Ways We Are Ruining Our Kids

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Blogger Sue Moore has a point or two to make about the way we're raising kids today — and she admits that some of you will be offended by her observations!

Before I even begin writing this, I feel that I must make this disclaimer loud and clear. I am fairly certain that at some point in this blog every one of you will be offended. You will think that I know nothing about parenting, that I am slightly imbalanced, and that I should not be allowed to parent my own children. Though all of that is true sometimes, I assure you I am not as crazy as I sound, that my children are healthy and happy, and that most of the time they really do like me.

Since having children, I have noticed some things. I have noticed that every time I see a smattering of stick people stickers on the back of a minivan, my soul dies a little. That commercials really are brainwashing my kids into thinking they need whatever new sugar frosted chocolate bombs in the shapes of kitties and bunnies cereal Kellogg’s has released this month. That if we don’t trek our children to Disneyworld before they are 5 years old, I’m pretty sure Walt Disney himself will rise from the dead and smite us all. But most of all, I have noticed the multitude of ways that we are ruining our children.

1. Participation trophies.
Participation trophies are the biggest load of bull I have ever witnessed. The only time they are appropriate is if your child is playing in a 3 year old soccer league (quite frankly, I can’t believe this exists), and all they do is run around in circles, pick at the grass and their nose, and dig for bugs in the middle of the field. If they can make it through an entire game, they deserve a trophy. But everyone else, not so much. Let me let you in on a little secret that you might not want to hear, folks. Everyone isn’t a winner. Every one of you, at some point in your life, has been a loser. So have your kids. And so what? So what if your kid plays t-ball and sucks at it? When did it become so taboo to let your child know that sometimes, you are not good at something. That doesn’t mean you’re not good at everything. It just means you’re not good at this one thing. Suck it up and move on to something you’re better at. The list of things I suck at is a mile long, but I’m not crying into my participation trophy. Because there are a few things that I am awesome at. There is no way I could ever be an accountant, because I suck at math. But I defy anyone to show me someone who can take a $5 piece of junk yard sale furniture and make it fabulous better than I can. You have to let your kids find their strengths, and learn to accept their weaknesses. Instead of drying a few tears and having a life lesson moment with your kid at 5 years old, we have created a generation of kids who have no resiliency and no coping skills. The kids I have worked with for the last 10 years all share the same trait – almost all of them crumble at the first sign of adversity. So much of that could’ve been avoided had we stopped giving trophies when they sucked at something. You have got to learn to let your kids fail, and let them pick themselves back up.

2. Technology after dark.
Okay, seriously people. Why are you giving your kids so many electronic devices, and giving them access to them 24/7? Let’s start with the most basic, a TV in their room. I fail to see the need for a kid, no matter how old, to have a TV in their room. I know what I do when I have MY TV on in MY room. I watch trash TV way too late at night, get way less sleep, and wake up cranky. But I’m the grown up so I get to do that. As a mom, it’s my job to do all that I can to make sure my kids don’t have an opportunity to turn on Cinemax After Dark & scar them for life, or to simply just watch the Disney Channel all night long & wake up cranky to terrorize me and the rest of the world the whole next day. You know when I got a TV in my room? When I went to college and bought one. Even more shocking, I don’t feel emotionally scarred for not having one before I was 18 either. And what about the cell phones and the computers in the bedroom? Parents of middle and high schoolers, you can’t be that clueless. If you honestly think that, in the middle of the night, your teenage child isn’t texting, or receiving texts, filled with things that would make you blush, you are living in a dream world. Even if everything is sweet an innocent, why are you giving your child access to anyone after, say 10PM? Why are they on the computer behind closed doors? The internet is basically a place where pedophiles, kidnappers and serial killers find their next victim, and a naive teenager is the perfect bait. I won’t even get into the bullying disaster that is Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else is out there that I’m too old to know about. Giving your already hormonal teenager access to seeing her friends talk about her at any hour of the day or night is a disaster waiting to happen. Take it all away, and let your kid scream and cry about it, who cares. If you’re doing your job, your kid should hate you sometimes anyway.

