Jen writes

December 1, 2009

Why my kids have milk mustaches, skinned knees and chore charts

Out of necessity, I have given up a lot of control. A LOT. That’s what happens when you are outnumbered by your children. And your children’s needs. You have to let things go.

And here’s what has happened since I stopped wiping faces after every meal or even caring if they’ve had three meals rather than eight snacks: I’ve come to believe that me giving up a certain amount of control of my kids is good for everyone. It takes the pressure off of me. And for the kids? They learn risk, responsibility, consequences. Also pride. And humility.

But the big one? Self-esteem.

Bear with me for a minute. I used to coach a collegiate women’s novice crew team. Most of my athletes were first-year students, 18 or 19 years old. And after a few years of coaching, I realized that many of them, even most of them, had never been told they were anything less than the best. In fact, they had never been told “no.” It took me a while to understand this. No? A simple concept, yes? Apparently not. Many—but not all—had spent their lives in privilege. Every single one had excelled enough to attend this academically rigorous school. And they all wanted to be in the first boat. I had to tell a lot of them, “You’re not good enough.” (There are eight seats and a coxswain in a boat. The team was often more than 30 athletes.) And apparently I was the first person ever to say such a thing.

When someone came to me upset because she hadn’t been boated, I explained to her how she could work on her technique. Or what she could do to get stronger. I told her to keep working hard and to keep wanting to be better. And to work out with teammates who were better and stronger than she was, because I knew—from my coaching beliefs as well as my own personal experience as a collegiate rower in the very same program years before—that peer motivation would push her to be her best. And sometimes I had to tell her that no matter how hard she worked, even at her very best, she wouldn’t be as good as the top athletes on the team. That’s the reality of sports. There is a bench. Often these girls cried. Sometimes they quit. Sometimes, their MOTHERS contacted me. The overall message I was getting in these cases was that these athletes felt entitled to a seat in a boat simply because they wanted it. Not because of how they measured up to the rest of the athletes on the team. Not because of the time and effort that they gave in practices on and off the water. Not because of anything other than the fact that they wanted it. (After a few years I did a little research into the phenomenon of self-esteem entitlement. If you’re interested in learning more about this, I suggest the book Generation Me.)

What I realized then was that I didn’t want my kids to grow up with this same sense of automatic self-esteem—which I feel is a backlash to the generation of self-esteem boosting (especially girls’) that I grew up in. What I realize now is that the control I’ve had to let slide is good for my kids. If I am making sure they are never hurt—physically or emotionally—or always am telling them that they’re the best at everything they do, they’re not going to experience true self-esteem, or confidence, or pride. Or, dare I say it, failure. They’re going to think they’re great just because they’re here, not because of any achievement—no matter how big or small. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is the wrong kind of entitlement. The worst kind.

I’d rather have my kids in mismatched clothes, citing the alphabet incorrectly, with last night’s dinner on their faces than looking like a Gap ad and eligible for a Nobel prize at age 4. I will expose them to opportunities. I will encourage their interests. I will hug them when they’re hurt and when they score the winning goal. I will let them take risks, learn the consequences the hard way. I will expect them to be responsible for themselves (and for each other) early on. They will gain pride in their achievements, whether getting dressed on their own or hitting the ball off of the T. And when they make mistakes, they will learn how to apologize. How to be humble. But most of all, they will learn who they are along the way and that they should each be proud of that person. That very important self that each becomes.

As a mother, it is not my job to control my children’s behaviors and choices. It’s my job to steer them in safe directions and let them make their own choices. And on the way to encourage them to take the paths that will make them realize their true worth. To themselves, to each other and to their peers.

Read More in Jen Writes, motherhood, three kids
Lindsey writes

Yes, yes, and yes.
I have written about this at length. I could not agree more. What’s wrong with the world that I (at least) sometimes feel counter-cultural for this point of view?
I’m glad to hear you share it. Really, really glad.
xo

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Jen replies

Glad to have found so many great folks who don’t think I’m NUTSO. Phew.

