Today, I take a step back from the lofty, philosophical, and spiritual to talk about down and dirty, nitty-gritty parenting. Lately, I have seen a few articles circulating among the internetz dealing with the phenomenon of namby-pamby parenting. I know, I know. You’ve already got your hackles up. Bear with me….
It seems, mostly here in America, that parents have taken to a style of parenting that basically consists of an attitude that children must be prevented from experiencing anything that is unpleasant. The line of thought is that unpleasantness=harm and harm=irreparable damage. Truthfully, this is more of a continuum than a hardline practice, but it is a pervasive attitude that permeates American culture. We can’t escape it.
Full disclosure: I am super biased on this topic. Surprised? I grew up on a ranch surrounded by men and boys. I was given my first gun as a birthday gift when I turned six and spent a fair amount of time riding around without a seatbelt in broken-down crummies on old logging roads. My world view is different than the majority of America. However, speaking from a psychological and developmental perspective, protecting children from unpleasantness does not allow them to learn and grow.
Let’s be clear, I’m all for safety. My children have child safety seats. Crazy Pants isn’t allowed to run the chain-saw (yet), and I don’t let my dog babysit (not that I haven’t considered it), but I do know that my children need to flex their muscles, both literally and figuratively. They have to fall down and get scraped up to learn that injuries happen and we can deal with them. If they don’t learn that a scraped knee is no big deal, they will have no way of coping when they have a skateboarding accident and their face is bleeding. The same goes for dealing with emotional unpleasantness. If I never allow my children to be unhappy, they will never learn how to be in control of their own happiness. After spending so long in the social services, I have met A LOT of people whose happiness is almost completely dependent upon other people. We must be able to experience unhappiness, unpleasantness, even trauma, and create a state of happiness for ourselves once the “bad stuff” has passed.
I realize that it may seem like I am advocating that you allow your children to experience trauma. I am not. I am suggesting that we allow our children to experience little bits of unhappiness: saying no to a cookie, having a toy taken by someone at play group, having to sort out a conflict at school without parental interference, in order to pave the way for the day of the inevitable trauma that will require emotional intelligence. Yes, I have seen the quote circulating Facebook that states we should not be preparing our children for a harsh world, but making it better for them. That is a lovely ideal, but no matter how much work we do to make the world a better and more wonderful place, there will always be tough stuff that needs to be handled. By being overly protective, we are the ones who are really damaging our children by not providing them the tools to create their own happiness.
There are many ways to parent and each child is different, but it is the duty of each parent to understand that our children will leave our homes and join society-at-large. If we have not prepared our children to handle stressors or take ownership of their own feelings, we have done the opposite of making the world a better place.
So go ahead, wear that embarrassing outfit to pick up your kid from school. It’s good for them.
Embarrassing mom: http://vyturelis.com/coordinated-outfits.htm