One of the mothers in one of the local Facebook groups posted this article earlier today. The title said, “Stop Making Things Perfect for Your Kids,” and the comments were all like, “AMEN!” or “This is the best article ever!” or “I’m going to post this to my personal account!” so I decided to read it. Because what could possibly go wrong.
Well, there are a few problems.
First, the tone of the article is not my favorite. I know, I get snippy sometimes (often), and sometimes I have attitude, and sometimes I could and should put things more delicately, especially if I actually want to change minds. Still, there is a sort of condescending knowitallness that doesn’t seem to be backed up.
Second, I have some problems with her first and main example. It’s not clear that this woman saw the initial interaction between the lifeguard and the child, which for me calls the entire thing into question. You want lifeguards disciplining your kid? Fine. I guess. But there is obviously a difference between a lifeguard kindly reminding a child to stop running and a lifeguard getting in a child’s face or putting hands on a child. If you’re not sure what happened, I think it’s wise to zip your lip about how a parent responds. Similarly, she conveniently leaves out the age of the child. Was this a three year old who excitedly ran a few steps and the lifeguard had a hissy fit, or was this a teenager who was blatantly defiant? Based on the facts presented, it could be either, and it’s the kind of detail that makes a difference, at least to me.
Third, there is a huge jump and disconnect between her opening story and (what might be) her main point about parents trying to create perfection for their kids. The disconnect continues when she decides to brag about her middle schooler and high schooler, not because they are great, but because they don’t do what they are supposed to. I try not to criticize how other people parent, I know I’m not perfect, but I think if you’re going to write an article criticizing other parents, both individually and collectively, it’s maybe not the best idea to include two paragraphs about the problems with the preferred philosophy. Again, I’m not saying kids that age don’t make mistakes, of course they do, even the best ones, but it does seem like a strange thing to add, even if I do respect her honesty.
Fourth, and this is really important, there is a huge difference between the parent of a toddler protecting and paying attention and the parent of a college student calling professors to argue about grades. Huge. Wall-with-Mexico yuge. Parents of young children should be protective. Letting go is a gradual process, and the idea, at least as I’ve gathered so far, is to give children the tools to succeed a little bit at a time, as we give them room to grow and live their own lives.
Fifth, and I saved this for last because it is the most important point, while I think it’s important for children to be respectful to adults, let’s not forget that sometimes adults also make bad and/or inappropriate choices. I don’t want my child to believe that all adults are infallible. If an adult does something that makes my child feel uncomfortable, I want my child to come to me immediately, and to know that I will understand and help them to feel safe. Let me put it this way. I may not have a large chest to stick out to intimidate (or impress) the lifeguard, but if he put a hand on my child, my displeasure would be noted. In fact, I’m going to drop the attempt at diplomacy: adhering too closely to the ideals advocated in this article is dangerous. There. I said it.