What Kids Really Need Is an Award for Tolerating Parents Today

Tara - Kids_Award_Parenting

A friend posted a meme this morning that said something like: “I’m afraid to live in a world run by adults who were never spanked and got an award just for participating.”

The responses were immediately in favor,  with the “AMEN!” and the “TRUTH!” comments being the overwhelming majority...but as a mom who has both a kid on the spectrum and another in every sport imaginable, all I could see was the total BS in that statement.  My first thought was; “Well that’s just stupid!  I’m much more afraid to live in a world run by adults who were beaten as kids and given scholarships just for being good at a game.”  or worse, kids who were spanked for not winning!

My next thought was, that quote was clearly written by a person who hasn't disciplined a child or attended a kid’s sport since Leave it to Beaver was the American standard for parenting.

Anyone who attends kid’s sports today knows that the biggest reason children aren't inspired to play anymore is because so many parents suck!  Seriously, what kid wants to stand out on playing field and be berated and humiliated for missing a pop fly by a parent whose greatest physical feat to date was walking from the bleachers to the concession stand and back?!

What kid wants to attend 5+ practices and multiple games a week in stifling heat, rain, snow, tsunamis...you name it, while their parents sit in their air-conditioned car, posting on Facebook or chatting with friends about who is bringing the jello shots to the bon fire after the game?!

As a sports events promoter for most of my life, I have seen more parents who needed a spanking than kids. That truth became evident when parents had to be physically corralled to keep them from assaulting their child at the finish line for not achieving their “personal best” or earning a spot in the winner’s circle.

And as far as the apparent absurdity of “getting an award for participating”...I DARE you to find an amateur sporting event today where each participant isn’t given a t-shirt, ribbon, magnet, mug or some other token chatchkey “just for participating”.  In fact, the prize has become the basis for participation  in all well attended events these days...yet we want to blame the “fear of a world gone bad” on a 9 year old getting a damn ribbon at the end of soccer season to thank them for being part of the team?!  I call Bullsh*t.  That’s not pampering, that’s gratitude and consideration...and I know plenty of parents who could benefit from learning those virtues.

Parent Nation, we have become so quick to blame our kids for all our issues, but the truth is, if we flip the mirror around, it’s us who are to blame.

We are the a-holes screaming obscenities at 8 year olds in front of their coaches and 50 of their closest friends over simple rookie errors.  We are the ones demanding material “Thank You’s” as proof of our participation and sacrifice of our precious time.  We are the ones who want to scold our kids for not reaching our expectations for them - even though they did the best they could.  And we are the ones who expect free rides for our kids on everything from high school grades to college scholarships, based not on their intelligence, but on their ability to play a game.

What it all boils down too is the fact that it has become cool to allow the world to think we should fear for our future because someone didn't spank their kid enough or because they acknowledged a kiddo’s willingness to be part of team, even when the adults made it miserable for them to do so.

Truth be told, that’s the kind of angry, unappreciative world I am really afraid to live in.  In my opinion, what our kids really need, is an award for tolerating parents today.


Dispelling the myth of the 18th Birthday

Tara - 18th Birthday

There are conversations - as well as blood curdling screaming matches - over rules,

consequences, responsibility and growing up, happening daily between parents and their teens, that inevitably end with the same statement:

“Well, when you turn 18, you’ll be an adult and you can do whatever the h*ll you want!”

Now, maybe the cursing part only happens in my house...and I’m cool with that, but regardless, some version of this belief has become standard argument ammo in a majority of American households. And it’s probably one of the biggest causes of teenaged rebellion ever!

I was struck by the destructive potential of this statement recently while in a discussion with my own teen son. The words came out of my mouth and then - as if in a parallel universe - I envisioned my child in 2 short years, on his 18th birthday, “doing whatever he wanted”...and then I threw up a little.

Why? you may ask.

Well it’s because I realized two things in that moment; 1) That the myth of the 18th birthday is just that, a MYTH! Our children no more turn into adults on that day, then they turn into butterflies! which leads to #2) If left to his own devices in only 2 years, my home would be a Call of Duty playing, frozen pizza eatin’, dirty clothes wearing, late night party hosting wasteland.

In reality, there is no way I am going to tolerate my child breaking my rules, let alone going out on his own, just because he turns one year older. So why in the world do we even say these things to our kids when we know damn well they’re totally untrue?

I believe it’s because, telling our kids that they will be able to make their own decisions once their 18 is basically a bribe to get them to cooperate with us through the most rebellious years of their life - without us killing them.

But what we are really doing is showing them a light at the end of a tunnel which, we as parents, know full well they will not be able to handle. It’s like we’re flipping our kids the bird while thinking “OK! You think you’re so smart? Just wait until I can legally toss your but out...then you’ll appreciate how awesome I am! “

And then, in most cases, we’re disappointed in them when they fail...

The truth is, we know darn well that our kids don’t suddenly inherit all the wisdom, responsibility and maturity of the ages when they blow out those 18 candles. They don’t experience some kind of Vulcan mind meld where we download into them all they will ever need to know to survive and thrive on their own in the cold, cruel world (which we have been sheltering them from for the first and only years of their life) In fact, on our child’s 18th birthday, the only thing they “become” is, well, 18! They are still a teenager.

All the science, research and studies, tell us that they, neurologically, will not possess the thought processes, logic and reasoning skills of an adult for another 5-7 years! Yet we set in their head, that once they cross over that magical numerical barrier...they will be our equals, able to conquer the world and be allowed to live life on their terms, no restrictions, no holds barred.

But I’m betting the majority of us will not accept our children “throwing reality to the wind” and abandoning all that we stand for and have taught them up to this age. We aren't going to allow them to treat us as peers any more than we are going to accept them as ours. We are NOT ok with our children dismissing our rules at 18 any more than when they did it at 14, or 16 or 17 3/4.

Because deep down, we all know that an 18 year old child is just that, a child. NOT an adult, just a more experienced teenager.

So here’s my suggestion Parent Nation; Stop using the “18th birthday ammo” in your arguments. If you really want your child to follow your rules while they are in your house, don’t give them an unrealistic deadline as to when they will be allowed to abandon them.

If you know your child is not ready to make it on their own - either by their own immaturity or a result of years of over protection - then stop telling them the story that on the night of their 18th birthday, some kind of “Maturity Fairy” is going to come and bestow upon them everything they need to fly from your nest and live independently ever after...especially if they haven’t even grown feathers yet.