Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pamela Druckerman has...

...an interesting opinion piece in the Times this morning, "A Cure for Hyper-Parenting." (I think I read something she once wrote on how children in France eat and it was also very interesting.) 

As the father of two grown sons, I agree with some of the things she says, but not all

First, on the cause of helicopter parenting, or hyper-parenting, as Druckerman calls it, I would say it's more because people in the developed world are having fewer children and thus are concentrating more on the one, two or three they have. In the olden days, when some people had nine or ten or even eleven children, it was probably enough just to know their names.

Here are the points on which Ms. Druckerman and I agree (my italics):

Babies aren’t savages. Toddlers understand language long before they can talk.

Seize windows of freedom joyfully, without guilt. Remember that the problem with hyper-parenting isn’t that it’s bad for children; it’s that it’s bad for parents. 

Try the sleeping cure. Most parenting crises are caused by exhaustion.

Have less stuff. Messiness compounds the chaos of family life.

Don’t beat yourself up for failing to achieve perfect work-life balance.

It really is just a phase. Unbearable 4-year-olds morph into tolerable 8-year-olds.

Don’t bother obsessing about what you think you’re doing wrong. You won’t screw up your kids in the ways you expect; you’ll do it in ways you hadn’t even considered.

But as for this:

Transmit the Nelson Mandela rule: You can get what you want by showing people ordinary respect.

Isn't that true for everything, not just parenting?


Don’t worry about overscheduling your child.

I would say, don't worry about overscheduling or underscheduling your child. In fact, don't worry about this one at all. Let your kids choose what they do, or don't do, and whether or not they quit something or see it through to the end. It's their life, after all, remember?


Teach your kids emotional intelligence. 

This one is a real puzzle to me. Can emotional intelligence be taught? I doubt it; it's something either you're born with or you're not. And, if you're low on that scale, like I am, how on earth are you supposed to teach something you don't even know yourself?

But the most valuable advice of all I thought was:

Don’t just parent for the future, parent for this evening. Your child probably won’t get into the Ivy League or win a sports scholarship. At age 24, he might be back in his childhood bedroom, in debt, after a mediocre college career. Raise him so that, if that happens, it will still have been worth it. A Dutch father of three told me about his Buddhist-inspired approach: total commitment to the process, total equanimity about the outcome.

In fact, chances are, your kid will turn out a lot like you: no more or less ambitious, no more or less successful. So just concentrate on having really nice Thanksgivings and Christmases in the future where your kids are happy to come home and happy to bring their spouses and kids home.

(George H. W. Bush used to say that he considered himself a success in life because his kids were always happy to come home.)

My advice? Just relax.

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