Yesterday at lunch, I had a fascinating conversation with my business partners Mikey and Johnny about parenting. Mikey has two kids (ages one and three), as does Johnny (seven and ten) and we discussed the merits and pitfalls of the various parenting styles. Of course we covered over-protective parents who don’t allow their kids to… well, be kids. We talked about parents who seem to hand their insecurities, fears and issues down to their off-spring. And parents who micro-manage every moment of their child’s day. We also spoke about kids playing team sports where no scores are kept during the game because the grown-ups don’t want any of the kids to experience losing.
Growing up in a country town, I spent countless hours with my mates riding our bikes (without helmets) through dense leach-infested bush. In the middle of the wilderness, we would make fires, build ramps and jumps for our bikes, ride down stupidly steep hills, catch frogs and other critters, wade in swamps and often get lost. When we weren’t exploring the wilds of Latrobe Valley, we were playing team games and sports where there would be actual winners and losers. Amazingly, nobody died from losing a game of football, playing in dirt, climbing a tree or coming last in a running race.
And I should know; I came last many times.
So, clearly the bloke with no kids is not the guy to turn to for parenting advice but as a casual observer, can I respectfully suggest that perhaps all our parental protection, direction and intervention might (at times) be leaving some of our kids ill-equipped to deal with the messy, nasty, unfair, uncomfortable reality of life beyond the parental bubble? Life post-childhood?
I worry about kids who never experience any kind of loss. Who never scrape their knees. Who never climb a tree, chase a frog, attack an ant nest, crash their bike or play in dirt. Who never experience the unfairness of life. Who never have to work hard or get uncomfortable. Who never fail anything at school because some grown-up decided that giving marks or grading work could be detrimental to the child’s self-esteem. Again, good grief. Wait till that child enters the workforce and their first boss is a total prick.
Let’s see mum and dad fix that.
But then again, maybe the non-parent is missing the point? What would I know? The only thing I’ve ever raised is a Golden Retriever. And he had issues. Which is why I need your help today. Feel free to answer one, all or some of the following questions. Don’t be shy. Participation makes this a worthwhile exercise. I will give away five signed copies of my new book for the contributions that blow my lace-up Ugg boots off. Yes, we will post books anywhere in the world.
Here are my conversation starters:
- Am I vaguely in the ball park with this topic or am I totally missing the point?
- Are we adequately preparing our kids for life beyond childhood?
- When does protecting, guiding and encouraging a child go from being a positive to a negative?
- What are the signs, symptoms and consequences of an over-protective parent?
- Do we tell our over-protective, neurotic, control-freak friends what they’re doing or do we stay out of it?
- Your general thoughts on the matter?