Perfecting Childhood

My grandfather’s generation is the Korean War generation. The Silent Generation known for hard work and keeping quiet. Growing up, these kids were expected to be seen and not heard and also expected to carry their load and either work the farm or help in the family business to support the household.

Then there is the generation of baby-boomers. The children born in the 1950’s were born into comforts the previous generation did not have. Color TV, microwaves, toy soldiers, plastics and bicycles yes, but they also had more time. More time to run around, play baseball, bike to the library, make up games and just be kids.

My generation, on the very tail end of Generation X and growing up in generation Y, occationally termed Xennial, is skeptical like generation X but also tech-savvy like millenial, even though not considered a digital native. From technology to toys, those growing up middle-class had even more luxuries than the baby-boomers.

But what have these luxuries and parenting styles ushered into the world? Twenty-somethings boomeranging home to be taken care of. A morgage meltdown brought on by greed. Narcicistic mind-set celebrating self-esteem, self-expression and loving yourself. The parental mind-set that we should constantly parise our children and never deny them anything to help them feel good about themselves has benefitted us how?

There was a point in my college career where I needed to take time off because I simply couldn’t balance my social life with my academic persuits. Or another way of looking at it could be I was still developing my problem-solving skills. My search for self-esteem sought happiness which turned into greed, insecurity, discontentment and a futil attempt at feeling good.

Author Jill Rigby in Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World writes that parenting goals would be more effective if they focused on self-respect, rather than self-esteem. She compares self-esteem which includes happiness (which is fleeting), greed, arrogance, insecurity, discontentment, futility, self-centerness and ill-manners. She says that self-respect focused parenting seeks joy (which is lasting), gratitude, obedience, confidence, contentment, perseverance, others-centeredness and overall well-manners.

At this point in the American experiment, how many more demands can we pile on our children. We can record all activities of our infant in an app, there’s filters and timers on tablets in young hands and information abounds about the latest child-development techniques. Information overload to help moms, dads and everyone in between.

But maybe we should ask what is the perfect childhood? What’s the ultimate goal we have for our children?

I wonder if all parents, no matter what generation they parented, thinks they are out-parenting their parents. But whether your goal is to out-parent your parents or just make a few tweeks to your “perfect” childhood, shouldn’t our goal be to raise kids who can stand strong in the storm, withstand some bullying and figure out in the information-overloaded world who they are in time to make a life?

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