It’s not a new or even novel argument. In fact, more than anything, the discussion seems to be cyclical. It’s even a topic I’ve discussed recently. Parenting style. Or more specifically, does the American ‘style’ of parenting pamper our children too much?
Listen, every parent in history has compared their parenting to someone else (“Oh my gosh, did you see what Debbie would let her son do? If he were my son I’d…”). Expanding this little microcosm, sometimes, entire generations of parents like to compare their parenting or upbringing to that of “kids today” (“Back when I was their age…) as if medals are given out for the parent who got hit with a switch the most often for not finishing their vegetables, or that somehow a unforgiving upbringing makes you more American.
In any case, and maybe it’s because of that immigrant, hardworking, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, American mentality, it seems that anything less than a “rub some dirt on it” style of parenting, your children will grow up living a life of spoiled excess.
Since I’ve been a parent for two years and therefore I’m clearly an expert on these things, isn’t it time to just stop and consider that pampering does not mean spoiled, and attending to your child frequently isn’t actually spoiling them?
I’m not sure why we need to feel hardened by our upbringing and therefore, if we don’t make our children feel hardship, then they’ll turn out to be fragile eggshell adults.
I would love my son to never know pain or failure. I don’t relish in opportunities to use discipline. I prefer to shower him with praise for positive things he does. But he will know pain. He will experience failure.
But it’s not enough to just say, “Well kid, sometimes life sucks.” One of the best things about his mental development is his capacity to understand and listen. I’ve found that taking the time to explain both praise and criticism helps him understand and respond far better. When he is praised for asking to go to the bathroom, instead of just praising, I like to explain to him specifically why he’s receiving praise. Similarly, when he hits one of the dogs, yelling doesn’t seem to accomplish anything, so I explain why he’s being disciplined. When he fails, it is important that he understands that failures are part of life, but can we not still empathize? Can’t we still provide encouragement? Where, exactly, is the virtue in raising a child that’s been ‘hardened’ so that it can play one-ups-man to whatever generation comes next?
Children aren’t going to be spoiled because they have a parent that praises them regularly. Nor are they going to be spoiled because they have a parent who provides encouragement in times of failure or sadness. I’ve yet to hear anyone say the root of their problems as an adult was an excess of love and attention by their parents.
And if the worst thing my son can be called is pampered, I’ll take that.