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Amanda M writes

Well said. I have my own son but nanny two other boys so the craziness is all around. I often find myself being the one laying pressure on us. It never works for anyone. As long as I teach them the big things and keep them safe, I am doing my job. Since I have let loose, everyone is happier. Sure, we have some stressed days but I see the older one actually making decisions that he wouldn’t have made, know he has to clean, etc. I like our new system, even if it was me who had the most trouble adjusting to it!

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Jen replies

Yes! “Even if it was me who had the most trouble adjusting.” Isn’t that the awful truth? We tell our kids to be flexible, and yet it is so so hard to do.
Bravo for you! (And for the kids in your care.)

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TheKitchenWitch writes

Dude? Were you at my house this morning, at 7:43am, fighting with my husband about the 2nd Grade Native American Diorama From Hell Project?? Because you must have been with me there in spirit.

Miss D. is whining. Doesn’t want to do the work. I say–Fine. Don’t do it, sweets, and suffer the embarrassment on Friday when it’s View Everyone’s Diorama Day…and you got nothin’.

My husband thinks I am a terrible person. He is DOING the diorama (most of it) for her. I am pissed. I want no part of this.

I refuse to raise brats. His sister is the biggest brat in the world…his parents are still paying for her education and she’s 36. Never finishes anything. But why bother, when your lodging, car, insurance, education is paid for with no demands on you?

Fuck, I’d be on the 8 year-plan too!

But that said…I also get really tired of being Bad Cop, you know? He is fun Daddy, happy Daddy, goofy Daddy. I am that Bitch Who Rides a Broomstick.

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BigLittleWolf replies

You crack me up.

Maybe you need some new footwear, to let you be the Good Fairy Fun Kitch Witch (but NOT doing the diorama)…

I have alternated among Marketing Mom, Promoting Mom, Policing Mom, and Boot Camp Sergeant Mom. (This is why I have so many shoes, and manage to justify it.)

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Goldfish replies

I might be tempted, because I actually think it’s fun to make dioramas. But that’s because I’m a craft whore. But, no. Parenting trumps dioramas. You’re right.

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BigLittleWolf replies

Goldfish! This is awesome! You’ve given me more fodder for my verse about you!

(Personally, I didn’t love dioramas. Quilting, yes. Homemade ornaments, yes. Beading with my sons (yep, they loved it too) – BIG yes. Never could get the terrarium thing to work for me though… maybe if I could’ve spelled it, that would help. Any terrarium moms out there??? Of course, if no sequins, plumage or ribbons are required (this was all pre-shoe fetish), I was much less interested. Would LOVE LOVE LOVE to know what moms have in their CRAFT drawers. I still have plenty of them. It’s fun stuff!)

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Lynne Marie Wanamaker replies

I am afraid of the diorama thing. My daughter’s teacher has intimated that a diorama might be in her future as one of her enhanced homework assignments. I am trying to be grateful that the teacher is putting so much effort into being certain that my [academically gifted] daughter is being appropriately challenged, but in truth I am more afraid of the diorama assignment than the accelerated math. Glad to know the Momalom crowd is diorama-experienced if (when) I get stuck.

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Jen replies

And here’s a topic for another post: When parents don’t agree on the big big big stuff.
By the way, that was me yesterday, at 7:43, riding my own broomstick. Yup. I’m with you. Reach out any time. Maybe we could ride our brooms to a witch bar and have a drink together.

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BigLittleWolf replies

Oh yeah… that’s probably a 7/8 drunk writing topic. When parents don’t agree on the BIG BIG BIG stuff, I’m afraid either one must be sent to McLeans, perpetually medicated, deported, or it’s the big D. And I don’t mean Dallas.

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BigLittleWolf writes

Wonderful approach. And sane.

It does change a bit when they’re older. Consequences for certain sorts of “mistakes” can be major, life altering even. But perfect kids are a parental illusion. And not a desirable state. (Mine are not angels. Never have been. That tells me they’re “normal.”)

Besides, mess is good for the soul. It’s laughter-generating and value-building. (Besides, as long as you don’t lose your kids behind the laundry piles PERMANENTLY, where’s the harm?)

