Back when you were celebrating your 6 year birthday, your mom made you a beautiful, homemade princess cake and let you invite over 6 friends. The party was memorable to say the least, but not quite as extravagant as you might have liked. Now that your own daughter is about to turn 6, you are thinking back to your own 6th birthday and all the things that it was missing. Somehow, someway – you need to make sure that your daughter’s party is better than yours was. After all, you can outdo your mom, right? So you decide to go all out and throw a painting party at a local ceramic gallery complete with goodie bags, pizza for lunch and a princess makeover for 14 of your daughters closest class mates. You buy the fanciest cake you can find and supply your daughter with 4 presents rather than the 1 present that you routinely got for your birthday.
Back in the day, parents were doing good to send their kids to a half day art camp, or to secure a membership to a neighbourhood pool during the summer. Now parents are spending what amounts to a mortgage payment to send their kids to athletic camps and refinance their homes in order to install a backyard in ground pool. And in today’s day and age despite the slumping economy – families don’t feel inclined to ‘settle’ for a starter home and instead buy huge homes in pricey subdivisions with more bedrooms and bathroom than they really need. All because the fixer upper they watched their parents work on for years on end seemed inadequate in comparison.
The best advice for parents today is to stop trying to outdo your parents! The average parent always dreams of supplying his or her child with more than what they had growing up. But the question is, to what extent are parents today doing this? And, considering where you are now and what you have accomplished, was your life growing up really that bad? Did having a backyard sleepover in a tent for your birthday cause you any emotional damage? Did your public school education really fail you, so much so that you are willing to pay a college tuition price for primary school? Did your parents fail you in significant ways – or were they simply living within their means?
According to author and psychologist, Dan Neurhath who penned the book, How to Make Peace with Your Past, trying to outdo your parents is simply a coping mechanism that many adults choose to try and deal with emotional hiccups surrounding their childhood. In the book, he explains that many adults who are chronically trying to out do their parents when it comes to their own children, are actually only furthering and reinforcing the emotional connection with their parents.
For instance, the father today who was never encouraged or fostered into a promising football career as a boy may be resentful that his parents refused to send him to football camp or enroll him in the coveted football program in town. Perhaps in his mind, if only his parents would have done more – he could have obtained some sort of scholarship or recognition for his skills. So this father takes it upon himself to not allow this to happen to his own son and therefore pushes him hard and provides him every opportunity to succeed at football. In doing so, he is constantly reviving his feelings of resentment for what he feels his own parents didn’t do.
Additionally, according to sociologists that performed a parenting study out of Harvard, parents today are keener on providing monetary things for their children because the entire structure of family has changed. Years ago, the one wage earning family was the norm. But today, families often have two parents working outside of the home, which means less time is being spent with the children. In order to compensate, parents are providing royalties so to speak, to ‘make-up’ for what parents feel is lost time with their kids.
According to an article by the Huffington Post, today’s parent is giving to their children in excess. And although you might imagine that children would benefit, the opposite is often true.
Author, Dr. Cara Barker says the signs that you are doing too much for your kids are as follows:
- When your child fails to say 'thank you,' not in a perfunctory way, but with genuine feeling.
- No attitude of gratitude.
- Lack of respect for gifts, as witnessed by disregard of caring for them.
- You find yourself 'over-explaining' why you've said 'no.'
- Fast loss of interest: 'on to the next'.
- Lack of mutual exchange: one way traffic in the giving department.
As a parent, you have to ask yourself if you are trying to out do your parents, or to somehow make up for what you may feel was a loss during your own childhood – or whether you are giving more simply because you can. There is nothing wrong at all with wanting things for your child that you didn’t have as a kid. But there is a problem when you are simply complying with your child’s wish lists to try and compensate for your own parental lacks – or those of your parents.
Sure, we are living in a different world today than we were when you were young. And looking back on your childhood, its easy to see where your own parents went wrong and the mistakes that they have made. Your own children will learn from YOUR mistakes as well. This is the epic cycle of parenthood. Yet, it is unnecessary to constantly feel inclined to do just a little more than your mom and dad did for you. And sometimes, allowing a child to go without – to have boundaries and dare we say, limits – is the best way to foster them into responsible adults.