Take Your Eyes Off Your Kids!

Hi yrirrsrbii
Readers — I love and agree with the post below so much. It comes to us from the blog Life as an Adverb by the gal whose last name IS one: Bonnie Overly. – L. 


Sometimes I feel like I must be from an alternate universe.

I was reminded of this when a recent discussion at church turned to how we, as women, focus so much time and energy on our children that we never do anything for ourselves.  “I never get a minute to myself!” one woman lamented while the rest nodded their heads in agreement.

Um, you don’t?  What’s wrong with you?  Once 1:00 hits all my little darlings are sent to their bedrooms for one blissful hour of quiet time, whereupon I do whatever I darn well please.  I don’t clean.  I don’t cook.  I don’t do anything that could be classified as “work.”  I read or blog or do something else I enjoy.  Sometimes I even take a nap.

And guess what?  It’s not just good for me, it’s good for them.

Yes, most things have to be done with the children tagging along (especially when they are young), and children have to come first a lot because they tend to have pressing needs (most of which are discovered as soon as you set foot in the bathroom), but I’m not going to spend my entire day attending to them.  As my sister likes to say, “I am not the entertainment committee!”  Yes, I play with my kids.  I read to them and play hide and seek and jump on the trampoline, but if I’m up to my elbows in dirty dishwater and they complain that they are bored I will not stop what I’m doing to pull out Candy Land.  I’ll send them to clean their rooms.

Children need to learn how to entertain themselves.  They need to learn how to play and navigate friendships without their mothers running interference for them every 5 minutes.  This is why I have no problem going to the playground, parking myself on a bench with my i-phone, and shooing them in the direction of the slides.  We are not there so they can play with me, we are there so they can play without me.

Of course, an attitude like this can get you in trouble these days, because there is a huge percentage of people who get all judgy if you’re not staring at your children 24 hours a day.  (Hence blog posts like “Dear Mom on the iPhone”, the purpose of which is to make everyone who has ever looked away from their little cherub’s face feel guilty for doing so).

Today’s parenting mantra:  You should never take your eyes off your child!

Are you enjoying that game of Words with Friends?  You shouldn’t be!  You should be watching (and cataloging) every single moment of your child’s existence!  No picking up a book when you could be watching your kid play freeze tag.  And don’t even think about sending him to the park by himself!  Besides missing out on whatever bliss is derived from watching him go down the same slide 97 times, if you are not there he might get hurt!  Or kidnapped!  Or worse!

My sister and I were discussing this and decided that it’s pretty ironic that today’s parents tell their kids they can do anything, have anything, be anything, and yet, when it comes down to it, these same parents actually don’t believe their children can do anything at all.  You want to walk to your friend’s house by yourself?  No!  You might get kidnapped!  You want to go to the bathroom by yourself?  No!  You’ll get molested!  Don’t talk to strangers!  Don’t use that butter knife!  Let me tie your shoes!  I brought your coat in case you get cold!  I called the teacher and got her to change your grade!

Instead of arming our kids with knowledge and giving them reasonable amounts of responsibility, independence, and accountability, we do everything for them.  “You might hurt yourself!” we say, as we continue slicing apples for our teenagers.  And then we wonder why they graduate from high school and park themselves on our couch for the next fifteen years.

What is the goal of parenting?  To produce an independent adult.  And how does one produce an independent adult?  Well, it’s a process.  But you can start by taking your eyes off your child once in awhile.

So take a few minutes for yourself.  Go on.

And don’t feel guilty for doing so.

Woman reading…and NOT to her kids! (Painting by Istvan Nagy who, I see by Googling, did more than one portrait of women readers. Right on, Istvan! )


127 Responses to Take Your Eyes Off Your Kids!

  1. Alexis W. March 26, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    I agree. I teach my kids to entertain themselves early on. they are now 4 and 7. They do not need me to help them play

  2. GiGiSeattle March 26, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    I need help with this! How to get my 6 year old step daughter to play on her own. When she is at her mom’s house, she plays with her sister or watches TV, so at our house, I think she expects adults to play with her all the time or she will ask to watch TV, which I do not like to have on all the time (it gives me a headache).

    Anyone have any suggestions?

  3. AmyO March 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm #


    Is there any way to hand this out to every mother in America? lol

    GiGi.. I would say just keep refusing. “Sorry honey, it’s not TV watching time and I’m trying to read/check email/sweep/whatever. Find something to do.” I say it to my daughter when she dumps her dolls in my lap as I’m doing something, and she goes on her way.

  4. Brenna March 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    @GiGi – as kids, my mother had a surefire way to keep us from saying “I’m bored”, or any variation thereof. Oh, you want my attention? Here, come outside with me and help me weed the tomatoes. You want to watch TV? You must be bored. Go clean out the freezer. You don’t have anything to do? How about you clean your room? The litter box needs cleaned, why don’t you take care of that? Takes a while to sink in that you’re serious, but my daughter is getting the gist of it now. I am working on developing a whole list of things to have on hand, and the older she gets the more I add to it. Six year olds can clean toilets, for example. Maybe not as well as I would, but it’s definitely possible. (Check out the book Parenting Breakthrough for a fabulous list of things kids can do by age.)

    I love this article. So very true.

  5. sarahj March 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    I am pretty sure if you read Mom on the iPhone and its comments, you would find that article was actually about media distractions, not never taking your eyes off your kids.

  6. hineata March 26, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    I think this idea of keeping your eyes on your kids the whole time in case you miss their lives comes partially from the ‘press the right button and your child will come out perfect’ mentality that seems to pervade child-rearing. At opposite ends of the spectrum we have Dr. Sears with attachment parenting, and my personal favourite nutjob Gary Esso, with ‘BabyWise’. Both, and everyone inbetween who is an ‘expert’ on kids, seems to think if you do x and y all the jolly time the result will be z, like we were doing algebra or something, instead of raising adults.

    Anyway, as we should all know (I wonder if the sanctimommies do sometimes, the way they write) kids have their own personalities. I want, for example, for my children to grow up to follow God, but whether they do or not is beyond my scope. I give them input, they do with it as they will – they are their own people.

    And always have been. I liked being home with them, and in the end that was just as well, seeing having Midge left us with little choice in the matter, but really, I would have gone stark raving bonkers watching every second of their development.

    And now they’re teens they still talk to me – especially when they want something!

  7. Tori March 26, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    @GiGi – I have a “random chore” jar – I just wrote a bunch of MY least favorite chores on popsicle sticks and put them in a can. When anyone says anything remotely close to “i’m bored” or any variation thereof – they are allowed the privilege of an odd job. WARNING! – backfire potential as I haven’t been able to dole them out near as often as I’d like!

  8. Tara March 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    I thoroughly agree! When I had my first child, I had to make a conscious effort to introduce her into OUR lives, not change our lives to revolve around hers. This is difficult when they’re little and the first born. Of course things in life change when you have kids, but this attitude that they are the center of the universe and every waking second should be devoted to them is not only detrimental to their parents (who no longer have a life of their own) but it sets these children up for a lifelong sense of entitlement and selfishness. Therefore I WILL NOT feel guilty about taking my eyes off of my children once in a while in order to allow them to explore and problem solve independently.

  9. Caro March 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    @sarahj, there was a healthy dose of “Don’t take your eyes off your kids for a moment because you will miss so much!” The author professes to have meant to limit her critique to media distractions, but her disapproval of any time spent doing something other than watching one’s daughter twirl around in her poofy skirt at the playground was manifest. And the tone was unforgivably sanctimonious. If she were truly concerned about the influence of technology in our life, I think the article would have been much different (i.e. contained much less finger-wagging).

  10. Jen March 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    Thank you so much for this. America needs more moms like you.

  11. Scott March 26, 2013 at 3:44 pm #


    I forget where I heard this, but I try to practice it everyday: Don’t prepare the path for your child, prepare your child for the path.

  12. sarah March 26, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    GiGi – are there any neighbors? i’d send her outside!

  13. Havva March 26, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    @GiGiSeattle, I think that was about the age my parents, and teachers, and my husbands parents started introducing us to a wide variety of hobbies. (Knitting, sewing, weaving, beading, model building, bird watching, photography, etc.)

    Of course his parents had a chore list a mile long that they were happy to pull out if he complained of boredom. My parents just kicked me out the door and told me to see if any of the girls about my age were free.

  14. RJ March 26, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    Soccer was not my daughter’s game. In fact, each week she stood in the middle of a field while a soccer game went on around her. I saw no earthly reason that I couldn’t read a magazine during that hour (except, of course, for the judgmental looks from the other parents around me). We dropped soccer after that season and she took up karate. I always took a book with me. Always.

  15. Stephanie March 26, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    My youngest wouldn’t give me a moment to myself if I gave her the choice. She’s the clingy one in many ways of my kids, but once I get her going, she’s really independent. It’s just remembering to get her started.

  16. Warren March 26, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    Cannot say it enough. If it is at all possible, and only then, if you have an only child, who due to location, demographics, or they just prefer solitude, there is a great way to give them company, and teach them responsibility, empathy and just plain have fun.

    Get a dog. If you cannot handle the task of a puppy, and they are alot of work at first, then adopt an older dog. They are usually already house broken, and the shelter can help you pick the right fit, for your family. There are alot of dogs that are between 1 and 4 years old that need home. Still alot of life left in them.

    My stepson, just slightly autistic, came home from his dad’s to find a 7 month old Great Pyrenese, he named Lego. Up until then he had an irrational fear of dogs. It took less than a day for Lego to win him over. We now have three dogs, and he walks, feeds and notices anything out of the normal with them. The dogs also helped him come out of his shell, and now if he isn’t with the dogs, he is of with friends on the street, which is a new thing for him.

  17. Kara March 26, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    My children know that I’m bored translates in Momspeak to I need you to give me a chore to do. Just like eww yuck at the dinner table translates to I’d like some more please. I do fight feeling guilty about making my children play on their own though. I really needed to see this here.

  18. Bonnie March 26, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    Thanks, Lenore, for posting! I’m honored!

    @Brenna, I loved “The Parenting Breakthough” as well. Great common sense advice for raising independent children.

  19. Crystal March 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    While I agree with the overall gist of this article, I truly do think iPhones are NOT the awesome, consequence-free, necessary-as-oxygen device that most of society makes it out to be.