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Jen replies

Wolfie, I love your perspective as a mom of older kids. Of course the consequences will get bigger and more substantial. Thank you for keeping me in reality. Right now I have to go dig out the baby from the laundry pile (I’m only half kidding), but thanks for understanding.
Oh, and I think the next T-shirt is going to say, “Perfect kids are a parental illusion. And not a desirable state.” Seriously. That is brilliant. BRILLiant. BrillIANT. Indeed.

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submom writes

Wow. I am absolutely floored. I am so happy I just found your blog thru a blog thru another blog. This essay is amazing. Were your other posts this awesome as well? I am going to guess yes. Will be digging thru the archive now.

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Shana replies

Yes, the other posts are all this amazing. Welcome and if you’re anything like me, you’ll stumble in from somewhere far, far away and stick around (and be glad you did!). Put your feet up, you’ll be here a while!

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Sarah replies

Welcome. We are so happy to have you.
I wish every post was a gem, but the truth is we have our “off” days, too. You know, those days when all you can muster is a picture or a little poem. But we’ve built up a great community here. The water’s warm…so jump on in!

Oh and December is the month of the Half-Drunk Challenge. It starts on Sunday. An official post with details will be coming later this week. You can come back anytime from the 6th to the 12th and link up your “half-drunk” post. The premise is basically to challenge yourself!!!

So again. Welcome!

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Jen replies

Yes, Welcome! We love new readers. We welcome you to the conversation and look forward to hearing your views on our views. Some posts are more weighty than others, but we always are thinking about these kids under our roofs and how the life we have chosen informs our days.

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submom replies

Not to be a comment hog (which I totally am…) but I just have to copy and paste this line so I can reread it again.

“We always are thinking about these kids under our roofs and how the life we have chosen informs our days.”

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Lynne Marie Wanamaker replies

Yes, it’s always awesome here. (They are paying us to say this, but they only pay in love and mustard so we probably mean it.) Welcome!

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BigLittleWolf replies

YES – it’s always awesome here (they did not pay me to say that… uh, Jen, could you check on that last transaction please?

BE FOREWARNED, visitors to this site have been known to discuss wildly, burst into virtual song, expand horizons and connections, and take up drinking. Heavily. All. in. the. name. of. good. writing.

Naturally.

(Love the pics of the bathroom signs on your site!)

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Shana writes

You have just said that which I wish I could put into words! Fabulous! I shared this with everyone I know on Facebook! Kudos to you for allowing your children to take chances and learn from their mistakes. It is one of the hardest things to do as a Mother (especially the letting them fail part) but it is SO integral to their growing into fine, upstanding members of society. I only wish more people shared your perspective…Good job!

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Jen replies

Thanks, Shana. I think you did put it into words perfectly. It IS one of the hardest parts of being a mother, and a good mother’s job is to help her kids grow INTO fine upstanding members of society–not to expect them to just become them by some divine intervention.
Well said!

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Jillian writes

Amen, sister.

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Jen replies

:)
So NICE to be understood about this!

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Ambrosia writes

“I will let them take risks, learn the consequences the hard way. ”

This is so essential yet so difficult. I think about letting my daughter fall off the couch, because she wants to go head first, and I cringe. I can’t let her get a bump! Those type of consequences are hard to let happen.

My mother does not want her kids to experience the consequences. She lets them take risks, but only after cajoling from my dad. It is a bit frustrating. I still have anxiety over little things (like driving!!).

This post is pretty much amazing.

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Jen replies

It IS difficult to watch as your kids pinch their fingers in the cabinet (after you telling them to be careful 700 times). It’s difficult to see the tears and the disappointment and the scrapes. But I feel like if I can prevent the broken bones and the concussions and any deep sense of personal failure, we all will be better off. I hear you about the anxiety. There are some things I get crazy about. But, I try to keep the crazy to myself as much as I can.

