Make Kids Great Again: Ignore Them

Reader Contribution by Jamie Cearley and Phd
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Kids have a lousy reputation these days. Some of this standing is unjustified. There are some dandy kids out there. Yet I am afraid many times a bad reputation is warranted.

I don’t have kids. Wait! Before you stop reading; I do remember being one. I always knew I was a big part of my mom’s world. I also knew I was not her whole world. Nor was I even at the top of her list. For this I am forever grateful.

I started to say I have a lot of friends with kids, but that isn’t true. I have some friends with kids but they tend to be parents like my mom. Most others I know with kids are impossible to be friends with because their kids are their entirety. Control of everything they say, do, buy, and everywhere they go belongs to their kids. In short, their kids are their lives, their sole existence; dictating their every move.

I feel sorry for kids who grow up in this environment, thinking the world revolves around them. The future is not bright for such a soul entering adulthood. I also feel sorry for those moms who have become empty shells of their former selves.

Perhaps it is social pressure from our society where so many children are outright neglected driving this focus. Or maybe it is the stigma surrounding “working mothers” who are guilt-ridden for not being “stay-at-home moms.” Those are two paradoxical labels I will for the life of me never come to terms with. Perhaps moms who want to do well are so laden by our culture, their guilt drives them to behave this way. Whatever the reason, excluding those who neglect their children outright, I beg you to pay less attention to your kids.

I learned priceless lessons because my mom wasn’t paying attention.

Here are 11 Worthy Lessons Taught When You Pay Less Attention to Your Kids:

1. Listen when adults are talking; you just might learn something. Being silent can have great benefits.
2. Not everything you do is amazing. My mom kept her praise in reserve. High achievement was an expectation, as was responsibility, and hard work. Praise was held in reserve for those occasions when it would mean the most, not made commonplace. In the adult world, gold stars are a rare prize.
3. The conversation isn’t always about me. Learn how to talk about something besides yourself; maybe even something bigger than yourself. Today’s version of this would include selfies. My mom taught me to live my life, not document it.
4. Eat what you are given. It isn’t easy to cook all those meals, and yes, the meals aren’t about me either. It just may be someone else’s day to have their favorite.
5. How to entertain yourself with nothing. Have some imagination. It isn’t always your show. This skill comes in handy almost daily as an adult.
6. Enjoy the outdoors. That is where my mother thought children belonged. It was not beyond her to send us out in morning and lock the door behind us. I realize our world is not as safe as it used to be, but the principle still applies.
7. Learn how to play. Not to push buttons on a screen but to play indeed. Learn what play feels like.
8. When it is your money, you are tighter with it. If Mom was buying it was a must. If I was buying I was self-sufficient, in need nor want for anything, not even chocolate.
9. Respect others’ desire to be alone. Sometimes even moms want to be alone. That’s a desire we would all enjoy honoring.
10. Respect others’ space and possessions. We did not have toys all over the house, nor did we have a room full of them. We have gone from the concept of a toy box to a play room. I have seen houses where there are toys in every room from wall to wall and even out into the yard. I can remember having a bicycle. No, wait, it was my sister’s bicycle. I did not have one of my own; not until I was about 12. I remember my dad emphasizing we were not to leave the bicycle outside overnight as this would show lack of appreciation by not caring for it and putting it away out of the weather. I know my future employers and spouse appreciated my having learned this lesson.
11. Respect private space. We did not go into my parents’ bedroom whether they were in there or not. If you did it had better be an emergency. It was their private space. We respected it as such.

I find it fascinating how often our plans backfire on us. Often parents think if they offer a total self-sacrifice for their kids somehow they will turn out better. When in fact total self-sacrifice leads to kids who are totally selfish.

Not having kids means I am not into giving parenting advice. Go ahead and put your comment below anyway, I can take it. Yet, looking from the outside in, I see both healthier moms and kids when the kids are not their mom’s whole world. At least I can say as an adult I am indebted to my mom for all those times she was not paying attention. Thanks, Mom.

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