How not to raise a kid

Our guest this week is Tanya Gunderson, long time West Kelowna resident and mother of two teens and a mini dachshund. She is a diehard optimist, although the kids know her better as ‘lame’. The dog is on the fence about it.


I'm part of Generation X. My parents raised me pretty well for the most part. I’m sure I have issues that stem from childhood, but I’m so busy working and driving my teens everywhere that I haven’t had a lot of time to dwell on what those issues may be. What I DO have a lot of time for in between the terribly staggered work schedules of my kids, is time to reflect on what is going on with their generation — aka, the Millennials.

This generation is known for being glued to their screens — whether it’s a computer, iPod or phone. As the parents raising this generation, we often hear and complain about their lack of manners, laziness, sense of entitlement and poor penmanship (ask any teacher about this one). 

We conclude that kids now have no motivation to move on and move out and they are void of social skills due to the screen time they log.

They don’t read books or magazines like we used to and creative activities like painting and building forts went the way of the Walkman. They struggle with solving basic life problems and expect to put in little effort for mass reward.
Ok, so some of these complaints are valid and in some cases, true. 

But how did this generation form these habits? I’m sure you’ve heard my fellow Gen Xers say that when we were growing up, if we did something bad, we were spanked or grounded. We all compare horror stories of chores we were expected to have done before our parents came home from work. If we wanted to go somewhere, we hopped on our gearless pedal bikes or, gasp; walked. We would never dream of asking our parents for a ride to our friend’s down the road. And even if we did ask, they’d tell us no and to use the pedal bike that they paid good money for. For the most part though, most of my generation think we were well raised and that we have the values and morals to back that.

I’ve said many times that, as a parent to teens, I don’t condone the talking back and laziness, and I never “taught” my kids these habits. But I admit, these traits exist in my home. I stress more over their grades than they do because they don’t seem to grasp the importance of needing a post-secondary education so they can move out and start their own lives.  

Then, there are the silly things I do, like worry if they have clean clothes to wear or if they packed a lunch for school. I spend time wondering if they remembered to plug in their phones and hope they remembered to look at the transit schedule so they know the exact minute their bus shows up. I take it personally when one of their friends hurts their feelings, and I get downright crotchety if another parent dares to “talk smack” about my kid —even if it may be deserved. I tend to be a helicopter parent.  I hover around them, making sure little harm comes their way. 

I mean, what would happen if let them go to school with clothes that weren’t “Tide fresh?” Or perhaps they’ll starve without a lunch packed from home. And, quel horreur!  What if their phone batteries die and they can’t plug them in. How in the world will they communicate?

You may laugh, but I’m willing to bet my American Netflix subscription that you know another parent like this or you yourself are one.

Here’s the problem with this form of parenting though. We're not allowing our kids to experience the necessary trials and tribulations of growing up. In our quest to protect them from sadness, hurt, disappointment, etc., we’re  hindering their abilities to cope with negativity and placing undue expectations on them that everything in life is easy.

For example: If we’re the one who confronts the friend they’re having an argument with or call the other kid’s parents, we’re really just teaching our child how to pass on the accountability for any of their actions that contributed to that argument in the first place. 

My mom taught me how to run the washing machine when I was in Grade 2 as well as cook dinner by the time I was in Grade 3. She worked the night shift at her job so needed to catch up on sleep during the day when we were at school. So someone had to deal with my and my brother’s laundry. Same thing for making supper. She was at work, but my dad still needed a hot supper ready when he arrived home after a two-hour commute. Not once did I resent those responsibilities because there was no option offered to me. I had to do it, simple as that.  And now, those very skills learned at a young age, have served me well in my adulthood.

Our inclination to worry that our kids’ every need, whim and desire is met, is actually creating a generation of kids who experience anxiety when forced to make a life decision and who lack coping skills when faced with a situation that demands they use basic problem solving skills. The incidences of adolescent anxiety and depression is higher than in the past even though we are trying harder than ever to give our kids that perfect, sitcom life. Our kids are scared to make mistakes and fail us, which makes us contributors to their lack of coping skills.

What else are we not doing? We’re not giving our kids the chance to experience the thrill of winning a hard- fought soccer or softball game because there are no winners or losers.They will never know the fear of failing a course or grade because no one is held back. So how do we expect them to stay motivated knowing they’re going to get a “free pass,” no matter what? 

This isn’t the way real life works. In real, adult life, you have to apply for a job and nail the interview better than the hundreds of other applicants in order to be awarded the position. And no one can do the interview for you; it’s all up to you. And if you’re not the lucky person who gets hired….hey, better luck next time. The employer isn’t going to offer you a runner-up, consolation prize.

So my fellow well-intentioned parents, as the generation raising these over-sheltered kids, we need to learn to just back off. Let them fight their own fights. Let them learn the sting of losing a game. Let them feel the fear of not passing a course and not having enough credits to graduate. Let them make dinner, do laundry, be in charge of the dog’s well being and remember to take out the garbage on garbage day — and don’t pay them!

Let them wander the mall without you, buy their own ice-cream cone, buy a shirt you hate and take the transit on their own. Let them grow up. Let them experience. Let them fail. Let them succeed. Just let them. 

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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