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Sarah replies

Ambrosia,
Did you get my emails about the t-shirt? Are they going to the right place? Just checking…
Sarah

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Nicki writes

I just recently had this discussion with other high school parents and I was in the minority. The drama club advisor double cast female parts so that everyone could get a part, as opposed to casting who was best. This means two distinct casts and, as a mother of one of the male members of the cast, twice as much work for the boys. None of these girls are going to be Broadway performers. Someone needs to let them know they don’t always get the part.

What did the other parents say? “It is fantastic you found a way to include everyone.” I nearly threw up!

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Jen replies

Nicki, I have to respond to your comment first, because I just keep thinking about it. And how absurd it is. Why are people so afraid to disappoint children? I would have been with you barf bag in hand. What are we teaching our children???
I heard a news story not too long ago that kids right out of college expect big jobs and big salaries and big responsibilities right away. They don’t want to start as the secretary, the intern, the trainee. And the boss figures are irritated. Well, of course they are! It’s ridiculous. And we are doing our children a disservice by casting all of them in the play.
I am dumbfounded. And actually, quite angry.
But, thanks for sharing!

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Nicki replies

Jen – as for your crew group of college students, here are some thoughts I wrote a while ago. http://nickisnook.net/2006/08/29/teen-identity/

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BigLittleWolf replies

The only thing I will say, Jen, about people being afraid to disappoint their children, is this.

No one ever knows what is really going on inside a home. Those who may be doing everything they can to spare their children seemingly “little” or real world mirroring disappointments may be trying to compensate for some hefty hurts that are life altering.

I certainly know that my approach to the “little disappointments” changed when my kids went from having the illusion of a 2-parent home to the reality of divorce and all its aftermath. There were a hundred hurts and disappointments – emotional and so many others – that I watched them suffer through, which their friends couldn’t possibly have seen or understood any more than mine could have at the time (they were all married).

Kids frequently do not talk outside the home about money problems, health problems of one of the parents, and any number of other stresses which may be periodic or constant. And kids who suffer abuse at home – whether physical, sexual, or emotional act out or have needs that may seem like something very different, without knowing what goes on behind closed doors.

Just another perspective. And one of the reasons that one of the rules I try to live by (not always successfully) is never assume.

All that doesn’t excuse spoiling kids, raising brats, closing parental eyes to bullies, and not allowing kids to learn from their mistakes. But it is another perspective.

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Goldfish writes

Every time I read you, I find yet another reason to like you. :) I let my 8-year-old fail yesterday morning. A homework issue. It took some resolve on my part, but I had to keep my final goal in mind. And my goal isn’t to raise kids who think they deserve everything. It’s to raise kids who are willing to work for what they want. And succeed gracefully. And to fail gracefully.

And you know what? He came home from school last night and did yesterday’s homework carefully and without complaint. (Please note: I did not say “perfectly.”) A small victory, and I understand that it was just one day. (There’s a reason it takes a lot of years to raise kids.) But he was happy with his behavior. As was I.

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Jen replies

There’s a reason it takes a lot of years to raise kids. YES. And to raise them well it takes patience and heartbreak. I find that when I have the time and patience to let my son come to his “own” decision, it is often the one I’ve been guiding him toward.
GO YOU! Here’s hoping the “lesson” has a lasting impact.

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Jen writes

Holy crap, I LOVED this. So, so good! Keep it comin’!

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Jen replies

Holy crap, THANK YOU. Sometimes I have a moment of clarity after the kids go to bed, you know?

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Gale writes

Thanks for your post today. Really refreshing perspective. I am relatively new to the child-rearing game, but have seen in other families the child entitlement that you mention. My husband and I don’t entirely agree on this one, and as our son gets older we’re going to have to work through it. I’m all for supporting him, but not to the extent that he feels that praise is his birthright. (Conversely, I’ve also known people who had been blindly praised all their lives and eventually determined that all praise is hollow. Horrible lack of self-esteem there.)

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Jen replies

Hi Gale. It is so difficult when you don’t agree on the big stuff. See my response to Kitchen Witch, above. I think this is a topic for the future.
Thanks for reading!

