I simply cannot stand whining or the sound of a blubbering child, adolescent, or an adult for that matter! This was most evident, when, as a young camp counselor, one of the 5 year olds fell- skinning their knee- I checked them out, after all, I am the one with the band-aids. “When I fall down…my mommy always gives me a popsicle….” was the child’s response to me.
I couldn’t imagine backing myself into a corner of ‘always’ as a parent- that is too restricting. My grandmother was an Appalachian bad ass and would have flipped over this child’s answer– and more so– the mommy! She always preached the ‘if you don’t make a big deal, they won’t make a big deal,’ approach to childhood injuries. Sound advice to live by in modern times for sure.
As a parent of two and a 6th grade teacher, I cannot get away from over exaggerated injuries and problems with over emotional responses. Just waiting in the long line of vehicles dropping their middle schooler off on a rainy day to avoid their child waiting outside for the bus is absurd and sheds some light on why they always seem to be waiting for someone to leap to their rescue solving the ‘problems’ for them.
It is unclear to me how ‘we’ as a society went from playing outside, getting dirty, scraping your knees/elbows playing asphalt wiffle ball, etc. to this. My students call home for someone to rectify their mistakes. Forget your gymsuit? Your tennis shoes? Your lunch? Your instrument? Your homework? Your (fill in the blank #firstworldproblem). Just call home and it will appear before you, sigh, problem solved without consequences.
To clarify, this isn’t true for all students at all schools. More than half are like I was, with 1-2 parents/guardians that work during the day and that cannot bring you what you forgot- so wore the lender gymsuit scribbled with neon puff paint and enjoyed the ‘lunch of shame.’ I can’t wrap my head around what it would have been like if one of my parents stayed home throughout my childhood just to cater to me.
This rescuing them from responsibility is not keeping them from pain, stress, humiliation, but it is keeping them from learning the word ‘no’ and from learning how to function as a productive citizen. Without exaggeration, I will be asked a ‘yes or no’ question by a student, answer no, and then be faced with them standing there completely bewildered by my response to the point where they will ask again as if they didn’t hear me, or the really coddled ask me again.
The fact that these ‘Superhero Helicopter parents’ swoop in to scoop up the crying popsicle getters and the participation ribbon receivers is doing them a disservice. I find that the students I am teaching now, at 11 and 12 years old, have a very hard time problem solving for themselves and working to find the answers for themselves when they are not glaringly obvious.
When your small child falls and scrapes their knee you are not always thinking of how your actions in response to their cries will impact them as adults, but we should. The majority of my students are truly lacking in the real world skill set and tool box they are going to need as they begin their own careers and families.
I favor checking on the child as they fall (literally or metaphorically), but not making such a big deal about the injury or mistake that they will expect you to put a ‘band-aid’ on it each time. This does not allow them to develop as problem solvers.
I have consciously tried to not use the phrase, “you’re ok” when referring to a fall or scrape my children or students receive. Instead I try to respond by saying things like, “I know that stings, what would you like to do about it?” Or, “That doesn’t look too bad, this won’t keep you from trying again will it?
Our children will not always be ok and I, as a supportive adult in their lives, cannot always kiss it and make it better. It is most important to me to be in an advisory role and allow them the space for problem solving on their own; to learn from failure and mistakes and to grow as a functional and independent thinking human.