Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to Land Your Kid in Therapy

My dad saved me this article ("How to Land Your Kid in Therapy") from the July/August issue of The Atlantic. A lot of food for thought, especially for someone who's only been doing the mom thing for 18 months and just now really getting into actual child rearing, as opposed to infant parenting, which is comprised primarily of diaper, safety, playtime and feeding duties.

Basic premise: Many parents today are so focused on "making their kids happy" that the children grow up without knowing how to deal with disappointment, defeat or life in general, and therefore, find themselves to be unhappy adults. She discusses a wide range of contributing factors, from the increasingly popular unscored soccer and pee week basketball games to running over to pick up and coddle your toddler the second he falls down.

The author delves into the idea that kids are given too many choices and not enough direction or boundaries. Other than "What book would you like to read?" or "What toy should we play with?" and occasionally "What kind of fruit do you want for snack," the nibble doesn't really get a whole lot of choices. Sure, I do go along with certain requests that make me cringe, "yes, you can wear those hideous brown hand-me-down parachute pants," or laugh, "okay, wear your construction hardhat to Panera or the library." But an 18-month-old, or even an 18-year-old, should not be dictating what we're having for dinner, where we're going grocery shopping, and certainly not what car we're going to buy (all examples from the article).

There's no exact science for the number of choices and amount of help you should give your children, and I'm sure I have a lot to learn in that regard. But I do agree with the idea that constantly focusing on making your child happy every minute of every day can end up making them unhappy in the long run. And that's what I have to remember when it's hard to resist running over to him each time he falls at the playground. As long I know he's not hurt, he gets up on his own, looks over at my warm smile, brushes off his hands and flashes me a quick grin. Now that's what I call happy ...

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