The other day at work, I took a call from a guy who identified himself as the father of one of our employees (I’m an in-house employment counsel, or, as I like to call it, “receiver of all complaints no one else wants”). The guy spent ten minutes yelling about his son’s history of written warnings, the ineptitude of his son’s managers, and the unfairness of his son’s termination based on a simple “misunderstanding.” Ten minutes into the call, I discovered that his son is nineteen years old. NINETEEN. An adult. These calls aren’t rare; in fact, I frequently get calls from parents of ADULT employees who want to complain about their kids’ schedules, managers, write ups, whatever. These calls drive me bonkers. And after reading this article last week from CNN, (http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/02/living/cnn-parents-helicopter-parenting-job-search/index.html?hpt=hp_c3), I learned this is a nationwide epidemic.
Coincidentally, a couple of weeks ago I picked up this amazing book from Catherine Crawford called FRENCH TWIST: An American Mom’s Experiment in Parisian Parenting. I hadn’t actually been looking for a book on parenting, it just popped up when I was looking for some novels set in Paris (this is a topic for a whole other blog–my new obsession for all things French). Ms. Crawford mentioned seeing this helicopter style (i.e. hovering) of parenting everyday in the playgrounds where she lives. And the result? Needy, whine-y kids who lack discipline and independence (okay, this is my summary interpretation, you may take something else away from it). Which is why Ms. Crawford is going to try and raise her kids the French way.
I’m sure many people would object to some of Ms. Crawford’s beliefs, but I have to say, there is definitely merit in her claims that American parents seem to have given up too much control to their kids, and that we tend to be a tad too involved in our kids’ lives.
So I’m going to start an experiment of my own and tweak my own parenting skills the French way. I’m going to stop trying to endlessly reason with my kids about why they can’t do something and just say “NO.” And stick to it. I’m going to stop picking up snack wrappers and toys off the floor and instruct them to come and pick all these things up themselves–no arguments. And when–well, I won’t bore you with all the details. Needless to say, everything in the book resonated with me and I’m eager to try everything–particularly improving my kids’ eating habits.
I think it’s healthy to be involved in our kids’ lives and discuss what’s going on, but I also think we need to step away from situations and let the kids handle it themselves. We need to instill discipline consistently. We need to remember we are parents first, not their best friend or buddy. I don’t want to be the parent on the other end of that call in ten or fifteen years, asking why Lily was fired for being on her cell phone for the zillionth time when she says other people use theirs and don’t get caught (yes, I’m still rolling my eyes at that one). Or why Harrison was fired for not doing what he was instructed to do instead of being given another chance.
Of course, in this day and age of bullying, we want to interfere when there is real, serious physical or emotional harm. But if it’s the usual playground drama… let them figure it out. Or they may never figure it out for themselves.