Big Babies

I've read several articles recently discussing how today's kids are coddled too much. In some ways, I suppose I agree.

Look at the game of dodgeball, for instance. This elementary gym class staple was nixed when my own kids were younger. Apparently somebody determined it was too dangerous or something.

Photo © 20th Century Fox 2004

I must respectfully disagree. Personally, there was nothing like the fear of getting hit by one of those missile-launching boys on the other team to inspire me to hone my dodging skills and build a little character.

Contests and competitions for kids are another case in point. "Let's not say there's a winner or loser, shall we? Let's just give EVERYONE a trophy for participating." Sorry kids, but in real life there will always be winners and losers. It's best to learn how to accept that and bounce back from it in a healthy way.

(Oh all right, coddling parental confession time here: The only way I motivated my now soccer-obsessed son to even try the sport was because he knew he would get a participation trophy in the end. Heh, heh.)

But there truly are situations where parental coddling isn't helping our children "grow up," such as allowing the child to dictate the rules concerning Internet access and computer use. I once attended an Internet safety talk and listened as one mother asked what she should do since her child refused to give his password to her. I'm serious! And I've personally witnessed several instances where parents are afraid to see their precious babies fail at something, even allowing a child to skip school on a test day in order to give him or her more time to prepare.

So while it's pretty obvious some of the coddling is not beneficial and definitely under parental control, in other ways, perceived coddling of kids today is also a result of the changed world we live in.

When my hubs and I were kids a few, er…decades ago, we could do things like hop over to a nearby park for a pickup game of baseball, or bike miles on deserted back roads to visit a friend's house to play. Today, it's not safe to allow our children to exercise these freedoms. Now everything is pre-arranged into official play dates and time-intensive organized sports teams.

My siblings and I grew up doing weekly chores which included feeding and caring for our dog (including potty runs); setting the table; doing the dishes; cleaning the bathrooms and toilets; dusting; vacuuming, etc. Hubs and I set up this nice comprehensive chore chart which is posted on our refrigerator with a dry-erase marker so jobs can be easily checked off as they're completed. Trouble is, days go by with nobody having the time to fit them in! Sports, after-school clubs and ridiculous homework loads (especially in the advanced classes) take up so much more time today than they did when I was a kid.

It's clear, we're not helping our kids become responsible, confident, contributing members of society by overindulging them and allowing them to slack on chores. But what's the answer? Should we reinstitute the game of dodgeball and go back to giving trophies to winners only? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Do you coddle your children? What steps do you take to avoid overindulging your own kids?


Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip said...

Holly, this is such a great post and such a timely topic. I posted about "overparenting" on my blog a few months ago and talked about some of these same things. I guess to me though I see a difference between showering our kids with plenty of love and attention and doing things for them that they need to do for themselves. I think in former generations children were seen not as full humans but subhumans who were to be seen and not heard, etc. etc. Now, there is more of an understanding that children need to be respected as well and not just trained to behave like high-functioning animals. On the other hand, with this has also come the overprotection factor, where parents are shielding their kids from so much of the world that kids have no opportunity to learn for themselves and grow. As with anything in parenting, there is always a delicate balance, I think. And that balance is different for every family. Thank you so much for this thoughtful and insightful post, Holly! I always love the discussions you begin here. And the way you make me think. XOXOXO

Vivianne's Vista said...

I definitely coddle my children to a degree. When it comes to enforcing the chore rules, I am a total slacker. Most of the time I'm trying to get them out of the house to play, to give me peace!

I agree however that children need to learn the ups and downs of competition to develop a healthy attitude. When playing games with my 5 year old, I don't always let him win. I want him to learn good sportmanship.

As far as the internet access, I think it is critical we as parents hold close vigilance over our children's use. Between cyber bullying and sexual predators, we can't afford to coddle there.

Great post Holly.

Annette Piper said...

I try not to, but of course we all do it sometimes. With twins its even harder as one may win something and the other doesn't. They are old enough now to realise that they both can't win if they do the same thing. It was heartbreaking when they were 6 or 7 though, they just didn't understand.

We try and keep it real - it won't be doing them any favours to soften the reality too much.