Posted on January 31, 2015 | No Comments
by Linda Herman, LMHC
Posted Saturday, 1/31/15
This is a question I have heard repeatedly since writing Parents to the End. I heard it again two days ago, asked by a mom/grandmother. She wasn’t talking about her grown children, but her children’s children. Her adult children are doing well. They are respected professionals in their fields. But this woman has some concerns about the way her kids are parenting their own.
She is not alone.
In radio interviews and conversations across the country, as well as in my office, baby boomers are weighing in on this topic. They say, “I worry about the next generation of children. What will they be like?” While each generation differs somewhat in how it parents, some concerns are legitimate.
Here are two examples:
- A woman bemoans her adult son and his significant other living with them along with their three-year old. The young couple is not particularly motivated to take the next step towards independence. They don’t have enough money to pay rent, but manage to go to Starbucks several times a week. Their son is dropped from grandparent to grandparent, while his dad and mom each have a girl’s and guy’s night out weekly. The grandparents think that the grandson, who has every toy imaginable, is actually being neglected by his parents.
- A well-heeled couple, in a rush to get to their respective jobs daily, deals with the children’s whining by promising surprises at the end of each workday. The kids calm down, but fully expect some new distractions when Mommy and Daddy get home. Heaven forbid if they forget to make that stop at the store after work. Grandma wonders about the messages sent with the constant delivery of new toys.
I observed this next example two days ago in a restaurant. A family of five came in at about the same time that my husband and I did. The group included the mom and dad, their preteen daughter, and what appeared to be the two grandfathers. It initially looked like a happy group. Since they were sitting at a table next to ours, I had a good opportunity to casually observe. The grandparents and the girl repeatedly initiated conversations with the parents. But during the somewhat long wait for dinner to be served−it was a busy place−the parents eyes were focused on their phones. They were each almost oblivious to the presence of everyone else, as they texted the entire time. Their daughter, who was sitting next to them in the booth, watched them closely with her elbow on the table and her chin resting on the palm of her hand. I wondered if this was business as usual for her. Occasionally the parents would glance up, but mostly when they responded their faces were still directed at the phones.
What a missed opportunity for all.
None of us were or ever will be perfect parents. But there are some lessons that benefit all children. These situations reminded me of a few of these lessons:
- Children need to learn to deal with delayed gratification. It is not the real world to have it all and have it right now.
- Whining should not be reinforced, whatever the reason.
- Time with family is the most precious gift of all. The best present is your presence. You are not fully there if you are preoccupied with texting or another activity. It is good to take breaks from your “connections” to your wireless world and to connect with the person sitting next to you.