This article is by our resident school counselor at Radical Parenting. Check out her bio and other articles or submit a question at School Counselor’s Corner: Q&A with Dr. A.
Is anyone else sick of hearing about what terrible parents we are? How American children are poorly behaved, sugar-induced, self-serving, lost individuals, with little drive to do right? With Chinese “tiger moms,” Finland’s high achievers, and superior French discipline all the rage in the media this past year, it’s a wonder our children manage to get their shoes on the right feet. According to pop culture, Western parents should be ashamed of themselves. We are obviously gluttonous, rude, lazy pushovers raising similar children, right?
Well, I am here to stand up for the American parent. I am a psychologist, parent of 3, and work at an amazing school with children and their parents daily. My opinion may not matter to many, but for what it’s worth, these are my observations about our above average American families.
American parents work hard. We work hard at work, we work hard at home, and sometimes we work just so that our children can have the best. And while sometimes that equates to material items, more often than not, our intention is to give them the best of opportunity. We want our children to be pushed to their potential, but not over the edge; academically, socially, and spiritually. We work so that our children can find inspiration and passion in experiences that you and I never dreamed of having at their ages. All this while trying not to overschedule, maintain reasonable nutritional habits, and keep our family’s quality time intact despite their extracurricular activities. We are incredibly involved, including the ever-neglected father, in the lives of our children and in the role modeling for our children.
We are good people trying to do right by our children and the world. We teach them good character and the importance of doing the right thing. We teach them traits like integrity, generosity, and open-mindedness. In a world where terrorism is all too real and frightening, we shield our children from the horror and try to convince them that the world is a good, kind place (but wear your seatbelt and don’t talk to strangers). We teach them if we just practice tolerance and understanding, we can all get along and work together for a greater nation and a greater world. We teach our kids to take care of the Earth and all that she grants us so that their children, our grandchildren, will get to a chance to grow up in a healthier environment.
Lastly, we teach them gratitude. For all that we work for and give them, we want them to know that they are the lucky ones. They are afforded opportunities and experiences only because of our sacrifices, but we can’t choose their destiny. Their ultimate success will lie in their own hands and only with hard work, perseverance, and determination will they reach their own goals. We will do anything and everything to give them the tools they need, but we can’t force them to use these gifts.
It is this kind of parenting, my friends, that has shaped our country. Last I heard, the United States of America is still pretty well recognized as an internationally superpower, so we can’t be doing that badly. Someone raised and educated our leaders and I’m pretty certain they were American parents. So, while each country and generation degrades the next about how spoiled our children are, let them talk. The rest of us will continue to overindulge them with love, education, acceptance, and the capacity to think outside the box; to solve problems we don’t even know exist yet. All I can say is that from my view, these kids aren’t doing so badly and consequently, maybe, just maybe, we deserve a small pat on the back.
This thought was confirmed as I sat listening to our valedictorian and salutatorian’s speeches at this year’s graduation. They were emitting advice about not just following your dreams, but taking your dreams a step further and choosing to make an impact in this world; pushing themselves to choose greatness and in turn, making a positive change for the universe. Their words to each other are to reach for greatness and improve upon the life we have granted them. Could it get any better? I could not help but think, “Thank God for these kids.” With all that we have worked to give them; they get it and they will do great things with it. It is true that they are spoiled with opportunity and they are all the better for it. These children are truly our future and unlike most people’s perspectives, this gives me great peace of mind.
So, hold fast American parents. Here’s your “Attaboy!” I know you are wondering if the sleepless nights rocking your infant, finishing that last minute project with your child, and worrying about your teenager’s whereabouts are worth it, but if these kids are any indication of our energy and efforts, the answer is clear. Dig in, dig deep, and keep doing what your doing and take solace in knowing that we’re in this together.
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