Annoying… Because the truth hurts?

A lot of people are annoyed by the recent slew of parenting articles and books that claim that parents in other countries do a better job of raising their children than do American parents.  We’re just beginning to find out exactly how detrimental it is to have a helicopter parent and to be a bubble-wrapped child, but the full impact won’t be known for many years to come.

My husband, a university professor, can share with you countless stories of coddled undergrads who whine at an assignment that forces them to think, negotiate (unsuccessfully) for extra credit after slacking off on their assigned work, and constantly ask “Do we have to know this for the test?”.  These underachievers didn’t wake up one day and decide they were going to be barnacles on the hull of society; they were MADE this way by parents who over-protect and under-challenge them, and a school system that focuses only on quantifiable achievement and ignores the traits that bring about long-term success and personal satisfaction.

Can we reverse this disturbing trend?  Sure, but it takes humility to accept that we’re on the wrong path.  Once we put our egos aside for the sake of the children, we might do well to look at cultures (industrially developed or otherwise) whose methods of education are creating independent, focused, and resilient human beings (and by “education” I mean “how we raise our children” and not just “what they learn in school”).

Here are a few articles and books that shed light on what other cultures are doing right… Detractors will read them and say “Yes, but, the entire society is set up to support this type of upbringing.”  True.  So isn’t it time that we start making changes in our society to support the healthy development of our children???

Why My Child Will Be Your Child’s Boss (an article about education in Switzerland)

Why Are American Kids So Spoiled (an article that contrasts responsible children in the Peruvian Amazon with spoiled American children)

Outdoor Pre-school in Norway (a short documentary demonstrating the importance of outdoor education and the surprising endurance of pre-schoolers)

Bringing Up Bebe (a book that describes how French parents educate children to sleep through the night, wait their turn, and make good choices)

6 thoughts on “Annoying… Because the truth hurts?

  1. Thanks for these book/reading recommendations. I finished reading Bringing up Bebe and LOVED it (actually I thought the ending was weak, but overall fantastic book). It made me take a look at my parenting skills and tweak where I thought needed tweaking. For instance, the eating…still struggling with keeping him in the high chair for longer than 20 minutes. But he eats his breakfast/lunch/dinner in his high chair. After 20 min he wants to get up and run around. In the book, it suggests that you teach restraint and allow the child to sit in the chair for the three/four courses. Maybe mine is too young now (14 months) but I hope that he will be able to enjoy the meal for longer when he gets older.

    I also agree with your coddling statement. There is too much coddling going on, not enough discipline…and I’m talking all kinds of discipline (education, manners, playing, etc). I’m looking forward to reading the article from Switzerland. Thanks for posting them.

    1. I think that if a 14-month old wants to get up and run around after 20 minutes, that’s fine, provided he’s finished his food and doesn’t expect to get more food when he’s done playing. In Montessori, when the child decides to get up, we tell him: “OK, when you get up that means that you are finished eating.” You then remove his food and don’t give him any more food until his next scheduled meal. It’s impossible to teach self-discipline if you don’t set the parameters and consistency necessary for the child to know what to expect. If he asks for more food after he’s done running around, we just say: “You got up, and that means you’re done. There will be more food at lunch/dinner.” I think we as parents need to understand that kids won’t starve if they don’t finish one meal, but they WILL become undisciplined if we don’t provide structure.

      I hope you enjoy the article; I was in Switzerland and saw many of the things the article mentions, so I know it’s true and I know it works!

      1. Your advice was fantastic. These last couple of days have been great. My little guy has been eating at the table (20 minutes) and when he gets down we don’t chase him around with food like we used to (this has been going on for about 3 weeks). I thought it would be difficult at first, thinking he needs all of the food that we prepared for him. But after we did it for all of the meals during the last couple of days it worked! He hasn’t asked for any additional food when he left his high chair. We put his cup of water and cup of milk on his drawing table and he knows where to go when he’s thirsty. He gets two healthy snacks…one around 10a and the other around 3p. My husband and I are no longer chasing him around with bite sized pieces of food.

        I really appreciate you sharing your experience with me. Thank you.

      2. Hurray Oster’s mom!!! I’m so glad you stuck to your guns and your little one is responding (they always do). 🙂 You made my day. Kudos to you and your hubby for being conscientious parents! Enjoy your little boy…

  2. Thanks for this Pilar. These articles scared the crap out of me! I can see signs of my parenting and my daughter in the children they described. Although I do try I also take the easy way out. It’s so much easier to not let my child get dirty because then I don’t have to clean her, or clean the bathtub. If I don’t let her walk around barefoot I don’t have to worry about her getting hurt and having to deal with a crying child. I think at least in my case I do certain things to make my life easier. After reading these articles I’m going to once again make a strong effort to “take a risk”, “live on the edge” and let my daughter do things even if sometimes the consequences may mean a little more work for me.
    I think as parents now we are totally brainwashed into thinking and doing things a certain way. When I think of what my sister and I did as kids I wonder why I wouldn’t dream of letting my daughter do those same things. What has changed? I’m terrified to let my daughter play outside in our front yard by herself. Too much tv and media for me has made me terrified of the what if.

    1. Thank YOU for your honesty. It really is the media (and other parents) who are fueling this epidemic, and it’s up to every one of us to change things. I am constantly talking to moms to get them to stop freaking out, but there’s always this comment: “Yeah, I know we’re safer now than 20 years ago, but still…”

      I’m not immune; I feel the fear when I think about certain things my son might want to do some day (like when my husband talks about climbing mountains or skydiving) but then I remember that I’ve done them, too (my mother almost died when I told her I went SCUBA diving and downhill skiing, and they’re my favorite things to do).

      I think that as parents we’re always going to fear for our kids’ safety, but we have to feel the fear and let them do it anyways, because that’s how they will learn. They have as much of a right to experience life to the fullest as we do. I hope your daughter enjoys her “new” momma! 🙂

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