    When I was in college, I nannied for a 2-year-old boys whose parents constantly ignored him, even as I was walking out the door. He was so desperate for their attention that it broke my heart. They were always pushing him away, saying, “Let me read. Let me watch TV,” etc. I wanted to smack them and say, “Hello! He just wants to spend a minute with you!” There is a healthy balance.

  20. hineata March 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    @RJ – I love you, LOL! Amen to books at kids’ activities :-). Further amens to kids getting old enough to go by themselves….

    @Stephanie – oh so true. My middle one still wants to handhold, cuddle, cling yada, yada – just personality, I think. She’s thirteen, and still able to be perfectly independent for all that.

    @Warren – pets, yep, but dogs? Catspaw just got one, very cute I gather, but the things are fundamentally useless, unless they’re working dogs (don’t kill me, Catspaw, LOL!). I recommend chickens, lambs or goats. Chickens are friendly, cuddly (if handraised), cheap and give you eggs. Lambs are all over cute, and the ones we had growing up all thought they were dogs, but without the mess of dogs (their crap being good for the garden). Goats are evil, but fun, and with the upside that trying to take one for a walk will convince your children that some animals are indeed made to be eaten, thus destroying any nasty vegetarian tendencies they may have been harbouring 🙂

    And yes, you can take chickens for walks – my kids did it semi-regularly over summer. You just need to watch out for cars, and be adept at catching them before they attack neighbourhood cats and dogs (seriously – they have tiny brains, and not much in the way of commonsense). Lambs are better for walks. And can be eaten when the kids are sick of them.

  21. Havva March 26, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    Love this mom’s point. I’ve noticed the attitude as well. I consider the art of looking away a key parenting technique. One that should go back before the playground and I think has more benefits even than mentioned.

    As a nervous wreck new mom who had absorbed too much of the never stop staring at your baby ethos. And the you are responsible for every bad thing ever… I could hardly handle my daughter learning to walk. So many falls. Every time she wobbled my gut jumped ahead to the red faced screaming that was sure to come. Then I realized that as important and precious as those early efforts to walk are, for her sake I had to quit watching. I had to find a way to distract myself.

    There was nothing better for us than for me to be elbow deep in dishwater with my back turned while she tried out her walking. Yup she fell, and no I didn’t catch. But a little miracle happened. I couldn’t instantly rush to help. I had to carefully set down some wet delicate glass ware, lest I add broken glass to our list of problems. But my mind still rushed to help and noted that her beloved pacifier had fallen out (as it usually did). So I said simply “Oh, your pacifier fell out. Can you get it?” And low and behold the mental activity of attempting to fix her own problem instantly solved what would have taken me 5 minutes to sooth.

    Now she is 2 and does need my help with all manner of things. But weather or not I think her capable of the task. I’ve started responding to most requests with “Okay. Just keep trying while I finish x.” Sometimes while I am finishing x, she accomplishes something neither of us thought her capable of.

  22. Amanda Matthews March 26, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Even if it is just about media distractions, why is it wrong to admit that sending an email to your friend is more interesting than watching your child twirl in their dress for the 500th time today?

    If I am at the park with my kids, then that right there shows that I am with them rather than working all day, seeing them only long enough to drive them home, feed them dinner and put them to bed. I already saw the other 499 times my daughter twirled before we walked to the park. I’m fine with missing the 500th. I’m fine with missing the few on the WAY to the park by me staying at home while she goes to the park. I can’t see everything. I can’t see both that 500th twirl AND the interesting thing on, say, Pinterest. Or the bird building a nest. I can’t see ALL the twirls nor ALL the things on Pinterest nor all the birds building nests even if I try to completely focus on one. And it wouldn’t be mentally healthy to try to completely focus on one. If I keep my eyes on the kids, then when those days at the park are over, I will have nothing left. And without the cellphone, tablet, etc. “distractions” I would have to work a 9 – 5 job and barely spend any waking hours with my kids. (Why is it acceptable to be “distracted” away from your kids by a 9 – 5 job, but not by “media”?)

    It’s good for me, and good for the kids to see that I have interests other than them. I hope that when they have kids, they will do the same – spend lots of time with their kids, but allow themselves to be “distracted”, to continue to have interests outside of their kids, to continue to find things other than their kids entertaining; to allow their kids to be a separate person than themselves, neither the parent nor the child relying on the other for entertainment.

  23. mollie March 26, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    *Adds Bonnie Overly to personal list of heroes*

  24. Jess March 26, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    I recently had this discussion with my husband who was concerened about our 4-year old daughter’s boredom. She complained, “You never play with me! I’m not having any fun!” Of course we play with her. Sometimes. Daddy was worried because she doesn’t have siblings to pay with. I told him, “Look, she’s an only child and likely to remain that way (as I am). She’s going to have to learn to entertain herself (as I did).” And yes, I am guilty of looking in other directions at the park, or restaurant, or whatever. I cannot live with the irrational fear of abduction, so I choose to believe there’s not an abductor following us around, just waiting for me to take my eyes off her so he can grab her. I don’t think it makes me a bad parent to try to save my child from living a life of fear or complete dependance.

  25. Donna March 26, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    @Crystal – While some parents I suppose may truly become addicted to iphones or other technology, what makes you think that the parents that you nannied for would pay attention to their child without these things? Some parents have no interest in spending time with their children. It happened long before modern technology. Technology is simply a different way to occupy time that you don’t want to spend with your kid.

    @Amanda Matthews – Wow, anti-working parent much.

  26. mollie March 26, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    Also: what’s missing from this is the aspect of competition and “Look at me, I’m a much more ‘involved’ mother than you” kind of message whenever someone boasts about never getting sleep, never getting anything done, never having a moment to themselves.

    Self-care is thought to be a sin, I guess, but I don’t buy into that at all. There was never a day I didn’t get a shower when I wanted one, even with a newborn. My God, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, so I was determined to enlist the support I needed to make sure I got the rest, food, and self-care that made it possible to be present to my child’s needs.

    You are giving a gift to your kids if you take care of yourself.

    Hear that, überMommies of the Western world? Your needs matter! And you don’t get some sort of grand prize for self-sacrifice at the end of this! All you get for your self-denial is a wagonload of resentment and expectations of your kids’ appreciation that will only serve to distance you from them when they are adults.

    Your needs are EQUAL to the needs of your children. You don’t matter more, or less, than they do. PUT YOUR OWN OXYGEN MASK ON BEFORE ASSISTING OTHERS.

  27. hineata March 26, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    Did anyone else note that the mum in the I-Phone article, who I’m sure is very nice and all that, had as a sidebar comment:

    ‘I’m a mom – what’s your superpower?’

    Now, really. That sort of sums up our problems as parents. Actually I’m a mum too, and I have no superpowers. I’m just an average person trying to keep it sort of together, and that hasn’t changed markedly since I had kids. Yes, I can, for instance, now hold one kid vomiting over the toilet while I sign another’s school note, but just as often I will yell at the other kid to hold his sister up while I do sign said note.

    Can’t do it all, don’t want to do it all, won’t do it all. No superpowers here, thank you. Now if I could only write my freaking essay, instead of being distracted by all this much more interesting media, I might have a smidgen of time to devote to my ‘little darlings, the lights of my life’ when they get home from school today.

    Or I might just go to the mall and get a hot chocolate instead 🙂

  28. Jeannine March 26, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    You are the mom. Yes, step-mom, but you are still the mom. You are in charge, so don’t let her watch tv when it is time to do something else. She may need help initiating ideas, and seeing how differently materials can be used, but eventually, she will start generating her own. (Peer support and modeling is really helpful.)

  29. Amanda Matthews March 26, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    Why does questioning something mean I am against it?

    All I did was ask a question and state facts. I use to work a 9 – 5 job; I barely got to see my kids because of it. It’s just a fact that I can not be in two places at once, and therefore if I am at work (at a job where I can not take my kids along), I can not be with my kids. If no one is home to watch the younger kids, they have to go somewhere else. And driving to that somewhere else to drop them off and pick them up means even more time out of the day that I can’t be with my kids. This is not anti-anyone or anything else, just what I have experienced in my life.

    There’s a lot of hypocrites around the internet. “Technology is bad!” “Parents should get off the computer/tablet/phone/etc. and go spend time with their kids!” “Kids should get off the computer/tablet/phone/etc. and go play outside!” But how are they accessing the internet to post those messages? It’s not a psychic connection while they run around outside or watch their kids; they are on a computer/tablet/phone/etc. That exact same evil “media” they are at that moment protesting. Why do they expect other parents or kids to find something more fun than “media” when they themselves would rather look at “media”?

  30. Donald March 26, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    ……..And guess what?  It’s not just good for me, it’s good for them.

    Not only do I agree with the line above, I believe that it’s paramount!

    You need to look after yourself but not ant the expense of others
    You need to look after others but not at the expense of yourself

    Few get the correct balance. They either put themselves first too often (regardless of others) or they put others first too often. (regardless of themselves)

  31. Mama Frog March 26, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    “Don’t prepare the path for your child, prepare your child for the path.”
    @Scott: This is probably the single greatest parenting tip I have ever heard. Thank you for sharing this tidbit of wisdom!! It is really easy to get caught up in the world of ‘preparing the path for our children’ when we really, really should be doing it the other way around. Brilliant perspective!

  32. AW13 March 26, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    Re: the social media: There needs to be a balance, and I think that is what the “mom on the iphone” author was getting at, albeit heavy-handedly.

    However, I’m sure we all know people who are “addicted” to the internet. These are the people who update their facebook status once an hour, tweet what they’re eating for lunch, and text other people when they’re ostensibly spending time with someone else. (I once had a friend over, only to sit on the couch watching as she constantly interrupted our conversation to text back and forth with two other friends of hers. I found it incredibly rude.) When you are spending time with your kids, then spend time with your kids. And if you’re at home, sharing space with your kids by default, as I am right now, feel free to send the kiddos off to find their own entertainment while you do whatever you want to do online. It is all about balance.

  33. AW13 March 26, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    P.S. Does anyone else remember when there was a distinct line between adult activities and child activities? My parents were great parents, and I remember being sent to the basement to play while the adults watched movies upstairs. This was the norm at my friends’ houses, too – if the adults were hanging out, drinking, playing cards, watching movies, talking about grown-up stuff, or whatever, we were sent into the other room and expected to entertain ourselves. We were allowed to come out for food, but that was about it. 🙂

    Does this even happen anymore?

