Do Not Wussify

ImageI recently went on a trip to visit my sister and her husband, who are awaiting their first child, a little girl due to be born later this month.

During one of the baby showers, the hosts asked attendees to write advice for the expectant parents on index cards. My brother, who has two kids of his own, wrote in bold letters

“Do not wussify.”

His advice came from a radio show he had heard earlier that week about “The Wussification of American Children.” After he explained the concept, I couldn’t help but hope that Merriam-Webster would include “wussification” in the dictionary in the near future. The radio show hosts gave examples of “wussification,” including not keeping score during athletic competition or giving out a trophy to all participants so that those who didn’t “win” don’t get their feelings hurt.

This morning on The Today Show, I heard another example: A father who won’t allow his 4-year old son to use a fork for fear that he would stab himself.

I came up with my own examples:

1.) Parents who cook 4 different meals every day because their kids don’t like what’s being served. This also applies to parents who feel the need to run to McDonalds before parties or restaurant outings where the kid might not like what’s on the menu. Seriously? Allergies are one thing, but if your kid simply doesn’t like what’s being served, there’s no need to coddle him/her by catering (oooh…punny!) to his/her dietary preferences. Assuming that you’re not serving raw cow brains, your kid should be able to cope for one meal and appreciate having a full belly. I’m not saying that a child has to like everything he or she tastes, but I also don’t think being a parent requires being a personal chef.

2.) Parents who complain about an instructor’s teaching skills every time the kid scores a low grade. News Flash: Not every kid is academically gifted. Some students need extra help, yes. But that’s not always the teacher’s fault. Sometimes your kid just needs to put down the video game controller and study harder. Poor students who blame everything on the teacher make poor employees who blame everything on the boss (or the sucker in the next cubicle).

3.) Parents who make their kids’ beds, clean their dishes, do their laundry and do their homework for them. Once your children are able to complete simple chores, they should. You’re not a maid.

4.) Parents who complete a task for the child because he/she wasn’t able to do it correctly the first time. Hey Mom and Dad-If you don’t like the way your child hangs the towel on the rack, he’s never going to learn how to do it the right way if you don’t teach him how to do it the right way. Resist the urge to just do it the right way yourself.

5.) Parents who won’t let their children try out for sports, play on the monkey bars or participate in other physical activities because they’re worried about injuries. Kids survive scrapes, bruises and yes, broken bones every day. They’re sturdy and they’re meant to be active. Be cautious, of course, but you’re not doing your child any favors by keeping her in a bubble.

What I’m getting at is that kids are more resilient than you think. There’s no need to raise a “wuss” because of your own fears. I can’t say my philosophy is too far away from that of Amy Chua. I really believe in raising independent children and allowing them to make mistakes that they can grow from, and you’re not going to accomplish that by “wussifying” them.

I’m not sure what the other index cards from my sister’s baby shower said, but I do know that at least one of them had advice worth following. Maybe big brother knows more than we think after all.

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