Hi Rock Stars! I’ve been recently reading a bunch of articles online about how spoiled kids are these days, how children are running the show, and how parents are giving in to every demand of their children. People share these articles, claiming “I wasn’t raised this way,” or “This is exactly what’s wrong with kids these days,” and “I don’t parent like this”.
The thing is, I agree that we as parents have collectively moved into a child rearing style which places the child in the driver’s seat. We have shifted from informing children what they can expect to asking their opinion and permission before we proceed with making a certain meal, registering them for a particular school or class, or having them clean their rooms. Parents plan daily family activities, rules, and even vacations around what is going to make everyone happy so there is no conflicts or tensions.
What we have gotten wrong, however, when it comes to blaming the parents for the behaviors of these kids is that we miss the real truth. The truth is that parenting these days is like riding a tilt-a-whirl, every minute of every day. Parents are overworked, stressed, and filled with guilt. Whether you work at home, outside of the home, or are a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM), there are never enough hours in the day to get it all done. There’s social media, peer pressure, and the old standby of “Keeping Up With the Jones'” constantly slapping us in the face with how we need to be doing it all, and doing it all with creativity, fun, and flair. Not to mention, hundreds of articles telling us we are doing it wrong. Do this! Eat this! Buy this! Sign your kid up for this! We spend so much time judging others and being judged by others, that we enter a race against ourselves – trying to compete against the ideal images we have in our heads of how this whole parenting thing is supposed to look.
Even when we compare our present day parenting styles to how we were raised, we do ourselves and others a huge disservice. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Our parents did not have to deal with cell phones, internet, 5 different dance classes, 3 basketball teams, social media, karate, music class, clean eating, allergies, gymnastics, sports training….and the list goes on and on. Our parents, for the most part, went to work and when they came home, were able to be present. They (and we) were not pulled in 20 different directions every single night of the week with activities, hours of homework, and expectations that they continue working from home until late at night. Give yourself (and others) a break!
When we berate and blame parents for their children’s poor behavior, we miss another valid truth: Parents of today only want their children to be happy. That is AWESOME! There are so many parents who want so much happiness for their children! Let’s support and validate that! Let’s also add to that the big picture realization that children will be happiest when they know what they can expect from their parents. They will be less anxious and feel more confident when decision-making is taken out of their hands. Children (and adults) of all ages thrive on structure. When parents have a structure and belief set in place for their family, everyone can calm down and things inevitably run smoother. Why? Because it eliminates the NEGOTIATING. For example, don’t you have a much better week when you plan your dinners out in advance? The reason is, that it takes the guesswork out of the daily grind. That’s what we are having for dinner tonight – end of story. The same is true for parenting expectations. The more clear boundaries, expectations, and ground rules that are in place, the less discussion that needs to happen. Once you establish the expectations, it’s going to take some time to implement them. For example, “You are coming with us to your brother’s baseball game”, rather than “do you want to come with us to your brother’s baseball game?” Changing your questions into statements immediately lays out the expectation and takes away the opportunity for discussion or input. Another one of my favorites…”Do you want to put your shoes on so we can go?” A more effective way is to say “Its time to put your shoes on. We are going out now.” The more you stick to this, the better you AND your children will feel.
Parents also will benefit from learning how to say NO. NO, to the 9th birthday party invitation. NO, to the “Swim with the Ducks” Invitational. NO, to the 15th playdate of the week. Take a look at your calendar and see if the event or activity will work for your family, THEN ask yourself – “Do we WANT to do this?”, “In 5 years, will this event matter?”, “How will this event or activity make us stronger or better as a family unit?” Allow yourself to say NO to things and encourage and support other parents to do the same, you never know, we just might start a revolution!
Think about how many choices we and our children have every single day. Infinitely more than we had as kids. With so much choice, it can be incredibly challenging to make a choice and stick with it, especially when we keep looking around to see what everyone else is choosing. The more we can streamline for our families and ourselves, the more time we will have to enjoy the life we are working so hard to create. Let’s take the choices and decision-making out of the hands of our kids. Let’s trust ourselves that we are capable of knowing what’s best for our families and our children, even if we get it wrong sometimes and even if not everyone is happy – it’s a great lesson for everyone.
Parents feel so extremely chaotic all the time, that most of the time it’s just easier to take the quicker road with less conflict. If that is not you as a parent, then great job. Count your blessings, and maybe lend a hand to another parent who might need your friendship and support, not your judgement.