I often hear people commenting on “what’s wrong” with today’s youth. One of my biggest fears as a parent is raising just another young adult that turns out to be self-centered, irresponsible, and entitled. When I learned I was expecting my first baby, I put a lot of thought into what kind of person I hoped my child would grow to become. I thought about the decisions that we make that play a part in determining the personalities of the children we are raising. I thought about the things that parents do (or don’t do, in some cases) that ultimately creates a new generation of young adults that we are constantly complaining about. As an expecting mother, I made a quiet promise to myself that I wasn’t going to make those mistakes.
Balancing work, family, events and activities can be time consuming and overwhelming for many parents. In the midst of our busy lives, it’s easy to get caught up in our day to day duties and forget about the big picture when it comes to parenting. As my 18 month old son threw a tantrum over what app I pulled up for him on my iPad today, I realized that I needed to take a serious look at the choices I am making in raising my toddler. I mean, seriously – a tantrum over the iPad? You’re a baby. You’re lucky I’m letting you within eight feet of my iPad, much less getting to actually spend time playing with the multitude apps I’ve purchased and downloaded for you.
I thought back to that promise that I had made to myself when I was pregnant. Here I am, only 18 months into my role as a mother. I’m beginning to realize that even in such a short time, I have already committed the Five Parenting Mistakes I swore I wasn’t going to make. Take a look.
1.) Raising a child who expects instant gratification: Like many other children, my son has a major Elmo addiction. I have no idea what time Sesame Street actually airs on television, so we typically play an episode from the “On Demand” list. One morning, we happened to catch a live episode of Sesame Street. When a commercial came on, my son had a major fit and threw the remote at me. It took me a moment to realize that he literally NEVER has to wait through commercials because he’s used to watching me fast forward through them. We live in a world in which our kids are used to getting what they want immediately, even when it comes to television. What happened to telling our kids to turn off the damn TV and to go play outside? Which brings me to my next mistake…
2.) Raising a child that doesn’t know how to disconnect: I think I am stating the obvious here when I say that technology is clearly an important part of our society. As a mommy blogger, a free lance writer, and a serious social media addict, I’ll admit that I spend some serious time on my cell phone. The other day, I set my phone down to play with my son. A few minutes later, he walked over to it, picked it up and handed it back to me. I actually believe that he was confused why I wasn’t holding it. He just thinks that my phone is like a little extension of myself. I’m a mother who is terrified that my son will turn into a gamer who hates the outdoors, and here I am teaching him that it’s normal to update your Facebook status every 15 minutes. Damnit.
3.) Raising a child who thinks money grows on trees: Teaching children the importance of working to earn money and saving responsibly is a tough concept in general. Further, because cash is used so infrequently, I honestly think that children don’t understand the idea of using money to pay for things we need and want. My son has a pretend grocery store that actually came with a little credit card. These days, the problem is not just that our children think money grows on trees. Who needs money when we have little plastic cards that we can so easily swipe for anything we want?
4.) Raising a child who doesn’t know how to lose: My friends enrolled their five year old son in a T-ball league over the summer. At the end of the season, he was so excited to show me his trophy. I assumed that his team won the league before his parents explained to me that every child gets a trophy. Wait. Everyone gets a trophy? They don’t even keep score at the games? I understand that we want to encourage our children to play sports and we don’t want them to be hurt if they don’t win any games. However, isn’t it a better lesson to teach our children how to lose graciously? I realized that on another level, I do the same thing to my toddler. He loves to play basketball, but he becomes frustrated when he isn’t able to shoot the ball into the hoop. He’s constantly asking me to pick him up so that he can reach the hoop and score a basket every time. I should be letting him try to shoot on his own and teaching him that I will cheer for him, even when he misses the shot. Shielding our children from dealing with loss is setting them up with unrealistic expectations in the real world. The fact of the matter is, sometimes we lose. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
5.) Raising a child who doesn’t understand that there are consequences for every action: I know a lot of young adults that make awful decisions without caring about the consequences of their actions. Young adults are raised to believe that they are invincible. Texting while driving, having unprotected sex, skipping school. Why are they so irresponsible, you ask? Because as parents, we are constantly bailing them out when they find their way into trouble rather than letting them endure the tough consequences of choices they have made. Teaching our kids this lesson begins when they are babies. Just this morning, my son was happily playing with his tool set at his little work bench. Before long, he was using his plastic hammer to hit the dog (repeatedly). I tried redirecting him. I warned him. I knew he’d cry if I took it away. I normally would just let the dog outside to deter the situation. This time, I decided to stand my ground and took the damn hammer. It breaks my heart to be the bad guy. It’s so much easier to spew empty threats and never follow through. However, in the long run, it’s important for him to learn that whether he’s trying to hit the dog with a plastic hammer or to text while driving as a teenager, there will be consequences for his actions.
As a certified early elementary teacher, I understand that managing a toddler is always tough. Tantrums and challenging behavior is age appropriate and completely normal. However, I won’t allow his age to be an excuse for me to take the easy way out. Even though I’m only 18 months into this, I believe that the choices that I make as a parent now will ultimately affect his personality later in life.
A lot of people tend to judge parents who have children that are throwing tantrums in the checkout line of the grocery store. However, maybe these are the parents that we should be applauding. Rather than giving in and buying a sugary bribe to keep them quiet, they are teaching their child that we don’t always get what we want. So, the next time my kid cries when he has to wait for the commercials to end or throws a fit over not getting a toy every time we walk into Target, I’ll take a quiet step back and remember this list. Then I’ll say a silent prayer as I make the decision to say no, because being the bad guy in the short term will ultimately make me a much better parent in the long run.