I know. I know. I don't have kids of my own. However, I watch parents and have noticed this one. I just stumbled across this article on Anger. It discusses anger in response to a kid failing to meet expectations that are just totally wrong for their age and development. Again, I'm not a parent so I'm sure some of you think I don't have the right to have an opinion about this or be blogging about it. I did, however, have a parent that I mostly lived with who was this sort of parent. Thankfully, my mother was a good parent and she was a phone call away. Also, I was more neglected than yelled at for not living up to crazy standards.
In the article, the mother states that she wouldn't have any of her mother's “touchy-feely, psychological nonsense,” and that, “Children must be obedient without prizes, charts or notebooks.” Honestly, to some extent that might be true, especially for an older child. My mother didn't reward me for meeting expectations. She took privileges away when I didn't. Also, maybe I was a freak, but I really wanted to make my mother happy with me. I wanted to make the Honor Roll because she told me all the time that she wanted me to and thought that I could. There were no prizes for this.
The article mentions that often these children/teenagers, "turn to addictions for soothing, since a computer, chocolate or alcohol will never be angry, rejecting or disappointing.." It's probably good that I am only addicted to chocolate and not drugs or alcohol. Most of the rest of the article deals with anger, which is important to deal with, but my point in this blog post was to shed light on expecting kids to act as is appropriate for an older child could damage them. Sometimes, they need to be cut some slack. Again, I'm not a parent but I think many parents would agree with me. In the most extreme, you wouldn't expect a 6 month old to toilet train themselves. You wouldn't expect a 5 year old to go out and support themselves and leave home or even cook their own meals and be left home alone overnight. I mean normal people wouldn't at least. The article touches on more gray areas like how much a child should be spilling before it's ok to yell at them for it. Actually, even grown ups spill. What about a child not falling asleep right away? Well, when a friend of mine and her kids came for Shabbos and her youngest wasn't asleep, I spoke up, "look you don't have to fall asleep, you just have to be quiet and not bother your sister and you can only come out here if you have to go to the bathroom." Well, of course she fell asleep. Her mother, my friend, complimented me for being able to see the solution. Well, I'm also a cheater. I was restless not wanting to go to sleep and that was what my mom told me. Usually it worked, though I remember her catching me reading a book with a flashlight behind my bed so the light wouldn't wake my sister a couple times.... not what she had in mind...
There is a line between being overly permissive and unrealistic expectations and one would want to walk somewhere in the middle. Yeah, well easier said than done, but it's something to think about.