  34. lollipoplover March 26, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    @AW13- I have memories of my mother’s Bridge Club where we were not even allowed in the house! We came home when she rang the dinner bell. Now it’s child abuse if there’s not a steady stream of juice boxes supplied on play dates.

    I also vote for dogs as a wonderful way for children to be away from their parents. When my kids complain of boredom, I send them out to walk the dogs. They usually find friends during their excursion or something interesting to do. I love my kids but absence sometimes does make the heart grow fonder.

  35. Allison March 26, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    @GiGi I have an I’m bored jar for my kids. List every game and toy in her closet, every puzzle, and coloring book, crafts and other activities she can do on her own. Put them all in the jar. The rule with my kids is that if they pull something out they have to do it. They can’t decide after they pull it out that they don’t want to do that activity. Sometimes kids just need to get started playing by themselves before they remember “hey, I like doing puzzles” and they pull next one out to do too.

  36. Donna March 26, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    It wasn’t your question. It was the tone of the comment. That you have time to use media because, even though you miss the 500th twirl, you stay home and still get to see the other 499 twirls. As if those who only manage to see 50 twirls need to soak up all the twirls they can rather than viewing their iphones.

    I’ve both worked and stayed home. Either way the wonder of the twirl is gone very quickly. I can easily live with myself for missing a good 495 of them. Working has its moments and I have the occasional guilt-ridden day like when a completely unexpected crazy day in court kept me from my daughter’s dinosaur museum at school last week. I have no guilt whatsoever for being on my iphone (back when I lived in the developed world and had things like iphones) while we are at the playground. I take my daughter to the playground because she enjoys going to the playground. A playground is a place that she needs to do alone, and not have me hovering around “playing with her,” to grow. I don’t think that any parent needs to be fully absorbed in those moments whether they are home with their kids all day or at work all day. An hour at the playground is simply just not a deep, meaningful parenting moment to be fully engaged in regardless of how many moments you have with your child otherwise.

  37. hineata March 26, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    @Donna – you have a dinosaur museum in A. Samoa? Wow!

    Finished the damn essay, about to go around and walk Catspaw’s cute but useless dog with her. Still vote for herbivores- much tastier in the long run :-)….

  38. catspaw73 March 26, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    Good grief, currently having to supervise the kids outside (instead of largely ignoring them, just keeping an ear out as normal) is driving me nuts. We are in the process of adopting a 6 month old pointer cross from the pound (hes ours Tuesday officially, all going well) and as we’ve had him less than 48 hours I’m still needing to supervise the kids (especially the neighbors nearly 7 year old). I want time to read my book while the kids play 😀

  39. hineata March 26, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    Forget it, Catspaw. Save yourself the stress – hubby will cook the dog any day you like, LOL!

  40. Ali March 26, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

    One of my Facebook friends showed the film “Little Red Balloon” to her kids the other day….the one filmed in Paris about a boy and his, get this, red balloon. Her kids are well old enough to spend a few minutes of their day without a monitor. Her kid’s comment on the film? “Why is he walking by himself??”

    So sad.

    So agree that the idea of raising our kids to depend on themselves and not us needs to be much stronger than the “child as snowflake” mentality we have going on right now. Thanks for the moment of clarity.

  41. Emily March 26, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    1. As for the article at hand, yes, I completely agree. A lot of my friends on Facebook from university, etc., have had babies recently, and one in particular, who has a toddler and a preschooler, has become a total sanctimommy (love that expression). Everything she posts on Facebook is about healthy, organic food, the perils of eating anything out of a package, and how awesome her kids are, and what an awesome parent she is. She used to be a talented pianist with a wide range of interests, but that’s all gone now, because Her Kids Come First.

    2. I have to disagree about forcing kids to eat food they hate, or teaching them that “some animals are meant to be eaten.” If my (hypothetical, future) child said “Eww, yuck,” at the dinner table, I’d say something like, “Don’t you mean no thank you?” and just leave it at that. As for “discouraging vegetarian tendencies” in kids, well, I’m vegan, so I’d make it a goal to raise a child who loves animals instead of eating them.

    3. About the “I’m bored” thing, it’s fine to teach kids to entertain themselves, but please, make sure there’s actually something for them to do. When my brother and I were kids, a lot of the time, our parents would tell us that we couldn’t watch TV, because the noise disturbed them, and we “watched too much TV anyway,” we couldn’t do crafts, because it was “too messy,” we couldn’t go anywhere, not even to the park near our house, because it “wasn’t safe” (they were overprotective), and we couldn’t have friends over, because they’d “worked all week, and wanted a quiet weekend.” If we complained of being bored, we were labelled as whiny brats. I hated getting craft kits as Christmas or birthday gifts from out-of-town relatives, because I knew I’d never get to use them.

  42. katrin March 26, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    Why do we have to qualify the need for time alone as good for the children? We deserve time to ourselves because we are human. There will be times when we sacrifice our needs for the kids, but we should not feel guilty for pursuing our own interests. Kids need time alone as well.

  43. Emily March 26, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

    P.S., I know that at least one person is going to say, “Why didn’t you just go and read a book?” Well, we did. My brother and I loved to read when we were kids, but even that wore thin after a while.

  44. Papilio March 26, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    “Once 1:00 hits *all my little darlings* are sent to their bedrooms for one blissful hour of quiet time”

    Does that include Husband?

  45. Donna March 26, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    hineata – LOL. It was a kid-made museum. The kindy and 1st grade kids had been studying dinosaurs all semester and made a “museum” that the rest of the school and parents were supposed to come tour as their semester-end project.

    I had to send my proxy (a coworker who was pressed into picking Maya up at the last minute) to view the “museum.”

  46. hineata March 26, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    @Emily – sorry, some Kiwis have a terrible sense of humour, and I’m one.

    But honestly, if you’d met Snoballs the goat, and other ‘goats of my youth’ (wouldn’t that make a good book title, right up there with Barry Crump’s ‘Bastards I have Known’!), you would have wanted to eat the darn things too. Snoballs was truly the spawn of Satan, and deserved to be on a plate….being dragged through town by him (on paddock-changing day) was an exercise in pain and suffering, LOL! In fact, that goat was probably the best argument I have ever known against gun control, and I am not particularly pro-gun, but boy, he would have looked good with a bullet between the eyes.

    @Donna – oh, dear…I subject my ‘parents’ to that sort of thing every so often, too. How lucky you were to be able to send a proxy, LOL!

  47. Emily March 26, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    @Hineata–I’m sorry, my opinion still stands. Your stories of Snowball the goat’s antics are funny, but I can’t laugh at the idea of killing an animal, especially one who was chosen as a family pet, just because he’s annoying sometimes.

  48. hineata March 26, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    @Emily, cool, we’re all entitled to our opinions. Snoballs also wasn’t a pet, his purpose was to eat the weeds down in the paddocks he was put in or he probably wouldn’t have lasted as long as he did …:-).

  49. Emily March 26, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

    @Hineata–In that case, why didn’t your family just buy a lawn mower?

  50. Donna March 26, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

    @Emily – Because I believe that hineata grew up on a farm – or at least a rural area. Farms don’t get animals because they are cute; they get animals to do a job. Nor can you mow many acres.

    During my parents hippy country years, we had two goats for awhile to eat the brush in the back pasture. Things were obnoxious. They baaed all the time, day and night. It was better to just let the brush grow. I don’t remember what we did with them but they disappeared after a few months.

  51. Emily March 26, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

    @Donna–When I said “lawn mower,” I meant the ride-on kind. Of course a push mower wouldn’t work on a farm.

  52. hineata March 26, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

    @Emily – goats are more effective than lawnmowers on rough ground. Also they don’t use petrol, LOL! I do stand by my premise that the things are evil incarnate. 🙂

    Seriously wasn’t meaning to upset you. We think differently about animals obviously. I do tend to think of them as walking food, as much fun as they often are.Or, as I said, as workers….

  53. hineata March 26, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    @Donna – what fun parents!

    @Emily – in eating the weeds, the goat will often consume the whole thing, or at least that’s how I remember it. So better than a lawnmower that way too.

  54. Donna March 27, 2013 at 12:15 am #

    @hineata – I’m so not a country girl so I much preferred the hippy city years. But what can you do when you have whacky artists as parents? At least we didn’t live in the old chicken coop at the artist commune for very long.

    @Emily – Price of a goat v. price of a riding lawn mower. Just saying. Actually, as hineata said, the lawnmower (or tractor) can’t get everywhere goats can. You wouldn’t really expect a single goat to eat the entire back 40.

    Now I am going to spend the rest of the night trying to remember what happen to those stupid goats and I blame you hineata.

  55. Beth March 27, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    “Besides missing out on whatever bliss is derived from watching him go down the same slide 97 times”…not to mention the similar bliss of the kid or kids saying “mommy watch this” or “mommy look at me” 97 times, most for things you’ve already seen 97 times.

    I was at a hotel this weekend with a lovely pool, and sat near a mom whose two kids could not stop saying “Mom, check this out” every time they made a move in the water. Mom did make some noise about just wanting to sit on the lounge chair and enjoy her margerita, but there was no conviction behind it, and she spent the entire time “checking out” and wow-ing eveything her kids did. I so badly wanted to tell her she had another choice!

  56. Lola March 27, 2013 at 8:04 am #

    Plus, what sort of role models are we if we let ourselves be enslaved by our children?
    You’re bored? C’mere, I’ll teach you how to wash the dishes, do the laundry, cook your meal… (see if they don’t stop nagging you after a couple of days of this…)
    Not that I’m against parents playing with their kids, it’s just that my job as mother is to teach them, show them, how to be adults.
    They already manage being kids fine on their own, and frankly, I’ve grown out of it.

  57. lollipoplover March 27, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    I was at a running club meeting last night. It’s for older elementary kids who track their mileage and train for a 5k. We were going over dismissal procedures and the director told us that those with a “W” next to their names were walkers so we were to dismiss them to walk home while others went to aftercare or were parent pick-up.

    One of the mom volunteers went off on how she could not allow this (but the parents already gave their permission!) and it was incredibly unsafe. She insisted on someone walking them across the street even though most of these kids have done this independently for years. I had to stop her save-the-children rant and tell her the walkers were fine- they might just teach some of the other kids some running “street smarts” like crossing the street without getting hit by a car. Plus, the point of this running club was teaching healthy habits to our kids AND WALKING IS ONE OF THEM. Children can be let out of our sight and SUV’s and thrive. They’ve been doing it for centuries.

