Good parenting, or are we raising children to be spoonfed?
Are we raising children to be spoonfed?
Are we accidentally doing our children a disservice in our quest to be good parents?
In my last blog on diet culture, (read here: Link), I talked about the changes I have made in my home around mindful eating and helping my children reconnect with their internal hunger cues. I stopped telling them to finish their meals once they said they were full, even if I felt like they couldn’t possibly have consumed enough to be at that point. I discovered that I was much better able to support them to reclaim their innate cues, if I stopped overriding them, instead encouraging them to listen to and trust their own bodies.
This led me to think about other areas as parents where we take over from our children. I recently began reading a book by Michael Grose called ‘Spoonfed Generation’. In it, Michael talks about the generation of children caught between adolescence and adulthood, a group still heavily reliant on their parents emotionally and financially, a group he refers to as experiencing failure to launch. Is our current parenting style, where we think we’re doing the best for our kids, actually failing them?
I had taken control of my children’s eating life, I decided when they were hungry and when they were full. When I began my mindful eating journey, I saw the importance of encouraging my children to understand their choices. If they ate too much, their stomachs hurt, if they filled up on a big drink before a meal, they weren’t hungry for dinner and then they’d be hungry after the kitchen was closed. These became important natural consequences I wanted my children to learn.
Food for thought
One of the most interesting things I read in the book, was the mantra for parents of ‘don’t do regularly for your child, anything they can do for themselves’. In the time poor world in which we live, this can be a difficult proposition; you’re in a rush, you need your child’s shoe on, it takes them 5 minutes to put it on, you can do it in 30 seconds, we all know which option you go for, particularly when you’re in a hurry.
‘Spoonfed Generation’, poses the idea, that perhaps we are parenting our children dependant, meaning we’re robbing them of the opportunity to develop the skills required for them to become capable, competent and independent individuals.
I know that in my own home, my 7-year-old daughter likes to make the lunches for school. She butters the bread, puts on the appropriate fillings, peels the vegetables for fruit and veggie snacks and then puts it all together. My 9-year-old son on the other hand refuses to make toast for himself, claiming he’s no good at spreading the butter. Many would probably just make his toast for him, however of late, he and I have been in a Mexican standoff. I believe he is capable of buttering his toast, he believes he isn’t. Option A is he never eats toast again, option B was I taught him how.
What can we do?
Throughout my many years as a teacher, I’ve applied a similar strategy to learning. First students watch, then they help me, then they have a go while I help them, and finally, I watch as they do it for themselves, this is often referred to as the gradual release of power. What lesson are we teaching our children if we continually take these opportunities for them to grow and develop away from them? When we go to see their teacher at the first sign of a problem instead of encouraging them to have a conversation with their teacher, when we call another child’s parents instead of coaching our children through the skills of conflict resolution, we are letting them know that we don’t believe they can do things as well as we can.
It’s so important that we arm our children with confidence and resilience, so that they grow into risk takers, but we must also be prepared for them to experience the very natural feelings that go with failure, hardship and disappointment. More than anything, we need to empower our children to see their mistakes as a vehicle for learning instead of trying to protect them from making them. When my son said he couldn’t butter his toast, I reminded him of how he taught himself to ride a bike, every time he fell, he got back up and tried again. It’s not our job to do everything for our children, but it is certainly our job to remind them of their capabilities and to coach them towards success.
If we mirror optimism and resilience in our own approach to life, we help set our children up to follow our lead. Believe you can and you’re half way there.
What opportunity can you hand back to your kids?
Have you read my blog ‘Mummy you’re not going to be happy’?
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