"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Friday, July 8, 2011

Are we creating a generation of emotionally fragile “tea cups?” ~ NPR "Here & Now"

So, today I shall rant about parents! I was actually looking for an article I had read about raising your children to be nerds and not sports stars to follow up on an earlier blog - and I then remembered the emotionally fragile tea cup report I heard on NPR. And while searching for that I found some other helicopter parent type articles.

To all of this I say Amen!!!

I am still in the early stages of raising my second child (he will be 5 soon, my oldest is 17). When my oldest was little I was a single parent, and I just didn't have the time or energy to argue or coddle. The most commonly asked question in my small apartment was "how many times should I have to ask you to do something?" the answer, "once."

I would use children at the mall as examples of bad behavior: "what would happen in our house if you acted that way?" answer: "I would be a very unhappy child."

I had him trained. He understood that he did not live in a democracy, he lived in Mommy Land where I was queen ruler! Having said all that I was by no means the perfect parent, I worked too much because I had to, housework was not my area of expertise and I admit that more often than not we ate dinner out of a cardboard box heated in the microwave. At the same time, I managed to make it to almost every soccer game, baseball game, basketball game, concert or field day. I volunteered at every book fair, was a PTA mom, and helped to raise money and build a playground at his school. I coached soccer, went on field trips and created the 5th grade yearbook. I am not actually sure I slept for 5 or so years.

I let him experience failure and disappointment .... like when he tried out for travel soccer for the 1st time and did not make the team. He went home and threw out his friendship tournament trophy declaring he would never play soccer again. I was honest with him and said I wouldn't have picked him for the team either since he spent most of the tryout picking flowers and giggling with his friends. I made him take the trophy our of the trash and explained to him that this was a learning experience. He now knew what was expected of him at a soccer tryout and we would try again next year. He didn't make the team that year either .... but he did make it the next.

He is now a fabulous teenager .... and while there are days I wonder how he remembers how to get home from school .... I am very proud of him! He is a good kid, and that is hard to come by these days.

I have found myself slacking with child number 2 ... I am just too tired to be as strict as I was with the first one. Being a consistent parent takes a lot of energy and the fact that I am 17 years older and now have Lupus changes my perspective a bit. My mother's favorite words when I was raising my oldest were "you are really too hard on him." I don't hear that these days! But I still expect a couple of things ... respect and good listening ears. And I did just sign up to be the PTO Kindergarten Coordinator when he starts school in the fall. He is a happy kids with TONS of energy. According to his preschool teachers he is a born leader, who needs to learn to use his powers for good and not evil. And even he understands disappointment.

We went to a Fourth of July neighborhood party and there was a race around the park for 4-5 year olds. He started off strong, 2nd or 3rd of about 15. Then they went around a corner and we lost sight of them for a minute, when they came around the next corner my son was no where to be found. I waited a few minutes and was just about to see if he was ok when he rounded the corner in last place. I waited and watched. He ran his heart out, passing a couple of kids and coming in almost last with a tear streaked face! His shoe had fallen off while he was running and he was so disappointed! He cried for 10 minutes. My response was OK, then we can go home. Life happens, pick yourself up and move on! He said he didn't want to go home. He ran in two other races that day and was super happy that he came in 2nd place in all of them. He was proud that he got a special ribbon, and not just a green ribbon like everyone else. I was proud.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that you can have well adjusted children without spending your life making sure they do not experience pain. And you don't have to tell your young child that the card she made you is not "good enough" to instill a work ethic. There is a happy medium where you can raise respectful children who will become hard working assets to society. Find your parenting balance and go with it.

And remember, it is ok to take your screaming child out of a restaurant if they are having a tantrum, or leave a birthday party early because they are not listening. It is your JOB to teach them how to act in society. If you don't do it, who will!


  1. Amen to that Leann! Totally agree with everything that you say. My two kids - now both parents themselves with lovely families - had a similar upbringing to your own (judging from what you say)- and often say they were grateful for the expectations and limits that we put on them. It gave them a framework and a structure in which they could operate and succeed. And for us as parents, it made us feel really good when on so many occasions older people would praise us and our children when we were eating in a restaurant and the like. And now it's good to hear our grandchildren being praised.
    I would, however, add one point. Our son and his wife have three boys - 18 month old twins and a three year old - life is tough in their house! But I do feel that young parents today have a problem that was not so apparent when we were young parents. the whole culture of bringing up kids has it seems been 'professionalised' - health professionals, TV pundits, educationalists etc.I think young parents are too scared to do what they inherently know is right because they are so confused with trying to follow sometimes conflicting professional advice. But then, what do I know!
    Keep blogging - it's always a pleasure to read. Thank you

  2. I totally agree with you! I think the best thing I ever did was throw out the Dr. Spock book (after I learned how to take an infant's temperature) and I stopped watching Martha Stewart!

    The best thing you can do as a parent is realise you can't ever be a perfect parent and your children won't ever be perfect children.

  3. Amen Sistah! There are WAY too many coddled little brats out there, and many of them are far older than our little guys.