How to Make the World a Better Place

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.

Dog photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kinscem15/4538439428/

Embarrassing mom: http://vyturelis.com/coordinated-outfits.htm

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41 thoughts on “How to Make the World a Better Place

  1. Carolyn says:

    If you get some hate mail, you can always cry on my shoulder although I also believe in a little bit of tough love. I will always remember my father coming to school events in his plaid purple pants and maroon flowered western shirt (it didn’t kill me).

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  2. I agree! 100%. Today Monkey was on his bike and turned to go down the driveway. it’s not all that steep but it’s certainly not level. I tried to warn him but off he went AND he pedaled. And you know what? I just let him. One way to learn not to ride down the hill into the garage door is to do it. He was wearing a helmet and covered in shoes. The door is sturdy. And it was unlikely I’d have gotten to him even if I ran. Now, he probably won’t do that again. Well, he is a boy so who knows. But he gets it. And that’s just life!

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  3. I agree too. I am guilty of somewhat protecting my kids too much. I say no to things, they get in trouble, I help my daughter to deal with issues at school. But my gut is always at the ready line to jump in and rescue. It takes a lot of willpower to keep that gut reaction at bay. Great post though and you really are SO right!!

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    • It can be really hard. I feel like I can sometimes see the whole chain of events before they even begin! It’s only going to get more tough as he gets older, but that’s life.

      One easy way I practice this “letting be” is when Crazy Pants says, “Mommy, help you,” I remind him that he knows how to do whatever he is asking for help with and let him be frustrated with it for a bit. I think I struggle the most with letting him figure things out when I’m in a hurry. Toddlers can be so slow. Haha.

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  4. It’s so hard to find that balance some days, but I totally agree. I don’t want my son traumatized; however, I do want him to experience hurt, anger and sadness. Without that he won’t learn coping skills and he won’t fully appreciate joy, light, laughter and happiness! My goal is to raise a child that can take care of him home and him self – I can’t meet that goal if I protect him from everything. Of course, there are days I want to! I’ve learned to ask him, when he’s telling me about a problem or an issue ‘are you asking for help to fix or do you just want me to listen?’ I’m so proud that I can ask that and he can tell me – sometimes he is venting and sometimes he is asking for advice. That shows maturity and makes me so proud!

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      • Thanks! I’m a “fixer”, too, and it was an “ah-ha” moment when I realized that not every time my son brought up a problem it was my responsibility to fix it. I actually asked him if it was okay if I ask that question – LOL – seems silly, but it really has helped improve our communication!

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      • reinventionofmama says:

        Well I just loved it and had to share! It’s hard to find that fine line of teaching common sense, responsibility and discipline in a respectful way – and not letting your kids run all over you. Well, it is for me. I constantly second guess myself and have to keep going back to the Love and Logic playbook to keep myself in a good place.

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