The Worst Thing You Can Do to Your Kid

November 7, 2011 at 5:35 am Leave a comment

Well, assuming that if you’re reading this, you are caring and intelligent enough not to inflict bodily harm or other obvious abuse…

I have come to believe that just about the worst thing you can do to your children is what every parent has always dreamed of being able to do: Give them everything. I have taught – or tried to teach – a few of these “haves,” and find them almost as challenging as the hardest-hit of the have-nots. Here are some of the difficulties these children face:

  • They have few ambitions. They’ve never had to strive for anything and can’t imagine why they should want to.
  • They’re nearly impossible to motivate. Whatever the prize is for academic or behavioral improvement, they either have it already or can get it more easily from mom or dad. And if you punish them, mom/dad is on the hiring board… or something.
  • They can’t handle disappointment. If they’ve had no experience, they don’t know the mental and emotional tools for coping with or overcoming it.
  • They’re often unpleasant to be around, especially if they don’t know about losing gracefully.
The problem is exacerbated when the student has special learning difficulties: While some students can be motivated by the simple joys of learning, that often isn’t enough to keep you going when it’s especially hard, and if you can’t be motivated by rewards or recognition, life is sad indeed. And while some can learn social skills incidentally from their peer group, those who don’t might never catch on to the fact that they are not the center of the real world as much as they are to their parents.
I think one of the saddest things I see is when a person can’t appreciate anything because they are accustomed to taking it for granted. Kids who have candy occasionally delight in it; kids who have it daily don’t delight in much of anything. Please, do your kids a favor and make some things sacred. Treat them sometimes because you love them, and say no sometimes because you love them more. Let them earn some of the things they want so that they will know the joy of achievement and feel their own power, rather than letting them remain passive, powerless recipients of your generosity. We teachers work very hard to help our students develop strong character, but this is one of the hardest things to undo if a parent has thoroughly spoiled their child.
(I think I only once taught a spoiled kid who still had a spark of life in him. But he was a very special kid. And even he was not a very happy child at all.)
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Entry filed under: Parenting, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , .

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