  58. pentamom March 27, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    lollipoplover, that’s just crazy. There is no way those kids are going to be able to build up the ability to become really good 5K runners if they don’t do road running. And you can’t do effective road running if everyone has to run at the same pace and wait for some grownup to do all the street crossings — which means they’re going to HAVE to learn to run, cross streets themselves, and sometimes (gasp) the fastest and slowest ones will be out of sight of others. So either this woman has not concept of what a distance running club is, or she thinks that danger magically goes away during club time and magically reappears when it’s time to walk home.

  59. LRH March 27, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    I so agree with this article. This, Lenore, may be the best thing you’ve ever posted.

    My kids are almost 4 & 6, I started sending them outside, in a fenced-off area, when they were 2 & 4. Yes, I read while they’re playing. I also play with them. I take care of their needs, and otherwise do what I FEEL LIKE and don’t feel an ounce of guilt over it. They still love the heck out of me, and that love is returned and expressed on my end lots. But I don’t eat & breathe and drink them either.

    Like the one lady said about her friend, She used to be a talented pianist with a wide range of interests, but that’s all gone now, because Her Kids Come First.. Exactly. That is the very thing I made a point to avoid happening to me.

    I have a question that maybe some of you may can help me answer, including you, Lenore (or anyone).

    My mother is coming to visit next week, from out of state. She can be, and often times is, very helpful. However, she also tends to think that when she’s here (she will be in a hotel) that everything is supposed to stop for her. We do what she wants, period. Basically, she tends to want to all but dictate EVERYTHING when she’s here. If I act silly chasing the kids in the store, she will want me to squelch that because she finds it immature. (Understand: I don’t allow my kids to run in the store being a nuisance, I do very well with the “stay close by me and calm yourself down” bit, but I also will chase them some as well, have fun with them.) I find this highly annoying, as I’m a 44 year old man, for one thing, although it does seem pretty common for people, when their parents visit, to somewhat edit their activities a little as they’re entertaining or what have you. Where do you draw the line between that versus that you have to be yourself?

    Also, and probably more on-topic with this site, is this: she is, as many of you have said of your own parents, a former free-ranger with how she raised me turned helicopter with how she is with the grandchildren and, more importantly, with how she thinks we ought to be as parents. It goes beyond just her sometimes stating her opinion, at times she can get preachy and even nasty about it. So, if we were (say) at the park with the kids and I were reading a book or staring at an electronic device while shooing the kids onto the slides, she’s exactly the kind to be prone to saying “put that damn thing down and play with your kids!” In the past I’ve just gone along with it, after all she’s out of state and visits once every year or so for 4-5 days and then she’s gone, but I think maybe the time has come to basically say “I’m grown, and yes you’re my mother and these are your grandkids and yes you should have access to them, and yes you should be able to state your opinion WITH THE RIGHT TONE, but being judgmental and nasty is not okay, period, I need you to stop.”

    After all, if a stranger said that to me, I’d light into them like a Christmas tree for it. I’m starting to think maybe she needs some of that, even if she is my mother.

    What do you guys think? Any of you deal with such, and if so, how do you handle it?


  60. pentamom March 27, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    I’d say if it’s only 4-5 days at a time, let it slide. You only have one mom, and I think you’ll find that avoiding a rift over something that doesn’t really affect things (you parent normally all the rest of the time, and the rules are always different, in every family, when Grandma’s around) will make you happier 20 years from now. I used to dress and speak just slightly differently when we went to visit my parents and avoid some of the silliness with my kids that would have annoyed my parents, and looking back, I don’t regret the small sacrifices at all.

    I mean, if she’s really hounding you about something, gently stand up to it, but I don’t think establishing your adulthood to a mom who only has the ability to infringe on it for 4-5 days at a time once a year is that important. (It would be totally different if she lived nearby or visited often or for long stretches and had the ability to meddle and interfere regularly and affect your normal, daily behavior.) Just BE her little boy for another several dozen days of your life.

  61. Alana M March 27, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    An excellent post, and one area of parenting I have never had trouble with. People laugh when I said I had my second son to keep my first entertained, but I wasn’t kidding. They do together all the stuff I can’t stand as a parent. (pretend mostly) Nowadays they are 10 and 13 and tend to go over to other friends’ houses instead. That is fine with me. I will never be the “neighborhood mom” and I don’t want to be. I like the quiet of my house too much.

    I’ve have plenty of “moments” with my kids growing up and I still do. I don’t need to stay for my son’s karate lessons 4 times a week like some moms do. I know what he does. I’d rather go shopping or read a book in the car.

  62. BMS March 27, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    My kids have yet to learn that saying “I’m bored” to me generates a list of chores. But I keep generating the lists. The chores never get done, but it’s amazing how fast they find something else to do…

  63. Kelly March 27, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    Heh. We let my son play with the normal silverware knives at 2 and he has since he’s been about 1 and a half. Some family member’s still freak out a bit but I figure he might as well learn what hurts and what doesn’t with stuff that won’t send him to the emergency room. He knows that the knives in the block are the owchie knives. He also seems to have a reasonable respect for what can get him hurt which I think he gets mainly from letting him get hurt a bit.

    And he can play on his own for sometimes up to 2 hours with lego’s and such. He gets lots of interaction at daycare and other times from us. It’s good for him to learn to do things on his own.

  64. MKC March 27, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    With respect to your comment, “My sister and I were discussing this and decided that it’s pretty ironic that today’s parents tell their kids they can do anything, have anything, be anything, and yet, when it comes down to it, these same parents actually don’t believe their children can do anything at all. ”

    Some parents tragically don’t believe their children can do anything. If we have no faith in our children when they are young, we may not have any faith in them in the future – when they are adults. This can be devastating not just for the children and the families involved but for future generations as well.

    When we do not trust our children, it is possible we may not feel we can trust ourselves – and we can.

    Good article!

  65. Sharon March 27, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    I’m also a karate mom. When I food shop I get asked where is your daughter?. When I say she is in karate I get asked why don’t I watch the class. She concentrates better without me and my 11 year daughter doesn’t need me every second to guide her activities.

    The karate studio also sends email about the important events, belt tests, and cancelled days. I don’t need to hear those in person.

  66. Tsu Dho Nimh March 27, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Taking an HOUR a day for yourself? Think of the years of therapy that will be needed to get your children through the sense of abandonment and neglect you are inflicting on therm.

    Good grief, I’ve been reading too many mommy blogs!

  67. pentamom March 27, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    BMS, a suggestion that comes to mind is, when they do that, MAKE them do the chore. That’s the penalty for saying “I’m bored.” Then they stop saying it and the chores get done.

    That might not work, depending on other factors, but it’s a thought!

  68. Tsu Dho Nimh March 27, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    @gigi … teach her to sew, needlepoint, crochet. patchwork or something like that. It’s a good “quiet and companionable” hobby.

    And reading … she needs to read more.

    I spent hours making clothes for my dolls and circus outfits for my toy horses.

  69. JP March 27, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    A watched child becomes a bit of culture sludge in a petri dish. Terribly scientific living life as a science experiment. Learned behavior. There’s what you do when you’re watched, and then what you do when you aren’t.
    Prisoners get watched in jail by guards.
    Shoppers get watched in malls by security guards.
    “Guardian” or “guard?”
    Unwatched, life is an adventure. Watched – it’s just a sentence. Kids do a lot of hard time. Tried, convicted, and punished. (But exactly what is the crime committed?)
    I always preferred being a benign warden, myself. Dreaming of freedom.
    Kids dream of freedom. In the land of the free that’s supposed to be their birthright.
    On the other hand…I can always watch you watch the watched whatcher who watches the watched. Life spent in a hall of mirrors.

  70. pentamom March 27, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    I could never understand the “watch your child participate in a class” thing. Okay, maybe the first time, or now and then, just to see how they’re doing/take an interest in what they’re learning. (But most things I’m familiar with set aside a special day every term where parents are encouraged to do that, so, that is a good opportunity.) And I confess I did it pretty frequently when my girls were in their early years of ballet — but that was purely because the ballet school was convenient-to-nowhere so I just stayed and watched instead of frantically trying to squeeze something into the time.

    But the idea that we have to watch just to care…it doesn’t make any sense. Our kids are supposed to be learning an art or a skill which is meant to be watched when developed — when there’s a performance or a competition or something. Watching the nitty-gritty of training has no rationale I can imagine (unless you take a professional interest in the training for some reason) other than “we just have to stare at our kids all the time because it’s the only way to care.”

  71. JJ March 27, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    I hear that “watch your child” at practice thing, too and it is just impractical. We only have two kids, but between them they are at approximately 20 hours of practice per week. How could I possibly watch 20 hours of practice and what would I or my kids be getting out of it? Same goes for getting to every meet or game. Having two very athletic kids my advice to new sports parents is don’t try to get to it all. First, you’ll be setting up unreasonable expectations for your kids. The first time you see a player really mess up at a game because “its the first time my dad/mom isn’t here” you’ll know what I mean. Secondly, you’re not going to want to do it at all if it takes over your life. I do try to watch one practice per every week or two, but during most evening practices I catch up on work, read, look at my phone :), go grocery shopping, go for a run myself, or sit in my car and stare out the window (my favorite). Also, the less you are there, the more you are encouraging your kid to advocate for himself on the team. (This is a great skill–for instance, if you want to pitch in Tuesday’s game, talk to the coach about why.) And there is WAY too much gossip and competition/jealousy among parents in some organizations. Why hang around that. Better to be polite but somewhat aloof. Sorry to go on and on, but this is a topic I have a lot of experience in!

  72. Papilio March 27, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    @pentamom: Yes, the ‘Look mom no hands!’-effect. Friends and relatives watching are distracting the participants just by being there, and if they’re gonna show off (the kids, not the parents), those kids even distract the other kids as well. It just changes the dynamics between the group of kids and the teacher.

    @LRH: Maybe I’m completely wrong, but maybe your mom does need you to say that to her. Not to be rude or anything but to reassure her that you ARE a responsible parent, making *your own decisions* on parenthood, and doing fine raising *your* kids – different maybe from how she would handle things, but not wrong. If she’s in doubt whether she did a good job raising you, this might just be the adult, stand up for your case (or how do you say that?) speech she needs to hear.
    (Anyone else think I sound like Lenore in a fictitious World’s Worst Mom: 30 Years Later?)

