Friday, March 29, 2013

Rewarding Mediocrity

“You will either profit by or pay for what your children become. raise them properly.”
― Darnell Lamont Walker

My generation, as a whole, is taking bold steps to ruin our children.  We shield them from every disappointment.  We deny them freedom.  We offer praise for every single task, completed or not.  We refuse to spank and then refuse alternate discipline.  We don't ask them to excel but rather we reward mediocrity and allow every child to take home a participation trophy.  What kind of people will they become?

Trust me, I am not throwing stones.  I am equally as guilty as everyone else.  I am ridiculously overprotective of my sons.  We have a neighborhood park about a mile from my house.  It's straight down my street with one left turn.  It's easy to get to and has a locked access gate where cars can only get in with a code.  (My fear: anyone can walk in.)  Last fall, when my kids were 12 and 10, I allowed them to ride their bicycles (with helmets on, duh, 'cause that's not overprotective, that's SMART) to the park as long as they were back within 45 minutes.  They had to take my cell phone and call me when they arrived at the park.  I allowed them a very brief 45 minutes of freedom to stretch their kid legs and be unsupervised by adults.  How on earth can they be expected to drum up childhood fantasies and learn to make their own decisions if I allow them 45 minutes of freedom?  It must have scared them as much as it did me because they have not asked to repeat the experiment.

Maybe we are frightened of the scars from our childhood.  I think our generation is the one most likely to go to therapy and we've poked and picked at all of our "issues" and realized that most of the deep dark places we have formed within us during our childhoods.  We resolve that OUR children will not HAVE these aching wounds and so we do everything we can to make their lives perfect.

Newsflash:  LIFE ISN'T PERFECT.This is a losing battle.  All we're doing is raising a generation of people who are unwounded...and unprepared.  When you look at it closely, we've come up with a whole NEW way to create scars...these scars will crop up when our children become adults and they don't get what they want and they never, ever move out of our houses.

So, let's prepare them (and ourselves) now before this little mob of couch potatoes rots.

The tiny monkeys and me in Times Square
  1. Allow them to be disappointed.  They do not need the latest iPod.  They have four others.  They don't require every single article of clothing from Aeropostale.  They don't have to go to DisneyWorld just because every single one of their friends has been there.  If you have prepared grilled chicken for dinner and they "prefer" a hot dog, then that's just too bad.  They shouldn't get everything they want.  I want a new car and a trip around the world but am I getting those things anytime soon? NO.  And if or when I DO get those things, they will not be handed to me.  Unless you're fully prepared to support them yourself into old age, STOP GIVING THEM EVERYTHING THEY WANT.  
  2. Give the little buggers some freedom.  As noted, this is a tough one for me.  We all know what our main fear is:  predators.  Let's put this in perspective though.  I have a big, big piece of information for you:  Children are far more likely to be abducted or harmed by someone they know and, usually, it's someone they know really well.  Stop thinking about the strangers and be like me:  focus on the people they know.  :)  I'm suspicious of everyone, not just the random guy on the street.  In some cases, they might be safer on the street than in your own home.  Sad and scary but it's true.  
  3. Stop praising them for everything.  When your kid is two, it's OK to let them know how proud you are when they dress themselves.  When they're 16, it's a little much.  Don't tell them how great it is that they are doing their homework:  they're SUPPOSED to do their homework.  If they bring home artwork, it's OK to tell them it's "interesting" but stop hanging up EVERY SINGLE PIECE.  Hang up the special ones or, if your kid isn't much of an artist, hang up every fifth one.  When you make everything that they do a big deal, they're going to realize one of two things: a) "I'm freakin' amazing and nothing I do is wrong" (future sociopath) or b) "My parents are liars.  This art sucks.  I am a loser." (future life of therapy).   
  4. Discipline your children. The big key here is follow-through. I am not a fan of spanking but I DID do it once.  I had threatened to spank them if they continued to do whatever annoying behavior it was.   I was really mad and was hoping to scare them into behaving...I knew that spanking to them was this big scary thing that had never happened.  They were maybe 9 and 7 years old at the time.  Well, they kept doing it.  I did NOT want to follow through but I knew that I had to.  So, I discussed it with them.  "What did I tell you I was going to do when you continued with this behavior?" Wide-eyed kids stared back at me, unbelieving. "Is she REALLY GOING TO SPANK US?"  I had each of them lay across the bed and I delivered three (short, quick and not very hard) smacks to their jean-clad bottoms.  I did not do it when I was angry and I hugged them and told them how much I loved them after I did it.  It was THE WORST parenting day of my life, hands-down.  But I did it because I said I would...and they understood that.  Usually, I discipline with time-outs (when they were little) or by removing privileges (like their beloved technology).  But whatever it is I SAY I'm going to do, I do it.  
  5. Expect them to do their best.  Stop rewarding mediocrity.  I don't praise grades when they are anything less than an A (yes, I'm mean) because I know that my kids are fully capable of straight-A work.  I don't berate them over B's but they know that a C will certainly raise my ire.  When they clean their rooms or their bathroom, they get an inspection.  If it's not right, they are to clean until it is.  When they work on homework, they are REQUIRED to do the bonus work.  I tell them that it doesn't say "bonus," it says "required additional work."  
 We have a long road ahead of us, parents.  We're not responsible for them for just 18 years...we are responsible for who they are to become.  These are people we are raising...and we need to understand that the fruits of our labor will be rotten unless we straighten up and fly right, as my grandpa always said (thanks, JT). 

Are you raising the kind of people who you would enjoy being around?

Comments welcome.  :)


  1. Unfortunatly Kelly I think you are the only parent I have heard in a LONG time brave enought to utter these words. You couldn't be more right in my opinion. I am not a parent but I remember MY childhood vividly and think your doing great. For what it's worth, my mother raised my sister and I as a single parent as well, you have her beat in my book as mom of the year. =)

  2. That means a great deal to me. :) Thank you. I work very hard at being a parent...and I know there is a TON of room for I appreciate your comment tremendously. Kudos to YOUR mom!

  3. I read a great book a while back called "The Family You've Always Wanted" (can't remember the author right now) and it convicted me about consistency. Been working on that one! No doubt about letting our children experience disappointment and consequences when it will make them better people. Thanks for the post.

    1. It's a tough parents we want to protect our kids. But letting them live with the consequences of their actions is part of protecting them long-term.

      When they get colds or illnesses throughout childhood, it builds their immune system. Letting them fail and/or accept consequences is very much the same thing.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. Amen! I'm not a parent as you know, but I see what you're talking about all around me - family, friends, etc. If I were a parent, I would want to be just like you.

    1. Ohhh, Vicki. I know if you had chosen to be a parent you would be FAR and above me. You are so CALM. :) I feel confident that parents are going to read this blog entry and the world will change.

      Yep. That'll happen...(I am NOTHING if not optimistic!)

  5. Kelly, that is extremely true and deep. I thoroughly enjoyed this and agree. Most parents are creating ungrateful, self centered and selfish adults. For example, when my girls were in high school, children who just got their license were driving BMW's, Lexus, Range Rovers, etc. One girl in particular had a new car that her parent's bought and wrecked it while texting. What did they do? They went out and bought her another new car. What did she do? Wrecked it while texting. What did they do? Yep, they went out and bought her another car. She has managed to drive this one without wrecking it. What lesson did they teach her?? No consequences for her wrong actions, and she didn't appreciate a blessing because they came without any work or effort on her part. It is extremely troubling that these children are our future....