What I Learned As A Kid

Recently, I read a post from an acquaintance that adults should treat children as equals from birth because we want them to grow up confident. It went on to add that children should be involved in all household decision making, including groceries and budgeting, and that parents should freely allow them to express themselves, for example, using curse words in public as long as the words are used correctly. Everyone should get a chance to play on the team and perform, even if they stink at whatever the activity is and it hinders the other children’s chances to experience success.  To conclude, the goal of the parent is to protect the child from feelings of failure so they will grow up to be good human beings.

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Having recently turned 40, I have to be honest. This post didn’t sit well with me.  It’s as if some people have forgotten the basics. My parents did absolutely none of these things and I think many people that know me would be hard pressed to say that I’m not confident and strive to be a good person.  I started thinking about some valuable lessons I learned as a child, and thought maybe I should pass them on.  These basic ideas have been pretty helpful over the years.

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Not everyone SHOULD get to be on the team. People have different skills and abilities. What one person is great at and has a passion for, someone else could care less about or be at most mildly interested. When did it become ‘do as many mediocre things as you can and get a trophy for showing up’ rather than focus on 1 or 2 things you’re really good at and become an expert at them? Also, a child shouldn’t be in everything. They need time to study and play and learn. I know a 13 year old in school 7 hours a day, then dance, voice lessons, modeling on the weekend, cheer 3 times a week, choir and band, UIL teams, student council and honor society. You can’t tell me that’s not a tired, stressed kid. The question is: Is this for the child and what they want, or is it what the parent thinks the child should do? Lots of people live vicariously through their children these days.

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Life doesn’t pack you in bubble wrap. As I look back as an adult, I realize that my parent’s allowing me to try and fail at some things on my own taught me as much if not more than always having success. Some parents so internalize their kid’s success and failures that when the kid doesn’t do well, the parent flips out, threatens to sue or calls the news. That’s not to say you shouldn’t commiserate and feel for the child. Just use it as a teaching moment instead and see what mistakes were made, what they can learn from the experience and how it can make them wiser, more rounded people. Life is full of stupid ‘duh’ mistakes. The difference between blaming and learning is how you were taught to deal with failure.

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Life isn’t fair and doesn’t care if your feelings are hurt. Not everyone gets to be Homecoming Queen. Recently, I saw a school activity where some folks tried out and didn’t make the cut. It sucks, believe me. I’ve been there. Instead of chalking it up as experience, parents called the school and wanted to know why, why, why?!?! Why wasn’t precious who didn’t meet all the qualifications not chosen for a committee of 10 when 15 other applicants were more qualified? Could the auditions be held over? Was there a mistake? How could they get copies of all the records? Who did they need to speak to in order to rectify this grievous error? Could they speak to the people who did the ratings? My question: As a parent, are you going to call an employer and find out why your child wasn’t hired for a job? Are you going to talk to his or her boss about why they received an average evaluation? Of course not, many would say. Then why are you trying to force your child into an activity for which they’re not qualified? Saw in the news where some local lady was suing a school district because her daughter didn’t make cheerleader. What does this teach kids? That if you aren’t hired, you sue the company? If you don’t get the grade you want, you complain until you force them to give you something you didn’t earn? Goes back to failure. Teach kids to be good ‘winners’ AND good ‘losers’ and the world will be a happier place.

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NO, means no, means no, means no. Not, ask again in 15 minutes. Not, bother me until I give in. Not, only on certain conditions. No. No, you are 11 and may not play Gameboy until 2am instead of doing your homework. No, we cannot work out a deal. No, you do not get a say in adult decision making when it comes to your education and well-being as a minor. No. I appreciate your thoughts, but no. When I was a kid, I asked once and if I was told no, guess what? I was told no. I didn’t ask again. I didn’t get all suave and try to bargain and reason and cut a deal. Why? Because my parents were the ADULTS and I was the CHILD. They knew what was best for me, they had life experience, and I respected their answer. Was I always happy with their answer? Heck to the no. Sometimes, I think I actually seethed, but it was their home and their rules. Now at age 40, my parents treat me as an equal, and I’m glad they treated me like I was a kid when I was a kid. Parent’s set the rules, stick to them, and allow kids to be kids. As a teacher, I’m here to tell you, kids LIKE boundaries. They want to know what goes and what doesn’t. It’s when they’re in the ‘whatever dude’ environment that they most get into trouble. Give them the stability that they need to grow up. As they get older, involve them more in the decision making, such as when they start driving, but I don’t think you should treat them as little adults from the get go and certainly not in equal standing with you. Be their parent, not their BFF.

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Everything you do in life is potentially a test. Don’t half-a** anything because you never know when what you do will be judged, critiqued or graded by others. If you’re filling out an application for something, use your best handwriting, and don’t make it look like a last minute grocery list. Good enough isn’t good enough if it can be better and better isn’t good enough if it can be best, I’ve heard say. Teach your kids that they should always try to do things to the best of their abilities. As my daddy taught me, if you’re going to do anything do it as right as you can the first time.

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Always show respect for others….even when you secretly don’t care for them. I have a person in my life that I’m fairly certain I would not urinate on if they were on fire. However, when I see them, I’m polite, I’m respectful, and I move on. Why? I was taught to have manners. The world isn’t a set of the Jerry Springer show. Classy people show their class by 1. The way they deal with adversity, and 2. By the way the deal with people they don’t like. In addition, you show respect for YOURSELF. Stupid isn’t cute, especially when it’s an act for attention, and no one is impressed when you show up looking like something the cat dragged in. Pajamas are to be worn to bed or around the house and not to Wal-Mart or other public places. Rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t dream of wearing it to meet your favorite __________ (whatever), then don’t wear it out of the house. Just saying.

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The best things in life aren’t things. They are family, memories, activities, holiday’s together, fun events and sharing. It often seems today that kids have their love bought with stuff because the stressed parents are so busy trying to make the status quo and know they’re missing out. Computers, Xboxes, $300 cell phones, $200 jeans, $200 designer purses, IPods, IPads, Nooks, Kindles, internet Wi-Fi…I remember doing a lot of reading, and talking to others when I was growing up. I played outside with a water hose where I drank the water and didn’t worry about a disease and sanitize it with 45 different products. I made mud pies, played on my swing-set and monkey bars, rode my bike and made up stories with my friends. Now, people sit in rooms together in silence on their phones, and we wonder why kids have problems with writing, reading, problem solving and drawing conclusions. Sometimes I wish a CME (Coronal Mass Emission) from the sun would shut down all power grids for a day just so people would have to communicate and remember what that was like.

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You appreciate what you have. You took care of it and didn’t throw whatever it was around in the expectation of just getting another one. You took care of your home and mowed your yard and cleaned your home and room. You were proud of what you had and you were thankful. I can’t tell you the number of people I know who live in houses that could be nice, but they don’t take care of them, or anything for that matter. However, they drive $70,000 cars and buy their kids a new cell phone every time he or she is careless and breaks it. This instant, drive-thru mentality of ours is going to end up biting us in the butt. I have students whose parents bought them supplies that they tear up, or break in half because they know they’ll get more. How are these kids going to function when they’re on their own?

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No, my childhood wasn’t perfect, but I feel like many kids these days don’t have a chance to be kids and many parents don’t have the opportunity and time to parent.  Times change and things come and go, but I think that some things, like love for family, trying to understand your child, and respecting yourself and others never goes out of style. But this is all just my opinion…