3. Fairness.
I can guarantee you that life isn’t fair in my household. In reference to #2, I get to have a TV, my smartphone and my Kindle in my bed with me every night, every night I stay up way too late using all of those devices, and my children will never have that option until they move out of my house. My 4 year old has to clean up more often than her sister does. My 2 year old gets the shaft when it comes to picking a show to watch. My husband gets up if one of the kids starts crying in the middle of the night, partly because he’s usually still up, but mostly because I just don’t want to get out of bed. My reply when I hear the whines? Suck it up, buttercup. As cliché as it sounds, we all know it’s true – Life’s not fair. Sometimes, quite frankly, life sucks. But it comes back to resiliency. Do you want to teach your child right now that sometimes they’re going to be disappointed, sometimes they won’t be the favorite, sometimes crappy things happen to awesome people and just have to wipe a few tears, or do you want to have screaming matches with teenagers that cannot grasp in their hormonal heads that sometimes life sucks and you have to be able to move on? Personally, I would choose the former.

4. Helicopter Parents
You know you’ve seen them. Probably hovering over their kid when you drop your kid off at preschool, or better yet, college. These are the parents that call to complain to a high school teacher about a grade their kid earned on a paper, completely ignoring the fact that their kid turned in said paper 2 weeks late and looked like it was written by a third grader. They sprinkle the glitter and glue the pipecleaners on the posterboard sent home for homework. They call their college freshman every morning to wake them up for class. They follow their kids around the playground just in case they fall. They harass the kid who’s bullying their kid on Facebook, or better yet, show up at their front door ready for a confrontation. Parents, seriously. You’ve got to back off. Let your kids do their thing. You’re not helping anyone, especially not your child, by doing everything for them. All you are doing is creating a child, who when they hit adulthood, will not know how to be the confident, independent, fabulous adults that we know they can be. They will be women looking for men to make their decisions for them. They will be men looking for women to be their mommy, and trust me, there are enough of those freaks out there now. Stop adding to the loser pool already!

5. Overscheduling
It never ceases to amaze me at the amount of time and money parents shovel into extra programs for their kids. I know kids that play 3 or 4 organized sports every year, are in Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, go to summer camps all summer long, and then dance or play an instrument. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t understand how, or when, this became the norm. What really blows my mind is how young we start throwing our kids into organized activities. I mean, what 3 year old needs to be in an organized sport? Aren’t the words “3 year old” and “organized” a bit of a contradiction in itself? My oldest is 4, and we have yet to sign her up for anything. I’m sure I’ll be labeled the World’s Worst Mom because she stays home and plays, unorganized, with her sister. My thinking is this – I only have a few short years before I have to buy a minivan and slap on the “Mom’s Taxi Service” bumper sticker. Why do I want to do that earlier than I have to? Why do I want to start spending all of our extra money on tutus and recitals and instruments and cleats now? Why do I want to go sit in the ridiculously hot Tennessee sun watching kids NOT catch or hit a baseball? And most importantly, why do I want to teach my kids that they can only be entertained when they are in an organized activity where they are being told what to do? Not only do overly scheduled kids not know what to do when they have free time, but they also get overloaded. A kid should be a kid. It almost seems like we are starting to project our own overly scheduled lives onto our kids. Stress and running around like crazy has become the norm in our lives. Gotta go to work, run by the grocery store, pick up the kids from karate, cook dinner, put in a load of laundry, take the kids to t-ball practice, help them with their homework, make lunches, plan what your oldest will wear for Mismatched-Crazy-Hair Day, and shoot wasn’t I supposed to make cookies for Circle Day at preschool tomorrow? It’s scary at how common a to-do list like that looks to us, isn’t it? We’ve got to stop doing the same thing to ourselves, and our kids. And for goodness sakes, just buy the cookies for Circle Day from Kroger. Seriously.

The best part is that it never ceases to amaze me how many people will defend all of the things I’m ranting about. And trust me, I picked less controversial things to write about than I would if you and I were just sitting around the table with a bottle of wine. I really wanted to add in paragraphs about Time Out, Parenting Books, Kids Not Being Allowed To Fail In School, and Worrying Too Much About Feelings. But that’s another story for another day…

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Sue Moore is a married mom of two girls. She works full time as a social worker, and after her kids go to bed she spends her time cultivating her obsession with Pinterest, the Real Housewives, and trying to stay awake past 9:00pm.

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