  73. CrazyCatLady March 27, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    It is ironic that we tell our kids that THEY can do anything….but we don’t allow that freedom for our parents! Or, at least the mothers. Fathers are supposed to go out and work and support the kids. Unless they are a single parent and then they are bashed and self bash for trying to do everything but not accomplishing it all too.

    While I am a stay at home mom, and I really enjoy being so, I know a couple of moms who are NOT happy with that. They tried it, they hated it. But feel so guilty for going back to work. I tell them not to worry about it – a happy mom means a happy family!

  74. Lisa March 27, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    It’s not watching practice that is a problem, it’s setting the expectation that parents should be at EVERY moment of EVERY activity. I have been hanging out at my daughter’s play rehearsals this winter (as a volunteer, keeping kids quiet and overseeing sign in/out), but I haven’t done so for her last 4 shows. I don’t usually stay at her soccer practices, but there have been seasons when I coached her team and was there all the time. When she took gymnastics and briefly dance as a preschooler, it was at a multi-function gym which included a “viewing area” upstairs – we could see the class, but they couldn’t see us, and there was a nice cafe, wi-fi, and a comfortable sitting area designed to make the experience of schlepping kids around to activities more pleasant – I took advantage of that! I do attend her games and performances, and prioritize it most of the time… but if I can’t make a game, neither of us stresses out about it (and for a play, I usually watch one, and spend the others backstage volunteering).
    I see watching kids in unstructured play as much the same thing… sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. I play *with* my kid when she wants to do something that we both enjoy. I watch her play sometimes to get a glimpse of things that bring her joy. I accompany her but do my own thing sometimes because we enjoy being together but have different interests (or responsibilities). It’s not that uncommon for her to pay in the living room while I check email, or her to do homework when I’m reading. Sharing space without needing to be entertained is an important skill. That doesn’t mean I don’t play with her, and sometimes even stop what I’m doing to do so (let’s face it, sometimes playing a game is just more appealing than doing the dishes) – just not all the time. Similarly, there have been times when I’ve asked if she wanted to do something, and she declined because she was involved in something else.
    There are all kinds of ways families can find their own balance. I enjoy watching my kid’s activities… but I don’t do so to the exclusion of pursuing my own interests.

  75. Emily March 27, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    @LRH–Have you ever thought about sending your kids and your mother off on their own outing while she visits, so they can have some “Grandma time,” and she can interact with them in the way that she sees fit? That might help her loosen the reins a bit when you’re out and about with you, her, and the kids together.

  76. Puzzled March 27, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    I like the sentiment here a lot – but wouldn’t it be just as easy to send them outside for an hour, instead of locking them up in their rooms for an hour?

  77. hineata March 27, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    @LRH – same thing here, regarding the ‘free-range as kids, helicopter-the grandkids’ thing. And my mother lives less than an hour away, God bless her! Honestly, a mother is a mother – she’s probably acting out the ‘am I still needed’ thing. Have had to draw a few lines in the sand with regard to my mother, because we see her more often, but drew them in a nice way. In your case, just be her little boy for a few days a year, like Pentamom says.

    Consider it your gift to karma, or some such. When you’re old you might want to boss your kids and grandkids around a bit too, LOL!

    Also, if it really is that bad, you could write a movie script about it. Get some gorgeous bloke to portray you, and maybe Sally Field as the mum. You might even make money…:-)

  78. hineata March 27, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    Other way to look at it, LRH, is like she’s your crazy Uncle Joe, or something. In the particular cultures I wend my way through, family happens to be numero uno in all three (a I’m sure it is for many posters here), and so we do not intentionally distance ourselves from our crazy rellies (though fortunately most of these can only be seen once a year too, due to distance 🙂 ).

    Anyway, just look at it as making life more fun….After all,for example, there’s nothing like sitting at dinner with old Uncle Chew, who wants to show you his colostomy bag!

    Your mother’s visits will potentially provide fodder for family conversation for generations 🙂

  79. Cyn March 27, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    It’s hard. My kids are partly special-needs (plenty of brains but social issues) but I have to let go of those apron strings, as they are 11 now. One right now is off to the convenience store half a mile away to buy gum, the other went for a walk in the woods. I’ve mentally got my nervous-mommy self tied up in the back of my head, incommunicado, and am reminding myself that it’s really good for them to be away from me.

  80. pentamom March 27, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    Lisa, just to be clear, I understand the problem is “must watch your kids in class always,” not just doing it at all. and that’s what I was referring to in my comment. Watching once in a while, or even frequently if you’re in a situation like the one I was in where there’s nothing else to do and nowhere convenient to go — there’s nothing wrong with that. But the expectation that you’re not….I don’t even know what….if you don’t, is what I find odd, for the reasons I mentioned.

  81. pentamom March 27, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    I don’t mean to insist that Papilio agree with me, but the reason I don’t think that LRH’s mom “needs to hear this” is that I can’t really see what larger purpose is served by it. The mother-son relationship is unique, so if LRH can put up with it, it’s not like she needs to hear this to avoid being some kind of plague on society. And just as LRH is a grown man and doesn’t need to parented, his mom is a grown woman and doesn’t “need” to be taught how to behave except insofar as her behavior is really going to hurt other people.

    So if her degree of meddling is not intolerable, my leaning is “You’ve only got one mom, you don’t see her often enough to make it a really big problem AND you don’t see her often enough to easily smooth over any hurt that may be caused.” When mom is gone, you might feel like putting up with this was worth it to keep mom close and not feeling alienated.

  82. Michelle March 27, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    For the first several years that I was a parent, I could not understand why other parents were always complaining about needing to get some “me time,” advising me to remember I have needs too, and seeming like they were desperate to get away from their kids.

    Finally I realized, these people actually spend all of their time sitting around, staring at their children, doing everything for them! No wonder they’re miserable! I don’t know how I missed the memo that I was supposed to be doing all of this stuff. Maybe I was too busy reading a book on the back porch while my kids played by themselves?

    Whenever I hear parents say things like, “I can’t even get a minute to go to the bathroom!” I always want to ask if they’re serious, or being hyperbolic. Do your kids really bother you in the bathroom? I mean, without you responding, “That’s not an emergency. Go away. I’ll talk to you when I’m done.”? In my house, “emergency” is defined as, “something that would make me jump up off the toilet and run out of the bathroom with my pants still around my ankles.” If it’s not that important, do not bother me in the bathroom! I will not answer your question, go away!

    As for smart phones, I PURPOSELY use mine to distract myself when I’m trying to let the kids do something on their own. For example, while teaching my littlest ones to read, I play Solitaire. Yes, I do. If I didn’t, I’d be tempted to “help” every time they stumbled the slightest bit, and they’d never learn to read. Playing a game distracts me just enough to let them figure it out themselves.

  83. LRH March 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    pentamom You make some very valid points, I don’t want to dismiss that, at all. Besides, my side-question really isn’t the relevant subject of this thread (although it SORT of is, as the parenting style it advocates is the style I advocate, and the articles like “dear Mom with an iPhone” are the very sorts of things my mother tends to say).

    The issue is this–approval or at least ACCEPTANCE, and acknowledgement that–hey, I’m a grown man, and I shouldn’t be criticized for the choices I make. Understand, I believe a parent of a grown child should be able to express their opinion somewhat, but they have to be VERY CAREFUL with how they do so. You have to be very careful and realize that you are now talking to an ADULT, your child may ‘always be my little boy to me in my heart” but they shouldn’t be TREATED like one by blasting their lifestyle and their parenting style. You have to respect the boundary and the parental authority, even if you disapprove of it, so long as it’s not something like (say) sodomy or breaking of the bones on purpose (as “discipline”) that you’re observing.

    I realize this will go for me, too, if you fast-forward 25-30 years or so. To wit: I am very against “attachment parenting” and co-sleeping etc, very strongly so. What if, say, my son adopts my beliefs but marries someone who wants to do attachment-parenting and co-sleeping and he goes along with it? How do I express my disapproval of it?

    Answer–very carefully, if at all, especially around my son and his wife, or even just my son alone. If I give my opinion, I have to do so in a way that states I don’t agree with the choice, but at the same time I respect that they are the parents and they make the call. I cannot get caught up in “my son was raised to know better than to do that nonsense, it’s that pea-brained wife of his he married that’s corrupting his good sense.”

    You see, my mother can get to be darn near that nasty at times, certainly when talking to me in private–in a few isolated cases, she’s even done that to my wife to her face. To wit: my wife sleeps later than me, and I’m a natural early riser. Thus, I am the one that sees our daughter off to school while she sleeps. In my mother’s mind, my wife (our girl’s mother) should get out of bed and spend time with our daughter before our daughter goes to school, rather than selfishly insist on sleeping late.

    In one case sometime back, she even had the nerve–I am not kidding–to actually go into our bedroom and yell at her to get up. I am not kidding. In another case she told me & my wife (before our 2 current children were born) “the life you two are living is pure bullshit” and had my wife crying in her own house. I sent my mother home on the spot for that one.

    Granted, most times now she doesn’t do that, but she can be bad about rattling on & on about how lazy and selfish she thinks that is.

    Again, looking ahead 25-30 years, if my son & his wife do the attachment parenting and co-sleeping thing, I will be adamantly against it, and it’s fine that in a limited way I let it be known that I don’t agree with the practice, but I sure can’t be preachy about it to them, and sure not ugly, and I sure as heck better not be going into their room in the middle of the night “would you put that baby in its own room already” etc (the equivalent of what my mother did). Even in expressing my opinion, I have to do so very carefully and delicately else it goes from just letting them know what my position is and turns into preaching and being ugly, which is NOT okay I don’t care if I am my son’s father. It’s a violation of boundaries.