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Laura writes

YES! YES! YES! This has been a great personal struggle. My son has had two school tardy slips in the last two weeks because he couldn’t find his shoes in the morning. He was mad at me. I was mad at him. We had to have a discussion about personal responsibility. I’ve decided they must feel the pinch of consequences, but it is hard. I feel like other mothers are looking at me like I’m failing my children. However, the reason I’m doing this is so, in the end, they don’t fail themselves.

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Jen replies

Consequences. Are. So. Difficult.
I feel like I have to be flexible. All the time. Because if I let the consequences happen and they don’t work, then I have failed just as much as if there weren’t any. My kids are still young enough that outside consequences like tardy slips are still on my watch, but it is so important that I don’t assume the responsibility all myself. That they don’t fail themselves. And also, that I don’t put too much responsibility on them too soon.

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Lucia writes

Thank you Jen!! You say it so well. (Of course, I am wondering how P fit into the picture when she was one of your mentionned athletes!!) I agree with the importance of letting go of control… yet it is really challenging for me… there is part of me that finds great comfort in tidyness and quiet and assortment of other things that are so NOT life with 3 young kids… I am really trying not get too worked up about the small stuff and to let them be messy and work out their squabbles and take responsibility for themselves and get downright mad at me when I say no or require them to do something necessary (like take a shower!). That said, the taking responsbility part and saying no leads to a lot of conflict and angst that is NOT FUN. I don’t know if I am making much sense, but thanks for the post.

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Jen replies

Don’t be fooled! It IS hard to give up control. I look around my house and ARGH. But when I get mad about the mess, disaster, spill, etc., I become the enemy. We are working on trying to get the kids to take a little more responsibility. But there are some things that NO MATTER WHAT end up in a fight. (Like, take a shower!) The chore charts: We have a chart and a calender in each of the big kids’ rooms. And stickers. Lots of stickers. Every day the kids have a chance to earn 6 stickers (one is worth 5 cents). We just changed the chores yesterday after 6 weeks. Needed to mix it up, because some of them were getting too easy. (Yay.) Our “chores” are/have been: brush teeth twice a day; set/clear table; get dressed; no whining; good listening; 5-minute pickup (of toys or art project of whatever); put clothes in hamper or on hooks if can be worn again; stay in bed through the night (for B who hates to be alone–he recently told me this is too easy! Yay! It’s not on the chart anymore.); get out the door without a fight (coat, hat, mittens on and backpack packed and ready); etc. Every sticker is worth 5 cents. They never have earned more than four in a day. They put them on the day on the calendar, so it’s easy to look back and see how they’ve done. Most days are three-star days. And we recently figured out that S has her best days on Sundays consistently, white B exhibits no pattern whatsoever. My kids are bookaholics, so for now the money they earn has been going toward the Scholastic book sales that seem to come home in B’s backpack every other week. As I said, some things are still a struggle–mostly the personal hygiene and cleaning up. But it has helped them realize that it’s not my job to do everything (even though they still want me to do everything…)

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Lucia writes

p.s. Would love to hear more about your chore charts…

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Kristen writes

Love, love, love this post. It speaks to me on two levels: the first, obviously, as a mom. Just yesterday Husband and I were talking about how to balance some of our household rules about climbing and jumping on furniture with allowing Big Boy to take calculated risks. Letting him fall, but not too far, so that he can learn to get back up again. But it also speaks to me as a teacher: I cannot tell you how shocked so many of my students at a New England prep school were to get a grade other than A. Or how many of their parents requested extra help when their son or daughter did not get that A. Tutoring for a B+ student? Interestingly, it was often the parents who had a harder time with the grade than the kids. I don’t want to be that kind of parent, and posts like this help me create the road map to parental sanity!

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Sarah replies

…the road map to parental sanity…

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Kelly replies

Okay, Kristen. You got me. I have sought tutoring for my kid because he was consistently bring him Cs in Math. His teacher had a Come To Jesus with me wherein she gently let me know that a B+ student is still A Great Student and that no matter his potential, pushing him for all As and Bs is sometimes pushing too hard. That was a really hard lesson to learn! (And I only half learned it. I still worked with him until those Cs are now Bs — but we couldn’t care less about the As).

