A couple of weeks ago I came across a book review “Why Are American Kids So Spoiled?” While it was an interesting article that made some good points it can be firmly placed in the large and ever growing category of “Parenting: You’re doing it wrong” child rearing books and articles.
Essentially the article makes the point that other cultures have six year olds who sweep huts with brooms they made themselves, forage for and prepare dinner, and actually listen when they’re told “no.” We have six year olds who can’t tie their shoes and grow into 25 year old adultescents who do beer bongs in their parents’ basements.
This phenomenon in particular seems widespread enough that it merits looking at the differences between how we parent now and the parenting techniques employed by the cultures whose children are not thrown into uncontrollable rages when denied an Ipad 3.
The “Parenting: You’re doing it wrong” articles strike me as having a common theme: Stop doing so much for your kids. If our kids are constantly catered to and made comfortable they won’t be able to do for themselves or deal with discomfort. So back off and let your kid sort things out themselves. That’s what French people / Amazonian tribespeople / earlier generations / everyone who is better at parenting than you (which is everyone) would do.
The flip side of teaching kids to deal with discomfort is that we, as the parents and adults who are otherwise in contact with the kid, have to do the same. You have to sit there for. freaking. EVER. while your preschooler dresses herself and attempts to tie her shoes. You have to be zen about the occasional broken dish and painstakingly inefficient approach to clearing the table.
And if you’re in a casual eatery and the kid at the table next to you is getting fussy at the end of a long meal because their parents haven’t immediately shoved Angry Birds in front of them and bought them another dessert you need to be chill. You can’t really complain about how “kids these days” need to shut up and toughen up if you lose your cool at the prospect of wine with a few minutes of whine. Because kids have to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them and life can be inconvenient. And so do the rest of us.
Criticizing the entitledness of small children while being completely unhinged by one causing a mild disruption at Starbucks should really be an “AHA!” moment.
Because you know what adults probably don’t do in the cultures filled with polite children who are harvesting the village crop by age 3? Scream “GET OFF MY LAWN! LEARN SOME SELF DISCIPLINE! THE WORLD DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND YOU!” when a kid mildly inconveniences them by doing something childlike.