Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Are we REALLY Protecting our Kids?

Parents, Teachers, Caregivers to Children:

I have been watching you. I have become one of you recently, and sometimes I think I need to talk to all of you about some things that I see happening. One thing that scares the heck out of me is how much we ‘protect’ our kids. I understand and empathize with the fact that we don’t want our children to be disappointed. It hurts us as parents to see our children become sad and down when things don’t go their way. But what I’d like to say to you is that disappointment is part of life, and part of learning how to be a decent human being.

Aren’t we as parents, setting our kids up for disaster by shielding them from everything that could hurt their feelings? Aren’t we harming them by sending them into the world unprepared to deal with rejection?

How are our children ever going to deal with not being admitted to the college of their choice, not being offered an interview or a job, or being turned down for a date? Have you ever considered the fact that by requiring that all children in a class be invited to a party, to keep kids from being left out, and to make all things fair, we’re setting up a false sense of what reality is for our children?

Our children aren’t going to be allowed admission to college because it’s not fair to only let a few people in. They are going to be allowed admission because they fulfilled the entrance requirements. Companies don’t hire people because they filled out an application. They hire people because they are qualified for a position and the best fit for the company. People don’t go on dates because it’s fair, they go out on dates because there is an attraction. Our children are going to be denied admission to colleges, turned down for jobs, and refused dates. How are they, as adults, going to deal with the sadness and disappointment that goes along with these forms of rejection unless they have been allowed to suffer a little bit as children – if they haven’t learned how to cope with small disappointments, how much is a big one going to impact them?

We can’t have birthday parties anymore without inviting the entire class, because some kids might be left out, and then they’ll be sad. Emabee is just one person who has written about the frustration that goes along with having a birthday party and trying to deal with the school’s rules.

I found a note from her teacher in her notebook. It said something to the effect that if we were going to invite just a few kids from her class, I needed to find a way to do it outside of school as it was school policy for invitations to be given to every kid in class.
Same thing happened her first grade year. Different school, different state. Same story.
What if I couldn’t afford to have a party for all those kids? What if she hated some of the kids in her class? What if I prepared (or bought) a bunch of food and trinkets for the goody bag and games and drinks, etc….and only 3 people showed up?

It doesn’t end at birthday parties, though. Kids are let onto sports teams, whether or not they are good enough to play the sport. They can’t even “fail” in school, because it might hurt their self esteem to know they didn’t pass a class. How is this going to help them when they go to take the Bar, the MCATs, SAT, ACT and any professional qualification tests? It isn’t. Not. At. All.

We as people learn from our experiences and our mistakes. So, if we rarely feel disappointment, we don’t know how to deal with it. Is this why our teens and college students are lashing out and killing their peers? They don’t know how to deal with the stress of being disappointed. They don’t know how to deal with a bit of failure now and then (because we all fail sometimes).

I could go on forever about this: I could go on about how we give in to every little whim and desire of our children far too often, how we don’t give our children limits by saying no, how we, as a society are failing our children in many many ways.

Parents, caregivers and teachers (or more likely their administrations) need to understand that disappointments are part of what shape is into empathetic, sympathetic, decent human beings. If we don’t know what it feels like to be disappointed, we can’t help others, or feel for others, or desire to help others. If we don’t know what it feels like to be let down, we don’t know how important it is to not let others down.

I’m not sure how to end this letter, but I hope that together we can all give this some serious thought. Try not to disappoint your children through broken promises. Shield your child from some of the hurts and tragedies that are involved in life, but for their sakes, please don’t shield them from everything. It isn’t helping them. It’s hurting them.


Momma Mary


Ashlee said...

Kudos Momma Mary! Our school isn't that strict. My son can invite whoever he wants. He'd love to have his whole class invited. I've been in his class to know that they are a bunch of great kids. BUT, I'm not paying for a party for all of them. It's expensive enough to throw a party for 10. :0) He passed out his invites at school with no problem, though I did tell him to be discreet. No need for an announcement that only so an so was getting an ivitation.
I think there are so many ways that parents let their kids down nowadays. I could go off on a tangent as well. Disappointment sucks, but who said life was fair?

Kimi said...

All I have to say is...AMEN MARY!!! Love this blog.

Knick Knack Paddy Whack, Throw This Mom a Bone said...