming next..."Having purpose, not happiness, is the meaning of life."

No comments:

Post a Comment