THE SPLENDIFEROUS WAYS WE F*** UP OUR KIDS
I know absolutely nothing about kids. This is unfortunate in as much as I have kids. (Sorry, kids. Here’s another entry for the book you’ll write about me someday.)
But I do know this: a lot of us, even with the best intentions, do an awful lot of things that screw up our kids. Here’s just a few of my favorites:
- Toddlers in tiaras or anything that requires putting makeup on children to make them look like adults. Outside of Ron Howard, you can’t think of a child star who didn’t go off the reality train at some point can you? There’s a reason for that. Objectifying children for our amusement is at best weird, and often outright creepy. Turns out the movie “Little Miss Sunshine” is practically a documentary.
- Any variation on the bumper sticker “My kid can beat up your honor student”. What is the message here? Violence is good? Smart people need to be put down? These stickers seem more hostile than funny.
- Most organized kids sports. Sports are great. Teamwork and striving to sharpen your skills are awesome. Letting adults organize it, however, just mucks it up. Too many hours of practice rather than studying or, gee, just letting kids be kids, doing next to nothing to prevent injuries, and parents brawling in the stands, parents who sneer at teacher salaries and buying paper and pens, but think nothing of spending on a new sports stadium. All of this tells me we’ve lost sight of what’s important about sports.
- The obvious ones: too much junk food, too much tv, too much staying up late, yada, yada. We all know what are kids shouldn’t do. A lot of the things are things we shouldn’t do either. But we do. So we let the kids do it too. Don’t want to be hypocrites. But, you know, when it comes to be a parent, sometimes “Do as I say, not as I do” can be a valid argument. It’s our job to keep them alive.
- Misplaced worries. For example, worrying more about the lyrics in their music than about the people they’re listening with. Lectures about clean rooms, but none about drugs. Teaching kids how to take out the garage, but not how to hold a door for an elderly person. Things like that.
- Blaming video games for our failure to motivate kids to use their own imaginations. I like video games. I played lots of them growing up. I won’t tell my kids not to play them. But instead of letting them sit passively in front of a screen ALL THE TIME, why not help them to understand (1) it took imagination to create that game; (2) playing games can be a springboard to developing your own creativity? Games don’t have to be a passive pursuit. Kids can get ideas for their own stories, games and adventures. Parents need to calm down (a little) about what’s in the games and think more about the educational (gasp!) value of them.
- Over-scheduling. Swimming lessons. Music lessons. Sports practice. ll good stuff. My kids do many of these things. But all things in moderation is a saying for good reason. School comes first and, just like your job, it’s tiring. Be careful how much you pile on. Some of this tight scheduling could have to do with filling the free time void left by not letting our kids run free after school and explore, unstructured. This brings me to the next point:
- Adults, stop f***ing up the world so that it is not safe for kids to play outside unstructured. When I was a kid, no one thought much about me and my friends walking to school alone or riding our bikes pretty much wherever we wanted. It’s a different world now. Stranger danger is at an all time high. With guns all over the place – legal and otherwise – you never know when your kid (or you, for that matter) is going to get caught in crossfire. Kids today, including mine, hardly go anywhere unguarded, It’s necessary, but sort of a shame. Having adults around might make kids safer, but it also cramps their style a bit. We try to fill that guarded time with “enriching” activities, but it may that efforts to make our kids more “well-rounded” could actually just dull them a little. Thanks, adults. We have only ourselves to blame for this.
I’m not Dr. Spock (the child-rearing guru, not the Vulcan. I’m not him either.) I’m not even Dr. Phil. (Does he still have a show?) All parents excel at some area of parenting and suck at other areas. Do the best you can is lame advice, but it’s true. Now turn off the computer and go play a game with your kid.