Raising an empowered, not entitled, child
Are we, as parents, raising a generation of self-entitled kids? That was the thinking behind a Huffington Post article I read recently, which suggested that today’s parents have moved from teaching self-reliance to becoming “hovering helicopter parents” that tell their kids again and again they’re special and that everything they do is wonderful, to the detriment of kids.
To demonstrate its point, the article talked about cases such as the college freshman who burst into tears when she received a C- on a test, while her mom demanded to speak to her professor to change the grade, or the mother who accompanied her son to a job interview, and had the gall to be astounded when he didn’t get the job.
Many of today’s kids have instant gratification at their fingertips, in the form of Internet, iPhones, iPads, and any other “I” word you could think up. I was talking to a gentleman at his granddaughter’s birthday party, who recalled he didn’t have his first birthday party until he was 17-years-old, because that wasn’t a priority at the time, with money tight and with him having so many other siblings. Nowadays, we buy presents galore for our kids, even if it’s not their birthday, and the excess is even huger on those special occasions. We give them every comfort and encourage them they can achieve anything of which they dream, even if that might not really be the case. And there are probably some of us that choose to be willfully blind to the failings of our children, thus allowing them to become something ugly and cruel.
A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that she was concerned about bullying and teaching her child why it was wrong. I can empathize with that; my little girl is not yet four, and I see the bullying behaviour already beginning in her age group.
But I believe that I am lucky, in that I am friends with people who are good parents, who are tough but fair when they see their child step out of line – I hope they see me in a similar light. I do believe this reflects the majority of parents, but my fear is of parents who don’t want to accept that their child could be out of line, or don’t want to mete out discipline. I’m afraid of the type of parent who thinks his or her kids are perfect and attacks anyone – a teacher, a parent, a friend - who dares to suggest that’s not the case; in short, the kind of parent who might be raising an entitled child.
When I see cases of bullying, I feel afraid for the future, and for my child. She’s a sensitive soul and bursts into tears at the least put-down. It reminds me of myself as a kid; my parents used to tell me I was “weak” because the other kids used to lead the way, while I followed more submissively. It hurt at the time, but now that I’m in their shoes, I realize it was their way of expressing worry for me, for a parents’ fear of the vulnerability of a child in the big, hard world.
The immediate reaction of a protective parent is to try and be a human shield for your child, to cloister them from any kind of pain.
But unless I want to become the crazy mom following my daughter into her university classes or job interviews, I can’t do that. Instead, I need to find a way to empower my daughter, to give her the tools to be an independent and self-reliant person. That means taking a lesson from my parents, and not just buying her something when she wants it, but maybe waiting for a special occasion to give it to her as a surprise. It means backing off and letting her be on her own. And when she cries and complains about another kid’s behaviour, that means ignoring the impulse to jump in the fray, and instead telling her to stand up for herself and deal with it on her own.
I need to get my head around letting her go, and finding her own way in the world, even if that means she gets hurt, because I don’t want to raise a self-entitled kid who believes the world owes her something simply for existing, but an empowered one who knows she and she alone is responsible for shaping her destiny for the better, through self-reliance and strength.
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