Last week I went to a lecture on parenting by Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and author of the book, “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee,” which I am now reading. She was funny and insightful. Here are some quotes I jotted down in my notebook:
“Effective parenting feels like neglect and overcontrol.”
This may sound like some backward, barnyard, messed up parenting advice, but I actually think she’s right. For some time now I’ve had the sense that somehow, we’re doing this whole thing wrong. Our kids are overprotected, overindulged, and overscheduled. We obsess about their every emotion and fear that if they don’t master some obscure skill, they’ll never get into college. We drive them hard and exhaust ourselves in the process. We do this because we love them, but is this what parenting is really all about?
I think her point is that we’re mistakenly getting too involved in matters that aren’t our business, such as our kids’ social lives or their experiences in school. And we’re not doing enough to make sure our kids do the right things, like show us respect and do chores around the house.
“It’s good for kids to be bored, frustrated, and unhappy. It’s really good for kids to have a crabby, unenlightened, uninspired 4th grade teacher. It’s good for kids to have a shallow, bossy, slutty best friend. It’s good for kids to be cold, wet, and hungry for more than one and a half minutes.”
This got a lot of laughs, but her point is well-taken. We shouldn’t bubble-wrap our children. They need to experience real life. Nothing harsh or awful. Just real. Real consequences, real people, real disappointments, and conversely real accomplishments instead of receiving lavish praise for every little thing they do.
“We treat these very capable children, who have never been deprived of anything, as if they are handicapped royalty. It teaches them that we think they aren’t capable.”
We should let them be ordinary, she says. And we should let ourselves be ordinary too. This reminds of a funny conversation I had with Kristin one day about parental fatigue. “I’m tired of orchestrating your fabulous experience every single day,” she said, as if talking to her kids. “Go find something to do. It’s just a day.” I think Wendy Mogel would agree.
“Children are like seeds that come in a packet without a label. Our job is to water them and feed them and to pull the really big weeds.”
What do you think? Is micro-management good for kids even though it’s tough on parents? Or do you want to loosen the reins a bit? Let them “fart around and do nothing,” as she puts it. You know where I stand.