Tag Archives: parenting

The Coddled Society

playgrounds, overprotective, children, safety,coddling, protection

Creative Commons: Los Angeles CB Grant

Hundreds of years ago a child was only a child for so long. When they got big enough to walk and carry, that’s what they did. When they got big enough to hold a sword, they learned how to use one. When they could ride a horse, shear a sheep, seed the ground or chop food, they did. There was no waiting until you were of driving age, drinking age, voting age. There was no waiting, sitting and playing while mom and dad prepared things for you. Childhood probably lasted until about the age of five and then you were put to work. Even if you were noble, you were learning the ways of society and ruling at an early age.

Anyone who’s lived on a farm knows this lifestyle. Farm kids don’t sit and watch TV before or after school. They feed chickens, milk cows, bale hay, muck out pens and do a myriad of chores to keep the farm running. Third world countries have higher populations and larger families because, in their poverty, the more hands that can work then the more money and food they can bring in, even if there are more mouths to feed. I don’t just say this. Studies show that populations slow and stabilize the more a country moves towards a good economy.

As a child I learned to cook and bake by the time I was eight,with my mother guiding. I helped stir bowls of batter, added eggs and made hamburger patties, basted turkeys. I was cooking on my own by the age of ten. I had to pick up after myself, vacuum, wash dishes, polish and dust. My siblings of both genders had to do the same. We walked to school, a good mile distant, from grades 1-12. We walked in sun, and in rain, in hail and in snow. I remember the big snowsuit in grade one and so much snow that I was late every day for a week. But I walked, by myself.

My mother told us to go outside and play. If we said we were bored you can bet she’d give us chores. Sure we had to check in or tell her where we were going and I remember getting in hot water because I went off and played in the alley with my sister and her friend at the age of four, and didn’t tell my mother. But I did it, without constant adult supervision.

My hand wasn’t held as I slid down the slide, I wasn’t told I was too young to bake. We learned and we grew self-sufficient. I could cook and drive when I moved out on my own and in with my boyfriend. And so could he. I’ve met men (more than women) who couldn’t cook because mommy had done everything for their sons or only children. I’ve met people who couldn’t iron and lived in pigsties because they were never taught to clean up. And I meet people who think children have to be protected 24/7.

Many threats to children haven’t increased over the years, but media coverage of kidnappings and perverts have. I drive by a school where the parents are lined up to drop off their children. I’ve read about a school that was going to raze a low hill because the children might fall down it. I’ve read and seen playground slides lowered, guards put up, safety nets added so that children can’t bump or scrape or get a few of life’s bruises.

And what do studies show, out of Norway and the US? That people who are coddled so much grow up with more anxieties, are less likely to take any risks and find all of the world a big scary place. In essence, they become victims of parenting. Never has there been an age where children were padded, wrapped, helmeted, swaddled and overly protected from the daily aspects of living. Sure, don’t leave toxic chemicals in the reach of a baby but teach your children how to be cautious yet adventuresome, and how to apply thought and learning. We never would have hit the age of exploration if all those searfaring adventurers had been raised as coddled children. Let your children live a little.

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Tiger Mom Equals Bitch Mom

tiger mom, tough parenting, abusive parents, tough love

Creative Commons: memegenerator.net

A friend sent me Annie Murphy Paul’s article Is Tough Parenting Really the Answer? about Amy Chua, the self-proclaimed tiger mom who is into disciplining her children and forcing them to learn things into the wee hours, without bathroom breaks. Didn’t I hear about this technique used by countries that prefer torture as a way of breaking and humiliating people, or perhaps getting information from them?

After reading the piece I had one strong feeling about Chua: revulsion. It’s not that I don’t think children should be encouraged and disciplined; it’s just that doing so in a draconian way can cause a lifetime of issues for most people. In fact, my second reaction was, well, she has a point about people being too lenient with this generation. I should point out that I haven’t read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, and articles can slant one way or another when aspects are taken out of context.

When I read this Q&A with Chua, I thought she had some good reasoning for some things, and I’ve heard she’s done a fair amount of back pedaling on other statements. (TIME’s Q&A with Amy Chua.) She also said she wrote a memoir, not a parenting guide book. But she strongly touts the Chinese way/Chinese  Moms (in Paul’s article) as a superior way of parenting, almost to bigoted proportions. And by writing the book she did want to portray her way of parenting as superior though she admitted defeat with one child.

I do believe that children should be given expectations, such as good behavior, politeness, completing and passing school, and chores. This trains them to  take on responsibility, be socially functional, be able to succeed and be self-reliant. I’ve watched some friends raise their children by doing everything for them, and they do neither their children, nor their children’s partners in years to come, any favors. But such phrases as Chua calling her daughter “garbage” after the girl behaved badly seem overly harsh. Or when she returned the birthday card her daughter made, saying, “I deserve better than this. So I reject this.”

Yes, we are raising a generation of coddled and entitled kids where everyone in a class is given a prize, but there needs to be a balance, which, Chua argues, she did everything with compassion. As much can be gained by supporting and encouraging your child and expressing love as in disciplining them with jail like restrictions.

tiger mom, child abuse, tough love, social conditions, raising children

Not all tiger moms are rough. Photo credit: law_keven Creative Commons

I speak partially from experience. My mother taught us responsibility. A punishment or something withheld if we didn’t do our chores would have been justifiable. But sometimes the level of enforcement or lack of compassion didn’t help. I still wish my mother would have kept me at acrobats and tap dance when I was little, something that in my child’s temporal sense of things took someone keeping me on it. But she was sick and couldn’t do it. I still regret that I didn’t continue those classes. I also remember my paper dolls being thrown out in a fit of my mother’s pique. What I did, I don’t remember. We were sometimes punished for imaginary things, or events so small that the punishment never equalled the crime. We were told that “better people than you have failed” and encouraged very little.  That did no service to confidence.

Forcing a child to play an instrument they don’t like, as Chua did, will beat some down and make others rebel as her one daughter did. Giving them a choice to express their creativity in what they like, and then supporting them and making sure they stick to it, is a better way. Yes, too many people let their children do whatever they want and we have a nation of young people growing up with obesity because they only play computer games or watch TV. However, an overly strict disciplinarian style can instill such a case of fear and lack of self-confidence that obesity can result from that too.

Chua’s daughter can now go on dates and only (only!) practice piano for 1.5 hours a day instead of the six she used to have to do. Wow! Six hours a day on top of school and homework, and presumably chores. Of course, practice makes perfect and research supports this, but I wonder if there was ever any time for fun. Chua says,  “Kids who have this well-earned sense of mastery are more optimistic and decisive; they’ve learned that they’re capable of overcoming adversity and achieving goals.” Unfortunately in my family, the tiger mom approach did not give anyone a sense of mastery. Oh, and we’re not Asian either so maybe this isn’t a Chinese way, just a harsh one.

One end of the pendulum is saying your little Johnny is perfect, rewarding him for everything even if he doesn’t finish it or care, doing everything for him, and treating him like a little prince. The other end of the pendulum is treating little Johnny that even second place isn’t good enough, punishing him constantly, leaving no leeway for changes in path or preference and treating him like he’s in prison. In the middle is a parent who is loving and cares and encourages yet set up tasks and responsibilities and doesn’t let the child get away with murder. Paul says in her article, “All that said, however, psychologists universally decry the use of threats and name calling — verbal weapons frequently deployed by Chua — as harmful to children’s individual development and to the parent-child relationship.” Having seen a range I think I’d prefer a cat mom, one who can still use claws from time to time but who can love and relax as well.

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