  84. Papilio March 27, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    @pentamom: No no no, that was not what I meant! Apparently I wasn’t clear enough. The way I saw it wasn’t ‘woman is annoying and needs to sh*t up’. I thought it sounded like this grandma is *worrying* about whether her little boy is a responsible dad and stuff, so maybe it would help to say ‘it’s okay, I got it, stop worrying, they’ll be fine’. Reassurance, not ‘a lesson’. Showing/telling mom you’re capable – hence my joke about WWM 30 years later.
    I would never offend people or recommend others to do so. (At least not on purpose. The point is that I have to translate what I want to say into a language that is not my own. So I have to work within the limits of my second language vocabulary and dito knowledge of how to put certain things in a way that I’m not misunderstood – knowledge that lacks many many of the subtle differences in meaning and associations that come with certain words. Just because you can’t read my accent doesn’t mean I don’t have one 😉 )

  85. Emily March 27, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    @Pentamom–I agree. The thing with watching kids at every practice, for every activity, is, not only is it counterproductive when kids show off for their parents, or parents try to intervene, but it also defeats part of the purpose of the exercise. When you send a school-aged child to, say, dance class (so, the child is past the age where these classes are labelled as “parent participation classes,”) then yes, the main purpose of the class is for the child to learn to dance, but the other, equally important component, is for the child to learn to be okay being without Mommy or Daddy for the duration of the dance lesson, and to learn to trust and respect the dance instructor as the adult in charge. If Junior gets accustomed to this routine, then it won’t be a shock when the dance instructor (instead of Mommy or Daddy) has to be the one to administer the Band-Aid or ice pack in the case of an injury; whereas a child whose parents always come along, but can’t attend one time, would probably have a total meltdown if the dance instructor had to be the one to perform first aid on him or her in the absence of the parents. Also, under normal circumstances, obeying non-parent, third-party adults is an important skill for kids to have, so they don’t cause trouble with school teachers, babysitters, camp counsellors, etc.

  86. Papilio March 27, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    Just read LRH’s new comment – okay, she IS annoying…

  87. Puzzled March 27, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    I just had an upsetting experience directly related to this topic. I work at a boarding school, and once a year we have a day set aside as campus clean-up day. We do the kinds of tasks that need to be done but are constantly set aside, reorganize all the common areas, get into attics and basements, etc. Then we have a community brunch.

    The tradition began a few years ago under the influence of a few science teachers. We have a pond on campus that had become totally overgrown and horrid – you could hardly tell there was a pond there, the water was fetid, and nothing lived there. Over the summer, one science teacher began, on his own time, cutting away at the trees with an axe – soon, the school saw the potential and brought in machinery and such.

    At the same time, we received bad news from the family of one of our special graduates – he had gone off to his first-choice college, and while there, met a girl, broken up with her, and killed himself. I went with the Headmaster to the memorial service, and they told us that the wanted to make a memorial at the school – of the 5 schools he had attended, we were the only one he talked of fondly, he had stayed with us the longest – almost a full year – and had graduated from our school.

    So, we decided to have this clean-up day, focusing on the pond, and make the pond a memorial thinking-place, together with a stone bench and one of those open-book statues.

    Simultaneously, another science teacher noticed that we had sugar maples all over campus, and worked out a project to do with all the students of tapping them for sap and boiling syrup.

    So, all these ideas came together with clean-up day followed by pancakes with our own school-made maple syrup. For years now, students have always seen this as a special day, a tradition they look forward to, and a source of pride.

    Today, every group seemed to have that except mine. My group of 4 – we cleaned the storage attic and then the recreation hall – set out with an attitude of “we can’t believe we pay to come here and they make us work.” If you’re looking to be unhappy, of course, you will be. All but one of them were difficult students – bright, unwilling to open themselves and express interests or likes and dislikes, always trying to figure out the minimum they can do and learn to get through. Their approach to the work was the same – an attempt to figure out how to pass the time with the minimum amount of work.

    What these 4 had in common was that, with perhaps a few exceptions, they were the most privileged and had the most parental involvement. Their parents called to inquire about their grades weekly (and parents get a full written report each week.) One wants to transfer to a school with less support – his parents said no, he asked some more, and they said yes, then gave him the forms to fill out and get recommendations – he didn’t do it, so the mother emailed me for a recommendation. Yes, a student who wants to escape from us sat with me daily for 20-30 minutes and couldn’t be bothered to ask me for a letter, then his mother – who doesn’t want him to transfer – had to do it for him.

    Anyway, my point is, the parental involvement did not seem to have been good for these students. The remarks they made – “We don’t pay to have to do things” “When I’m older, I’m not going to clean, I’m going to hire people to clean, so why do I need to know how?” showed a complete helplessness, and a lack of shame in that helplessness. I asked them – don’t you want to feel proud when people look at this room and know you cleaned it – instead of them looking and not believing that you cleaned it since it looks unchanged? They clearly couldn’t care less. It’s a peculiar thing to see in a young person – and can only, I think, result from parents who do everything for their kids.

    I also think it’s something we as a school need to get better at fixing and recognizing. We’ve been dealing with their academic issues one at a time, instead of thinking about them connecting in this way. School work can help if it gives students the experience to do something worthwhile and take pride in the result, instead of only doing things because some taskmaster (me, in this case) demands that it be done.

  88. Donna March 27, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    @LRH –

    This is definitely a pick-your-battles situation.

    To the extent that someone was going into my room and yelling at my wife (I don’t have a wife, but you get what I mean) to get out of bed and making my wife cry, I would say something. Your wife should not have to put up with that in her own home and it is your job to address it with your mother.

    To the extent she is just being annoying and different, you need to let it go. You only see her 4-5 days a year and it hardly seems worth it to cause a lot of commotion over silly things.

    “if my son & his wife do the attachment parenting and co-sleeping thing, I will be adamantly against it, and it’s fine that in a limited way I let it be known that I don’t agree with the practice”

    My question is why exactly do you feel the need to say anything at all? If they ask your opinion on attachment parenting, by all means give your opinion. But if your adult children are not asking your opinion on their parenting style, why do you feel that you need to express it anyway?

    My mother said that she thinks “parenting” adult children is harder than parenting children. You have to let them lead their own lives and support them in things that you don’t approve of. It is hard to know when to say something before they get to the edge and when to just let them go off the cliff.

  89. LRH March 27, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    Donna The sort of “annoying” things I’m referring to is where, if I were to let my child play without me hovering over them, she would all but yell “go play with your damn child already, what kind of parent are you!” with a sort of “Dr Laura” tone if you know what I mean, where she has “hissed” it. She may be my mother, but she needs to respect that I am that child’s father, not her, and that she is my mother and the child’ grandmother doesn’t make it okay to all but boss me around like I’m 12.

    Then there’s the time she bought our girl shoes which tied, and when I told her that I appreciated that but that our girl typically wears velcro and I prefer that because the hassle of shoestrings annoys me, she hissed again “that’s so lazy, using VELCRO shoes!!” (Heck, if they were easier to find in the store, I’d get velcro shoes for myself.)

    Note: she is not always like that, but she is often-times, and I think that it is wrong. The last time she was here, right before we left her hotel, she said to my wife “get off your ass and help him out around the house once in a while.” I let it go, because the trip was almost over, but I was not pleased. I thought about it from my angle: if someone in her family said something like that to me, and with that sort of “hissing” tone to it, I’d told them real quick-like where to shove it. I wish my wife had done so, she’s just too timid to stand up for herself, had she done so I’d fallen in love with her all over again.

    My wife, I think, has a sort of “panic attack” thing going on, when she heard my mother was going to be here, she immediately became all jittery and nervous and going on all day long about it. On one hand, my wife is responsible for her own response to things, but then again, there is no one else, except maybe CPS, that elicits that sort of nervousness in her. Everyone else, be it mutual friends of ours, members of her family, or for that matter friends of mine or members of MY family, elicits no such response from her, because all have gone out of their way to be accepting of her just as she is, and respectful of the boundary as her being the wife.

    The thing I would be okay with “going along with” for 4-5 days would be going places and doing she likes for those days, even if it’s things I don’t really find fun, for her sake. That’s fine, but respect that I’m grown and the parent. It may be hard to be the parent of a 44 year-old, but that doesn’t make it okay to be ugly and snappy.

    As for the future scenario–yes I would, in a GENTLE way, let my opinion be known about what I think of attachment parenting, but only in a GENTLE way, because I think the younger generation is supposed to respect the older one and listen to their words of wisdom and ponder them. (That also explains why I haven’t shut my mother out, because sometimes she serves that role well, managing to suppress the “hissy” and ugly tone, and so I’m able to show respect easily.) Even then, if I sensed that my doing so would cause problems for them much as what I’m talking about in the present tense, I’d zip my lips, I’d bite my tongue. I would save my “rants” for online forums under a username or friends my own age who don’t know my children, I would sure not be reading the riot act or have a “hissing” tone towards my son and his in-law in that scenario. I sure hope I don’t do that. I have to respect that those decisions are THEIRS to make, not mine, no matter what I think of them.


  90. pentamom March 27, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

    It’s all good, Papilio — I was just offering a different perspective, I wasn’t trying to scold you or suggest that I thought your advice was terrible. Thanks for being understanding, and don’t take so much of the blame to your lack of facility with English — it looks pretty good to me!

  91. pentamom March 27, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    LRH — yes, when it’s issues of outright nastiness and berating your wife, that should be addressed. But I think you need to understand that the problem is not that she has different ideas about parenting your kids than you do and expresses them, it’s the WAY she does it. Parents of adults don’t need to be made to butt out of their kids’ lives and cease to have opinions or express them, but all adults need to treat each other with respect and observe boundaries. That’s where you draw the line — where she’s unkind and speaks without respect to you or your wife or children, not where she tells you you’re wrong. You don’t have to listen to her advice, but you don’t have the right not to get told you’re wrong, by a parent or by anyone else. My opinion is worth what you’re paying for it, I guess, but in my opinion that distinction is important.

  92. Katie March 27, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    This is great, very true, and I enjoyed reading it.

    In fact I think one of the worst things you can do for a child is always make it about them. I see too many parents doing this. And I know see too many spoiled childish young adults who had this done to them and think the whole world revolves around them.

  93. Katie March 27, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

    PS. This isn’t too say you shouldn’t spend good quality time with your child. That is important too and sadly I’ve seen the other extreme as well. It should be a balance.

  94. LRH March 27, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    pentamom Exactly. Ironically, my mother-in-law, who lives nearby, often-times epitomizes what you’re talking about. She often-times is anti-free range, but besides also being complimentary a lot of the time, she also voices her non freerange opinions about things in a way that isn’t abrasive, but is very gentle, and is still very respectful of how it’s up to me and her daughter (my wife) the decisions which are made.

    To wit: my wife doesn’t like chocolate being given to our kids, at all, any zilch, and even when her mother wants to give them chocolate, she makes a point not to out of respect for her daughter’s wishes as the mother.