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Goldfish replies

Kristen… interestingly, I think this post ties in well with your post today about the Religion of Motherhood. Both point out the fault in focusing on product rather than process… in the pursuit of perfection, we forget why we want so badly to BE perfect. We want to be perfect mothers, we expect our children to be perfect kids. But why? For perfection’s sake? It seems a bit empty.

But. I am certainly not immune. And I truly don’t know what I’ll do when my kids are older and the stakes are higher. Gah.

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Amy at Never-True Tales writes

In total agreement. I’ve blogged about this before, and its side-effect, the Everyone Wins an Award Syndrome. Of course, the only problem with letting MY kids make their own clothing and cleanliness choices is that they therefore never wipe their faces. I eventually have to intervene!

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Jen replies

I like your use of the word “syndrome.” I think that sums the situation up nicely. Along with Everyone Wins and Award goes Everyone Gets to Play. Nope. There IS A BENCH. In sports and in life. Sorry, folks. (Ooh, I am SO MEAN!)

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psumommy writes

I so utterly and absolutely agree. I’m considered nuts around here because I don’t force my kids to put on coats- or, heck, sometimes even shoes and socks- when it’s below zero out. And you know what? My kids come back inside after they’ve learned that IT’S COLD OUT, and they put their own stuff on. But I’ve been borderline accused of negligince for this. Seriously? I also allow them to play with sticks, and run and yell.

Ugh. It’s nice to read something like this, that there are more of us out there.

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Jen replies

I agree! I am delighted to find support for this. It’s such a bigger issue than I can write about in one post, and I’m seeing that there are more corners to dig into than I ever thought. Thanks for reading!

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Kelly writes

I struggle with this. On the one hand, I want my children to know that surge of pride from being good at something. Really, truly good at it. On the other hand, I want them to feel free to pursue what makes them happy even if that thing isn’t something they’re also really good at.

The root of this problem is entitlement. I don’t want them to feel entitled to anything. I want them to know what it is to earn something, to work hard at it, and to see that hard work come to fruition. Don’t work hard at it, suffer the consequences.

Homework is the hugest obstacle for us (and we aren’t even at a school that will ever assign dioramas). My son needs help just reading and following directions, and then there’s actually working through the directions. We’re still figuring out the fine line between helping him and doing it for him. But the goal is always to push him one step further, to coax him along until those pesky lines all fall in order and can follow from Point A to Point B.

So my point. Dude, it’s tough. Raising children is not for the weak of heart. I sometimes lose my breath trying to reason out why this work is entrusted to such an imperfect species.

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becca writes

I couldn’t agree with everything that you wrote more. But I find it so so hard. I already see I’m not good at letting my kids fail. I already see that I tell my kids they’re great at everything even if they’re not. I already see that I help them along too much. Hannah wants to go back to doing ballet when we all know she in NO WAY will be any sort of ballerina and I’m struggling with whether I should spend the money on it because she has fun with it or spend money on a sport that I think she has some talent in.

I want to give my kids the confidence they need to keep trying new things and I want them to feel proud of THEMSELVES without looking for MY approval at every turn. I want them to see that it’s ok and NORMAL to not have everything run smoothly. That it’s normal to fall down – that they WILL Get back up without my help. But it’s hard when it seems so many other parents have a different perspective.

I’m still working on finding the right balance and if I could do it as well as you lay out in this post, I’d be in great shape!

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Kelly replies

When my kid says, “Are you proud of me?!” I reply with “Are you proud of yourself?!” Most times, he says that automatically now — and hopefully it’s his first thought too. I want him to know that feeling (and know how to balance it out so he doesn’t totally live for himself only).

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Cindy writes

I wanted to add my “Amen, sister!” to the rest. Makes me think of that line from the Incredibles – “When everyone is super, no one is”. Kids really do have to learn that they don’t always win. Fun? Hell no! But oh so necessary! Though sometimes they seem to have the “I’m perfect and will always be in First Place” hardwired into them – my 11yo dd certainly does, and she just as certainly didn’t learn it from me!
Parenting is such an adventure – thanks for being a light on the journey!

