My husband sent me an article that appeared in The New Yorker yesterday entitled “Spoiled Rotten: Why Kids Rule The Roost,’ written by Elizabeth Kolbert. In it she asks the question ‘are we raising a nation of ‘adultescents’? It isn’t the first time this month that the question of over indulgence and kids lacking everyday living skills has come up. Shoe tying seems to be a big bone of contention this month as it appears in Kolbert’s article and several others that I’ve seen recently.
Adultescents are described as adults who still act as children. They oftentimes live at home with no responsibilities, and despite having expensive higher education degrees they are jobless and directionless. They live as though they are still adolescents, staying out late, sleeping until noon, raiding the fridge and contributing little to the home environment.
In Kolbert’s article she references another article that contrasts the children of the Matsigenka, a Peruvian Amazon Tribe of twelve thousand, with the children of families living in Los Angeles. By the time the children of the Matsigenka reach puberty they have all the skills they need to survive in contrast to the children of the Los Angeles families who could not tie their shoes, get their own silverware or manage to take a bath without a lot of drama. The finger for this is pointed at overindulgent parents who were too concerned about making sure every obstacle and every disappointment was softened or removed altogether.
It got me thinking about Conscious Parenting, which is about creating balance for your child. In fact I think Conscious Parenting addresses many of the pitfalls that are leading to adulescents. As Conscious Parents we see who are children are and we support the positives and help them find ways to manage the negatives. We don’t overlook their short comings, and we don’t place their success on a pedestal.
As Conscious Parents we are teaching our children to find value in their own accomplishments and to strive to find answers to those things they don’t understand or they can’t do.
I think my husband reads articles like Kolbert’s and worries that Caidin is overindulged. Granted Caidin has way too many transformers, but just as much as he loves his things, he loves to read and learn in general, which I see as balance.
My husband worries that Caidin doesn’t have chores to do, yet I see Caidin help and contribute around the house without question. I can’t tell you how many times he runs upstairs to get things for me. Something I could easily do myself, but he is happy to do for me.
Does it take time and patience to let an eight-year old do certain things? Of course it does. In Kolbert’s article she talks about trying to give her children jobs. Her thirteen-year old fails in his attempt to carrying in the groceries when he drops the bags and manages to break everything breakable. His next job is taking out the garbage. He leaves the lid unlocked and in the morning garbage remnants are everywhere after a Bear helps himself to the contents of the can. From the article it doesn’t sound like Kolbert makes her son clean up either scenario. She cleans them up and then throws her hands up and rescinds the job assignments.
It is our own high expectations or our own inability to allow for mistakes that sabotage our parenting. I can remember reading an article many years ago that has stuck with me. It was a mother talking about the ways in which her children help out around the house. She said (paraphrasing) ‘my daughter cleans the bathroom like a six-year old, but she is cleaning the bathroom.’ This mom didn’t feel the need to overlay her 30 something capabilities to clean a bathroom on her six-year old daughter.
The choice becomes do we let our kids ‘learn on the job’ or do we insist that they get it right the first time.
Caidin loves to help me out in the kitchen. He really wants to learn how to crack an egg. The first few times he tried he crushed the egg in his hand. If I was Kolbert, I would quit right there. Instead, I gave him the box of eggs and I let him keep cracking. How else are kids supposed to learn?
He is also responsible for cleaning his own room. I will help him, but I make it clear that it is his job and I am merely helping, not vice versa.
As he’s getting older I can see that he is more capable of doing certain things. The other day I supervised while he used the oven for the first time to heat something up. Did I let him do it on his own and then rescind the opportunity when he burned his food or worse burned himself? No, I stood by and watched as he walked through using the stove. Little by little, as I see him become more comfortable with using it, I’ll be able to confidently let him use it on his own.
I don’t know for sure, but I’d have to guess that the kids of the Matsigenka got it wrong a lot before they acquired those survival skills, but their parents let them make mistakes, helped them and worked with them.
One of the biggest problems with young adults is their parents, which is exactly what Kolbert concludes, so we are on the same page there. What I don’t like is her pendulum suggestion to leave our overindulgent, helicopter parenting behind and move to a stage of ‘un-parenting’.
Supporting our children and helping them to grow-up is about balance and it is about really seeing your child. Even if we think they should know how to do something, if they demonstrate they can’t, it’s our job to help them learn, but that doesn’t mean do it for them.
I’m not a big fan of blaming things on parents but in this regard the emergence of ‘adultescents’ is the fault of parenting – whether it’s parents who do everything for their kids because they can’t be bothered with the mess and effort that comes with learning; or it’s parents who fear that by expecting their children to contribute to the family that will somehow damage a ‘fragile’ psyche, the problem rests with parents, who possibly never really grew up themselves.
Here are a few guidelines to help avoid creating adultescents
-Let your kids help you out around the house
-Give them jobs but don’t expect them to be masters of a task the first time they try something
-Expand your child’s level of responsibility as they grow.
-Ensure that your child’s request for more freedom is coupled with more responsibility.
-If a job is done poorly, assess whether it’s done poorly because of skill or because of apathy, the first can be addressed constructively, the second can and should be addressed directly.
-Always be appreciative of jobs done and especially of jobs done well. Your children are contributing to the home and the family, they are not servants. Saying ‘thank you’ and acknowledging their contribution will help them feel good about being involved.
-Let your children experience their lives.
-Giving them tools, insight and guidance is different from hovering or overindulging.
After reading ‘Spoiled Rotten’ though, I thought ‘I better make sure Caidin can still tie his shoes.’ I made him get his sneakers and show me. Although he questioned me, he dutifully went and got his sneakers, put them on and tied them. He’s such a good kid. Once he finished he looked at me and said ‘O.K.?’ ‘Phew,’ I thought to myself, at least if I end up raising an adultescent, he’ll be able to tie his own shoes.
© 2012 Christine Agro
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Christine Agro is a clairvoyant, naturopath, Master Herbalist, conscious mom and author of 50 Ways to Live Life Consciously as well as of The Conscious Living Wisdom Cards (Special Moms’ Edition). Christine is founder of The Conscious Mom’s Guide , a membership site where she helps support you on your own journey of living life consciously and on your journey of being a Conscious parent. You can also join Christine on Facebook. To contact Christine, invite her to speak or to schedule an appointment with her please email her