    Now, she may on occasion say “c’mon, a little chocolate is okay, it’s not like I’m giving them candy bars for lunch” but it’s still not NASTY or with a “hissing” tone when she does so, just as she’s at times said she’s not sure I should our kids play in our driveway even though it’s a private driveway & not at all bustling with cars because “someone could still run over them.” My mother may feel the same, but she says so in a far uglier tone, and THAT is where I get upset.

    And she doesn’t quit, even when you ask her to, that’s the thing–or she quits for a short while, then it reappears, when it shouldn’t (and I say that knowing that no one’s perfect and we all have quirks which others tolerate from us).


  95. Katie March 27, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    @LRH That basically describes my mother-in-law actually I think mine might be worse.

    How do I deal? Okay this is going to sound really bad to those who don’t deal with it but I think those who do will get it. We deal with it with a lot of lying, doing things behind her back, and telling her yes and then just doing what we want. If its a minor thing we might just do it. Similar to your mom she doesn’t live close to us and we only see her probably less the one week per year.

    Also do something nice for your wife afterwards. Something relaxing.

  96. Libby March 27, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    Hear, hear! There are a few words that we don’t allow at our house; “bored” and “I can’t” are among them.

  97. Emily March 27, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    LRH–I take back what I said about sending your kids off on a “Grandma outing” with your mother, because your mother sounds completely bat-crap crazy. In fact, if you hate having her visit so much, why don’t you maybe stop inviting her, and do maybe a weekly or biweekly “Skype visit” instead?

  98. hineata March 27, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    @LRH – I apologise. I thought your mum was probably just ‘normal’ irritating, funny even, but what you are describing doesn’t sound even remotely funny. I can understand your wife not necessarily standing up for herself, especially if she was raised to respect her elders – good on you for sending your mother packing that time.It is your home, and you really don’t have to put up with that sort of behaviour. You sound much more patient than I would be….

    Makes me oh so glad my mum-in-law and I don’t speak the same languages. Makes communication so much easier….

  99. linvo March 28, 2013 at 1:23 am #

    This made me go “Yes! Yes! Yes”.

    There is an online local news forum I sometimes frequent and if you dare ask any questions like “Is there a playground anywhere in the area where parents can have a decent cup of coffee nearby while the kids play” are met with a barrage of insults which can be summarised as “If you weren’t prepared to become a martyr and practically die for your kids every day, you shouldn’t have had any”. But I bet they are the same people who whine about the current generation of kids growing up thinking the world revolves around them and behave like spoilt brats. Go figure.

  100. ECB March 28, 2013 at 6:17 am #

    I’m not a parent, so maybe I don’t understand all of these posts which seem to advocate punishing kids with a list of chores if they dare to complain about boredom. Obviously parents shouldn’t be expected to wear a clown suit and entertain their kids 24/7. But is there some reason they can’t offer a few suggestions, or at the very least, empathize?

    I’m guessing that everyone here is perfectly capable of entertaining themselves. However, I’d also be willing to bet that there have been times in your lives where you have just been bored out your skulls. Where you couldn’t think of something to do to save your lives, and even the most exciting things seemed like watching paint dry. Now, I’m guessing that at least one of you tried calling up a friend to see if he had any suggestions. I’d be willing to bet that he didn’t say “Oh you’re bored. I’ll show you bored. Come over here and mow my lawn and paint my garage.” That doesn’t really make sense, does it?

    I realize this is supposed to be some sneaky way to stimulate your kids’ creative juices, but it just comes of as “how dare you come to your parents with help with a problem” to me. So, maybe somebody could explain it to me.

  101. Emily March 28, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    @LRH–If you really want Velcro shoes for yourself, I found some here:


  102. Emily March 28, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    @ECB–I agree. My parents did the “chore” thing too when my brother and I complained of boredom, but they didn’t actually make us do the chores; they just came up with a few as a deterrent. Of course, what made it really infuriating was the fact that they used this tactic after telling us we couldn’t watch TV, couldn’t leave the house, couldn’t have friends over, couldn’t do a craft, etc., etc., etc.

  103. LRH March 28, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    EMILY I really appreciate the link about the Velcro shoes. Assuming they ship to the US from Canada for a decent rate, I’m getting them. I’m used to cheap shoes and they’re $90, but if they last longer and provide better support, what the hey.

    Maybe I’ll even see if they have any that are my kids’ size and tell my mother if she wants to buy them nicer shoes for school etc to get those, ha ha.

    AGPtek TP10V Android 4.0 Tablet

  104. Warren March 28, 2013 at 10:17 am #


    Not an easy situation, when you are trying to keep peace.
    I have also found that the peacekeeper is the one that suffers most.

    With the way she talks to your wife, I would not stand for it. Mother or not, just a few days a year or more, disrespect is disrespect. If my mother had spoke to the mother of my kids that way, she would be told, “Until you can be respectful, you are no longer welcome in our home.”

    Put it this way, if I ever visited my parents and told my mom to get off her ass, my old man would knock me on my ass, and toss me out the door.

    It is one thing to put up with some meddling, that in the long run does no harm, and even the kids end up seeing it as being Grandma’s old fashioned ways. But the outright disrespect of your wife, I wouldn’t be able to let that slide.

    Do not confuse a common practice, of the chore jar, with it being an absolute 100% of the time response. I am sure the parents in here, that use the chore deterent, also temper it. If they are truly busy, that is one thing, but if I am just reading the paper or watching a game, then we usually end up on a family dog walk.

  105. Emily March 28, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    @LRH–I just found a page full of cheaper Velcro shoes for adults, but it’s a Canadian page too:


  106. Havva March 28, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    Regarding the watching of practice/training. Just wanted to add a little perspective from the 1990’s.

    I took ballet for 10 years. My teacher had a policy that parents were allowed to watch one lesson per month, only in the first week of the month.

    My dad came to watch every single month. He was the only parent who did that…the only one. In a few years it became noticeable as other parent quit coming all together. I actually felt pressured to send my dad away.

    As our numbers of classes per week expanded the parent gallery got thinned out, initially by spreading the parents out over the week, and at the same time by somehow reducing the appeal. Soon on parents week the carpools where still running, and even the mom running the carpool didn’t stay.

    I think by kicking parents out of the classroom, our teacher clearly established that the amount of work to dance ballet well was a personal journey. It was something we must do for our own reasons, for ourselves and not others. It was one of the few activities where I never heard a student complain that their parents were making them continue when they wanted out.

  107. Lisa March 28, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    @ECB, I think it’s a matter of not *always* entertaining them. We all feel bored sometimes, and it’s not generally a matter of not being able to think of something that needs to be done. I will suggest chores in response to whining about being bored. If my daughter tells me calmly without whining that she’s bored, and asks me to play a game, I might do so, or I might say “not right now” and suggest that she go outside and play, write a story, do a craft, etc. I might even tell her what *I* am planning to do and ask if she’d like to join me. Or I might say “I know, I’m bored too… let’s DO something today” and we can think of a fun outing together. It’s the whining that deserves chores as a response.
    That, or if she’s bored and there are chores that really need to be done, that she should have completed earlier…

  108. Emily March 28, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    About the “chores as response to kids’ boredom” thing–I’m glad that most people don’t do it 100% of the time, or do what my parents did, and remove any and all “fun” options, and then blame the child for it. Lisa and Warren, I like your approach.

    As for watching lessons and practices, we have a good discussion going about that, I think, but there’s one thing we forgot–private lessons. Now, as most people here know, I’ve taught some private clarinet lessons out of my house, and at a few different music studios, both before I went off to Australia, and since I got back. While I was in Australia, I briefly played in the wind ensemble, at the local Conservatory (I ultimately left, because it was mostly teenagers, and I felt like the only adult in what was effectively a high school band outside of high school). Anyway, there was one girl in my section whose mom was a bit of a Tiger Mom, and she’d sit in on our wind ensemble rehearsals, and also her daughter’s clarinet and viola lessons, and record the lessons on her iPhone. As a result, this girl didn’t enjoy music; she saw it as yet another chore that had to be completed, to a certain standard, to please her mother–on top of earning good grades at her incredibly demanding private school.

    Anyway, ever since I met this girl, I’ve decided, very firmly, that when I’m teaching a young person private clarinet lessons, I will not allow the parents to sit in. I could say, “student’s choice,” but often, the parents are paying, so they could threaten to stop paying if the student didn’t “choose” to allow them to sit in. By making it a unilateral policy, the students can “blame” me. Fortunately, this has never come up, but I don’t see myself changing my mind about it. I’m not worried that the parent would pull their child out over something like that either, because there aren’t a lot of clarinet teachers to choose from here.

  109. Lisa March 28, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    @Emily: you might try setting a positively-framed policy, rather than saying they can’t sit in. We do that with kids a lot, but forget that even adults respond better to being told what they CAN do than what they CAN’T. I have to admit, music lessons are the activity I’m *least* likely to drop my daughter off at. I’ve tried, and occasionally managed to run a quick errand, but it’s really not possible to do anything productive. A 3 hour play rehearsal, yes. 30 minute voice lesson, no. So I stay. Her teacher has a waiting area set up, with comfortable chairs, a stack of magazines, wifi, and generally just a pleasant environment. It never occurred to me to ask if I could watch, because I was told right off the bat that I could sit there while I was waiting. Now, it IS nice that I can sometimes hear what’s going on in the studio, and I do listen sometimes. Usually, though, I’m on my iPhone, laptop, or I bring a book.

  110. Warren March 28, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    As a coach for softball, and hockey, there were more rules for the parents. And there were different rules for games and different ones for practise.

    1. During practise, parents were to keep quiet. As this is instructional time, and the player needs to be focused on the coaches, not their parents.
    2. If you do not like the drills we run, keep it to yourself, or find another team.
    3. If you do not like the skills being taught, keep it to yourself, or find another team.
    4. Girls and boys are equal, and will be treated as such.
    5. At games, cheer for all the players, or do not cheer at all. We are promoting teamwork, and community. If you want to cheer for just your kid, put him or her in tennis.
    6. Coaches decide when and where your child plays, no exception.
    7. Coaches retain the right to ask you to leave the area, for the benefit of your child, or the team.

