There’s an old saying about babies not coming with a manual. If only that were true. It seems every time I look at social media, I read another article about how I should parent my child. I’m damaging them by shouting at them, harming them by not providing enough discipline, making them needy by picking them up every time they cry. And so it goes on.
The failed generation
Yesterday, I read yet another article that made me cross. It was entitled, “Millennials are struggling at work because their parents gave them medals for coming last.” Now firstly to avoid any confusion – millennials are generally accepted to be people born between 1982 and 2000. Although that timeframe may differ depending on what you’re reading.
The article – and accompanying video – talks of parents of millennials telling their children they could have anything they want in life. Status was everything and children were taught to put themselves first. Children were told how special they were and quite literally given medals for taking part – even when they came last. And the ‘expert’ in this article points out that this is the reason why millennials are struggling in work. He labels them as self-entitled, greedy and narcissistic.
And why has this person written off an entire generation? Because of the way their parents treated them when they were children. So clearly, parents are to blame for this epic failure. Well, I’d beg to differ.
A parent who does their best for their child is not a failure
Firstly, I don’t care how many ‘experts’ tell me that millennials are failing. They are wrong. A whole generation cannot be failing. In fact, people born in this era are succeeding in every conceivable walk of life. They are pioneers, leaders, scientists and olympians. They are parents, protesters, politicians and business people. Where there were no jobs available, they made their own as entrepreneurs.
Secondly, I am wholeheartedly against the idea that we should reward our children for turning up. I never felt comfortable with the removal of competitive races from sports days. It is important for children to learn that they won’t always be the best at things. Dealing with disappointment is an important lesson that should be learnt as a child, not as a teenager or an adult who is suddenly faced with failure for the first time.
And yet, I can’t criticise those parents who counselled their children in self-importance and glossed over failure. They didn’t wake up one morning and decide that this was the way they would parent. They followed guidance on the favoured parenting method of the time. Guidance that was provided by experts in the same field as those who are now telling them that they’ve created a monster.
So who should parents listen to?
Parents today are under more pressure than ever to do get it right. The ‘experts’ are still out in force, telling us how to look after our children. But now, they are everywhere. In an era of social media and internet access at our fingertips, parenting guilt is our worst enemy. It is impossible to get it right because whatever method we employ someone is always waiting to tell us that we’re wrong.
And what of the times we harp back to so fondly? The days of muddy fingernails and grazed knees where prices were cheap and children were wild and free. How did parents back then get it so right? Well I get the impression that in those days, babies didn’t come with a manual. Or an ‘expert’ force feeding you a side order of guilt with every meal.
It seems that back in the day, people parented by instinct. By spending every waking hour with their children when they were young, they became experts in their own right. They knew what was good for their own offspring, what made them happy and what method of discipline they responded to. When parents needed some help or advice, they asked for it from friends, family or professionals. Unwanted advice wasn’t forced upon them every time they opened a newspaper.
And surely, that is the right way to be. Allowing yourself to be happy and confident in the way you’re bringing up your children. Satisfied that your best is enough.
So the next time you find me agonising over the damage I’m doing to my children by not following the latest fad, you have permission to slap me. None of us are perfect, but we do our best for the children we know and love. And that’s enough.