Saturday, September 28, 2013

We are Coddlers (or, How We are Not Doing Kids Any Favors)

“We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future.”
                                             ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

At the risk of sounding like the crotchety old lady I am almost certain to become, I have to say that we have gone too far in the pendulum of parenting.

When I was a kid, we got RIBBONS for Field Day.  There were many field days when I came home with nary a red, blue or green ribbon to boast about.  I received one blue ribbon EVER on field day...for the three-legged race (and, to this day, I have no idea how....perhaps it's because I'm ACCUSTOMED to being someone with two left feet).  There were other kids, the natural athletes, who received FAR more than their "fair share" of ribbons and, boy, did I sometimes envy them.  Look at all those ribbons, I would marvel to myself.  Next year, I'll try harder...and maybe I'll get one of those ribbons for myself!

Now, ALL of our children are winners, right?  They are ALL EXACTLY THE SAME!


They are NOT all winners.  They're not.  Some kids are better at things than others.  Some kids have to work really hard to FIND their natural talents.  EVERYONE SHOULD NOT GET A TROPHY.  (Participation trophies are my pet peeve.) 

We teach our kids that they're great at EVERYTHING.

Newsflash:  they are NOT.  

Just as WE are not good at everything, our children watch us try and fail.  They watch us carefully to see how we handle our own mistakes and our own setbacks.  So why are we teaching THEM that they are so amazing that they won't have setbacks? Why are we teaching them that EVERYTHING they try they deserve a trophy for?

If they're already so good at everything...what are they going to DREAM ABOUT?  What are they going to reach for?  How are they going to learn to strive to achieve if we say to them every single time, "THAT was AMAZING!"?  Are we still going to be telling them that everything they do is amazing when they're still comfortably reclined on our furniture when they're 35 because life with us is so....easy?

Trust me, I am FAR from being a non-coddler.  My kids, like all the rest, do too little for too much reward.  They have too many "things" and they want for so little that they have a difficult time coming up with a wish list for birthdays or holidays.  SERIOUSLY.  They are heavily indulged children...much to my chagrin.  I want their self-esteems to be healthy.  I do.  But they know how much I loathe participation trophies.  And they know that the words "Bonus question" on any test or homework assignment read "Thing 1" or "Thing 2" because I WANT them to go above and beyond.  And I tell them to find things that they enjoy...things that they are passionate about...because they are not going to be good at everything.

If we continue on this parenting road we are on, the future will be bleak (but so very, very EVEN).  I'm telling you.

The World in 2040

  • War.  If we (God forbid) have to go to war, our children will drive to the battlefield with ergonomically fitted gear.  From their heated tank seats, they will engage the enemy.  "You are not being nice."  (See?  They are USING THEIR WORDS just like we taught them!  Proud, proud parenting moment!)  And, because even the game of Tag was outlawed at their elementary school (true story), they don't even know how to run away.  BOOM!  Blown to smithereens.
  • Business.  We will accompany Jimmy and Susie to their boardroom meetings where we will sit beside them and speak up for them when they are addressed. 
    • Random Business Guy:  "Thing 1, the projections for this quarter are dismal."  
    • Thing 1: "Well..."
    • Doddering Old Mom: "I'm sorry, I don't think he understood that what the company needed was to MAKE MONEY.  He was expressing his creativity and I don't think that profit should impact his life choices."
    • Boss:  "You're fired.  You AND your idiot mother." 
  • The Office of the President.  OK, there won't be just ONE president anymore because that would signify that one person might be BETTER than everyone else.  We'll have a Presidential Team.  They'll meet to have coffee and doughnuts.  Sugarless doughnuts.  The Presidential Team will decide to do awesome things like make EVERYONE the same color.  Maybe they'll choose a nice shade of green.  No differences means no conflict, right?  Wait in line to get your new shade!  And they'll decide that all of us should have equal amounts of money...JUST like in Monopoly.  Anyone who starts showing initiative and getting ahead will be moved back to the starting position...along with EVERYONE ELSE.
  • Neighborhoods.  All existing houses will be removed.  They will be replaced by neighborhoods with perfectly leveled streets that are all EXACTLY the same.  House numbers will be removed because lower (or higher) numbers might indicate differences which could be interpreted positively or negatively.  Homes will include the exact same furniture in the exact same colors so that no one could possibly envy anyone else.  All the green people who live inside will be the exact same gender and sexual orientation combination.  Children will be assigned as necessary when procreation is permitted.  Children will be painted green upon arrival. 
  • Food.  The Day New York Banned the Super Size will be heralded as a national holiday.  All portion sizes will be mandated by federal law.  All MEALS will be mandated by law.  Mondays will include chicken, two (approved) vegetables, gluten-free bread and an unflavored water (no ice).  Tuesdays will be vegan days, etc.  Drinking and smoking will be banned.  But pharmaceuticals will be promoted extensively.  Meals will be accompanied by mood regulation pills.  
Do we really want our kids to all be the same?  Do we really not want one kid to stand out?  Do we not want the rest to find their OWN passions?  What are we doing? 

More important, perhaps, is the question:  HOW DO WE STOP?

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