On Wednesday morning, I had the opportunity to attend a parenting class by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff, daughter of Esther Jungreis and author of Raising a Child with Soul. I bought the book a while ago, but never really had a chance to read it.
This is the first time I heard her speak and I enjoyed it very much. She is an engaging speaker and she had some interesting things to say. I find that with parenting, much of the advice is intuitive. We kind of know what we should be doing, although we do not always act on it. So, while nothing Slovie said was particularly new to me, it is still good to hear these ideas over and over again.
Her focus was on self-esteem. She said we should praise our children for doing rather than being. Praise and encourage them for specific things rather than just tell them that they are amazing,beautiful, etc. From a young age give them little jobs and make them feel like they can contribute and be successful.
Slovie also spoke about the disservice we do to our children by being "Helicopter Parents" who solve every challenge and problem that comes our child's way. No parent wants to see their child suffer or struggle, but in truth, that is the only way they will acquire skills for life. You are still there for them, listening to their frustrations and available to help if they really cannot manage on their own. But first let them have a chance to work on it, that is truly the best way to learn. This applies across the board- to toddlers learning how to dress or feed themselves, school age children doing home-work and teenagers with their myriad of challenges.
All of this rang very true to me. This second point also reminded me of an article I had read in The Atlantic this past summer entitled How to Land your Kid in Therapy. Lori Gottlieb, the author, argues that modern parents' attempts at fixing the previous generation's parenting mistakes by overcompensating and always giving our children yet more and more has backfired. It has not led to happier children. Because kids who never learn about disappointment, kids who get a trophy for just showing up to a sports competition because "everyone is a winner" are in for a shock when they enter the real world, when Mommy and Daddy cannot protect them anymore.
As she says: " We can try to protect them from nasty classmates and bad grades and all kinds of rejection and their own limitations, but eventually they will bump up against these things anyway. In fact, by trying so hard to provide the perfectly happy childhood, we’re just making it harder for our kids to actually grow up. Maybe we parents are the ones who have some growing up to do—and some letting go."
So basically, parenting and finding the right balance is hard work. Which I am guessing you already knew. But really, by working on ourselves and trying to continually improve in our parenting, we are also teaching our children important lessons. That everyone makes mistakes, that it is okay to fail and try again and that a little bit of struggle is good for everyone and will ultimately make you happier than the "perfect" life.
Food for thought- do you agree?