He recently moved back to Chicago and was struck by the prevalence of parents—moms, in particular—who mislabeled their young children’s behavior. Rather than calling it for what it is, they shrug it off as kids doing what kids do.
While he was eating at a restaurant, explained Tony, a boy of about four years old in the adjacent booth reached over and began rapping on Tony’s head. Not a cute and cuddly love tap, but a fistful of knuckles kind of assault.
To Tony’s amazement, that mom didn’t apologize or correct her son. Instead, she chalked it up to the boy “exploring the world.”
My kids have never violated people’s personal space. And they certainly have never gotten physical with strangers. I thought about this, and why that was so, and the answer is simple: my husband and I would never allow their actions to go that far.
Our children are certainly not perfect. We’ve had lots of “teaching moments.” But that’s just it–we recognize the need to correct, while some other parents merely excuse their children’s behavior because, well, that’s what they see from other, similarly uncorrected 4-, 5-, 6-, 9-, 12-, and 15-year olds.
In relating how he and his wife, Laurie, raised their own two children, now in their 20s, Greg has said, “We’re not raising children. We’re raising adults going through childhood.”
Love that! Not that I’m rushing my kids into premature adulthood. My kids are kids. They play, they laugh, they do kid things. But as they do, my husband and I are treating them as individuals going through a stage in their lives.
The goal is to help these adults-going-through-childhood prepare so that they can make a successful transition to that next phase.
In NurtureShock, authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman reveal how, collectively, American parents have abdicated our responsibility to actually raise our children.
Instead, kids are left learning life skills from one another. (Question: Do you think this dynamic plays a role in all the bullying making headline news?)
The result is that we have poorly behaved youngsters who don’t “get it” until they are in their 20s. And by then, they have developed bad habits that are tough to shake.
There’s a lot more to raising a child than feeding, clothing and housing them, and making sure their homework is done. Restraining your adult-to-be child from pummeling the guy in the booth next to you? That’s a good start.