    These rules came about in order to control the parents that range from thinking they have the next World Series MVP, to the parents that think their little china doll cannot run laps with everyone else. With the parents well under control, the kids always had great experiences. Because it was their time, with their team.

  111. ECB March 28, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    Thanks to everyone for answering my question. I pretty much figured if a kid is whining for you to spend time with him, without even trying to find something to do on his own, then it was OK to break out the chores. It’s just that some of the posts made it sound like kids shouldn’t be bored. Or at the very least, they should keep any feelings of boredom a deep dark secret. I don’t mean in the sense that they should be entertained every minute of the day. I mean in the sense that experiencing boredom is considered some sort of moral defect that parents need to discipline.

  112. Emily March 28, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    @Lisa–The most positive way I can frame the “no parents at lessons” rule is, “Parents are encouraged to watch their child perform, but private lessons should be kept private, in order to encourage independence, and help the student form his or her own relationship with the instrument.” I know that sounds silly, but the way my young colleague in wind ensemble described things, her mom was pretty much running the show with her music lessons, and she had almost no say in the matter, with regard to what ensembles she played in, what repertoire she played in her lessons, how much she practiced, and she *had* to play both the clarinet and the viola, and couldn’t pick one or the other, or neither, or something else entirely. It was really sad, because she was a fairly good clarinetist, considering she was thirteen (high school is grades 7-12 in Australia), but she didn’t enjoy playing, because her mom was cramming music down her throat instead of giving her room to experience it on her own terms.

  113. Emily March 28, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

    >>The sense that experiencing boredom is considered some sort of moral defect that parents need to discipline.<<

    That's EXACTLY how my parents felt!!! I don't really get bored now, but I'm not sure if that's because of their "excellent parenting," or because my entertainment options now are more varied than "read a book," or "clean your room." Now, I also have the option to play the clarinet or the piano, watch TV, draw, make something, surf the Internet, or go somewhere if I want to–pretty much anywhere I want to go.

  114. Warren March 28, 2013 at 10:18 pm #

    @Emily and others

    One of the reasons, more so with younger kids, that parents should walk away from lessons, or practices, is that kids cannot help but look for mom and dad.

    To see if they are actually paying attention and to see if they approve of what they are doing.
    These are just distractions, that the kids and instructors, and coaches do not need.

  115. hineata March 28, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

    @Emily – I like your style. Midge’s violin teacher was Malaysian Chinese, and she always wanted us parents in the lesson taking notes so we could help the kids at home. Not so bad, ended up making friends with her and several of the other parents, so it became another social outlet I suppose, but me, I would have prefered reading my book outside in the car, LOL!

    So, parent to teacher, make those lessons as private as you like 🙂

  116. Donna March 29, 2013 at 1:32 am #

    I enjoy watching my kid’s lessons. Lessons are generally an hour max – not enough time to do anything unless it is right there. Except for a few months of the year, I’d rather sit inside in the heat/air con than in the car. I usually have a book or smartphone but I watch off and on during the class. I’m not sure why not really feeling like racing around town during an hour lesson constitutes helicopter parenting.

  117. hineata March 29, 2013 at 5:58 am #

    @Donna – in three words, peace and quiet :-).’Specially back when I spent my weeks with other peoples’ toddlers. But each to their own. Milder weather where we are too, probably wouldn’t want to stay in the car if it was boiling hot or snowing, either, LOL! Don’t think it’s helicoptering, just personally prefer not to watch.

    That said, the girls have just started cheerleading, and am turning up early to see them do a bit of that, because it’s quite fascinating – so not like the movies. Midge, for example, is totally unco-ordinated, but she doesn’t have to be for what they have her doing – basically, because she’s little, she just gets tossed. Find myself sitting there with my stomach in my mouth, because they keep dropping/nearly dropping her, but she’s having fun doing what’s effectively gymnastics without needing gymnastics skills of her own 🙂

    So, am personally finding some activities are worth watching, at least for now….

  118. pentamom March 29, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    “I’m not a parent, so maybe I don’t understand all of these posts which seem to advocate punishing kids with a list of chores if they dare to complain about boredom. Obviously parents shouldn’t be expected to wear a clown suit and entertain their kids 24/7. But is there some reason they can’t offer a few suggestions, or at the very least, empathize?”

    I agree. there’s a balance. I was thinking of it as though the complaining were habitual. In that case, the kids need to learn two things: how to entertain themselves, and not to complain about a life so privileged they find lots of time on their hands. But if it’s just “Gee, I’ve run out of things to do, and I’m kind of bored,” and only now and then, I don’t have an issue with that, and sure, some suggestions are great. I actually do have this problem with my son — he’s just not a hands-on person, and quite extroverted and he can only read so much (which is quite a lot), is limited to a pretty generous but not infinite amount of screen time, and we live in a neighborhood where for some reason, the kids are given a lot of freedom in the summer but are kept under lock and key until the temperature hits 40F. Being extroverted, he’s just not good at the “playing outside alone” thing. So he does get bored and need suggestions, but not because he’s not willing to try to be on his own or feels the need for constant entertainment.

  119. pentamom March 29, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Emily, I’d suggest that you do the “positive” thing first, as in, “I think you’d be more comfortable sitting over here.” If a parent insists on sitting in and meddling, then I think it’s just time (if you can possibly afford to risk losing a student) to phone the parent later and inform her that you cannot continue teaching her child unless you have the child’s full attention and complete control over the lesson time, which is not possible with a parent present in the actual studio. Unless the child is focused and is taking direction only from you during lesson time, you do not feel you can provide appropriate instruction. All this can be said very nicely and is not the least bit unkind — it is purely phrased in terms of what is required to teach effectively, not at all aimed toward a personal desire not to have that particular person around.

  120. Lisa March 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    @pentamom, thank you for saying what I meant so much better! Just provide, and direct them to, a comfortable and suitable place to wait. In my daughter’s case, it is a waiting area outside the actual studio, and I was told very nicely when she first started that this area was set up as a place where I could relax while I wait. In hindsight, it was a great way to make it clear to me that I was expected NOT to go into the room; at the time, though, it came across as thoughtful, not exclusionary.
    If a parent does need to be spoken to, it’s easy enough to say that you feel it is not a good fit, as it seems the family may be looking for a more parent-participatory environment than you wish to provide. (Some music classes, I believe, ARE like this… I know people who swear by the Suzuki method).

  121. Emily March 29, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    @Pentamom–One of the nice things about the clarinet is the fact that you don’t get any really young students, because there are certain “growth milestones” a young person has to reach before beginning. A person beginning the clarinet must have adequate hand strength to hold one (of course), big enough fingertips to cover the holes, and their adult teeth must be grown in, because when you play the clarinet, you have to rest your front teeth on the mouthpiece. So, I’ve never had a student young enough for parents to feel like they need to stay and hover for “safety” reasons, or because the child gets anxious away from his or her parents; it’s more “Tiger Mom” behaviour that I don’t want to see. It didn’t even occur to me to come up with that rule until I met my young colleague in wind ensemble whose mother acted as a “musical micromanager,” and as I’ve said, I’ve never had to enforce it, but honestly, if it came up, and the parent threatened to pull their child from studying with me if they couldn’t watch their every move during lessons, I still wouldn’t let them bully me into changing my teaching style, because I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a young person having an unpleasant experience with music.

    I’ve also seen a fair bit of craziness like that during rehearsals for my steel pan drum group that I joined about six weeks ago. For example, there’s the twelve-year-old whose mother requires her to stay in constant cell phone contact during rehearsals (by texting), and the FIFTEEN-year-old who had to quit the group because her parents won’t let her out of their sight, and didn’t feel like coming to rehearsals anymore. I had a bit of a time trying to explain to the twelve-year-old why it was rude to use a cell phone during a group activity, but she said that her mom wouldn’t let her turn off this “electronic leash” regardless. It’s interesting, because the drumming group is for all ages–kids, teens, and all ages of (un-background-checked!!!) adults participate together, and our youngest member is seven years old, our teacher is probably somewhere in his 50’s or 60’s, and the rest of the group is a mixed bag of kids, adolescents, twenty-and-thirty-somethings, and middle-agers. But, even though I’m only 28, it seems like a lot of the rules have changed–the standards of “safety” have gone way up, and rules of etiquette that were drilled into my head even in high school and university (like, no cell phones at rehearsal), don’t seem to exist anymore. I had a word with the teacher about the phones, and he agreed, but I don’t think anything is going to come of it. I’ve also seen young teenagers in yoga class whose parents require them to keep their cell phones on, which seems excessive too–this is at the YMCA, in a room full of responsible adults, with an instructor who’s trained in First Aid, so I don’t get the need for constant parent-to-child contact.

  122. Janika March 29, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    It occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that the children best able to handle the realities and responsibilities of life are those who face tragedy like death of a parent or alcoholic parents. I was thinking about that kid who walked 10 miles in the snow for a job interview. If kids don’t need anything, nothing motivates them. We cannot provide all of their needs without damaging their ability to provide for themselves. Therefore, bad parents are good and “good parents” needs to be redefined. Good post.

  123. pentamom March 30, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    Janika, actually, children in those situations tend to suffer from forced maturity too quickly. They cope with practical matters very well, but their emotional maturity tends to be less healthy, due to not having developed in a natural way. This applies more to kids who have something like alcoholic or mentally ill parents or lose a parent and do not receive good support thereafter — it’s not so much the case with kids who face challenges like having to work hard to overcome poverty or get an education, absent those other issues. Bad parents aren’t really good parents in the long run — there are just some side benefits to go with the tragedy.

  124. Jessica Smock March 30, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    I love this! I’ve been thinking about this so much this week. I wrote a post about my own childhood and being bored after I read a recent study on creativity. It was done on artists, writers, creative types during adulthood, and they all traced their artistic and intellectual successes to the role of solitude, free time, and, yes, boredom during their childhoods. If you have someone hovering over you all day long, how do you develop the ability to daydream, ponder about things on your own, and just sit and think? Here’s my post on this recent and my childhood: http://www.schoolofsmock.com/2013/03/25/10-things-i-learned-because-i-was-a-bored-kid/

  125. Suzanne March 30, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Love this!

  126. Courageous Mama Jane April 28, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    I’ve always been the mom who might not even get out of the Mom-mobile at the playground! (Lest you judge, I don’t live in a major city. I’m still within steps of the playground. But I’m not giving up my cushy seat in exchange for a hard bench just to be closer while my kids play without me.)


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