Ditch the Guilt and Raise Happier Kids
by Devra Renner and Aviva Pflock
Devra Renner and Aviva Pflock are the founders of Parentopia.com and co-authors of Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most, and Raise Happier Kids. Read more »
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Do we become parents to be tormented and miserable? Of course not! We anticipate that parenthood will enhance our lives and ultimately bring us a family from which we derive great joy. Why then all the Mommy Guilt? The easy answer is we love our kids and we worry about them. We want them to be happy and also to be productive members of society.
For many a mom and dad, the weight of making parenting decisions can be a heavy, burdensome, stressful and even overwhelming responsibility. From Coast to Coast, Suburbia to Urban living, we're all trying to raise our kids and lower our stress levels. However, despite our best intentions, our Guilt-O-Meters can skyrocket and, before we know it, whammo! But have no fear, we're here to help!
We're sure you have your own Guilt-O-Meter increasers and we encourage you to share them. After all, everyone is trying to muddle through parenting as best we can. It's not "one size fits all." Each family is unique. Our specialty is listening to parents and sharing strategies that we hope will encourage you to ditch the guilt and keep the kids.
One area that seems to be spiking guilt levels recently is competition. From preschool soccer to college honor rolls, parents are worried the pendulum has swung too far. Whether it be a team sport, ballet, or a science fair project, the pressure to perform not only falls on children, but on mom and dad, too.
Remember being the last kid picked for the basketball team in elementary school PE? What about the drama of ending up in the chorus instead of being cast in the leading role? Or having your science project blow up--literally? It didn't feel very good. As parents, our instinct is to protect our children from physical and emotional scars. But when did this become synonymous with protecting them from failure and disappointment? Kids need to learn how to be team players, good sports, and, dare we say it, competitive. The horror!
Do we really feel okay telling our kids they are the best at something when they aren't? Or do we feel guilty about doing so? We're here to tell you that rallying against the trend to de-emphasize competition and replace it with empty victories is going to decrease your Guilt-O-Meter and increase the chance for a parenting home run. What do we mean by empty victories? Here's the scoop: Young children need lots of positive reinforcement to help them build up confidence to go out and explore the world, but gears need shifting as our kids get older and learn how to navigate more independently. Tripping up every once in a while in order to have the chance to bounce back is a rite of passage; awarding trophies to everyone just for showing up isn't.
Rather than being able to help kids improve and develop skills, by pointing out both strengths and weaknesses, we're all getting swept up in the idea that competition is a dirty word. We hear a great deal about how resilient kids are, and its true most are, but resilience comes from trying things again and again. It's hard to fix what you don't know is broken. Children build up their physical and emotional resilience through exposure to consequences. Take away the consequences and what do kids have to bounce back from? When kids get knocked down or fall down they look to us as parents to tell them, "Get up! Try again! You can do it!" and when we do that, our kids turn their heads and smile because it feels good to know your parent has your back.
Yes, our instincts tell us to shield our kids from any pain, be it body or soul, but there should be a sign-on bonus to prepare them for the real world. The real world is competitive, so let's continue to teach our kids there is safety in numbers, cheaters never really win, quitting is okay sometimes and losing isn't the end of the world. It's not an all-or-nothing proposition. There will be times when our kids will face disappointment and failure, but knowing their parents are cheering them on fills our kids with the confidence to feel like winners, even when they end up in Second Place.
Tell us about your Guilt-O-Meter. What's it reading?Devra Renner and Aviva Pflock are no longer answering questions. But please share your own experiences and ideas by leaving a comment.
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