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Corinne writes

Yes yes yes!
Just this morning we were at a doctors appointment and it took me until then to realize that Fynn had milk dribbles on his chin from breakfast. Doh. We are not perfect, why should our children be?
A lot of my peers were raised the way you described some of the crew ladies, and when they got to college and found someone who told the truth (like you did) it hit them hard. Before college I was always envious of them and their lives, but later on I grew thankful to have that firm grasp on reality.
Love this post!

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Stone Fox writes

well, what can i say? i totally agree. the younger generations, with few exceptions, seem to be Fragile & Entitled. many years ago paul harvey had written a letter to his grandkids, and some of the lines really stuck with me; “i hope you learn humility by being humiliated,” “i hope you learn tough times and disappointment.” we have become so adept at soothing our children’s egos and hurt feelings that they don’t know how to accept failure or disappointment. frankly, i don’t see enough parents teaching their kids that life sucks, sorry about your luck; get over yourself and move on. failing at one thing does not make a failure.

i see too many parents babying their kids. making sure all the emotional hurts of life are smoothed over. i see lots of parents just giving in because it’s easier than forcing their children to accept responsibility for their own actions. i see lots of parents caving into their kids and getting them all the toys and gadgets that “everyone else has” at earlier and earlier ages. i agree that teens should have cell phones, i sure would love to be able to get ahold of my kid anytime i wanted, but you’ll never in a million years convince me that a 13 year old requires a cell phone with texting, internet, and camera capabilities. still, you see a lot of teens taking pics and texting. hence, the entitlement.

i will always know this: as hard as i might be on my children, life will be harder. i need to prepare them.

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Sarah replies

a-fucking-men!

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Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities writes

Late to this party, but I’m here! What a fantastic and ripe topic. A tough one. How to imbue our kids with confidence, with some self-esteem, so that they can have a bit of youthful swagger, but not to inflate their confidence to a problematic and delusional level. Goodness, I have no clue on this one. But I do find your purposeful parental surrender very compelling. I do think that abdicating a bit of control is good for our children (and necessary for us).

Great post.

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Lynne Marie Wanamaker writes

Jen, I totally agree on this. I think often of the competencies and qualities I want my girl to have in her life: resiliance, assertiveness, responsibility, pride in her own accomplishments. I don’t think I do her any favors by paving her way–it is only through her own experience that she will develop these life skills.

[I have written about this from a self-defense/safety point of view: what does it look like to raise a child who can stand up for herself? (It doesn’t look like what my mother would have wanted, a “good” child. It usually looks like a child talking back.) You can read that essay here:
http://www.mamazine.com/Pages/feature129.html

My daughter is already showing signs of perfectionism and self-recrimination, though. So I am struggling with how to hold her accountable for her behavior and how to help her grow the resiliance and compassion for self that makes failure bearable.

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submom writes

I have been reading the comments via email (aka. lurking at its highest level) and I have to come back to gush (sorry!). This post is like a gift that keeps on giving: I have been enjoying and benefited from many of the followup comments. For instance, the comment from Lynne Marie above: “how to hold her accountable for her behavior and how to help her grow the resiliance and compassion for self that makes failure bearable”. I am always at a loss for words when I need to fill out one of those forms: “What do you expect your child to learn?” that teachers give out. Perfection.

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Shawna writes

Oh Jen thanks! Steve and I were just discussing how far we were willing to go in helping our son with his homework. The expectation from the school seems to be that we will do it for/with him. I feel that he needs to learn some responsibility for his own success and also some pride at having done something well. We remind him, give him space and time, but have stopped standing over or correcting him.

And we are working on teaching our five year old to deal with some disappointment in her life, by not letting her win every game of Uno or Memory that we play with her.

SO much to think about and the comments are amazing. You have truly connected with a lot of parents, all of us determined to do right for our children. So thanks again!

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Natalie writes

Just a note saying – Agreed, and your children thank you.

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