I am going to shed some light on my personal life. My job involves being around babies to preschool aged children on a daily basis, guiding them and their parents through early development. My clientele is easily a privileged group hailing from Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Malibu and other million dollar neighborhoods. I’ve also worked with children from very poor areas with working-class parents struggling to make ends meet. No matter what economic background a child has, there is no substitution for good parenting (or grandparenting as the case may be).
Here is where you get to laugh at me. Occasionally I have a family request I do a birthday party. I sing. I dance. I act silly. I was even a clown for a birthday (which is an entire degrading story on its own). Today I was a princess- Snow White to be exact. Cinderella was also in attendance at this grand party for three year old twins.
Some little girls could barely leave my side while others shyly hid behind their parents. The birthday girl saw me early in the affair while she was sitting in her dad’s lap. She cautiously looked at me, but seemed unfazed. All was well.
Later in the party I was told to begin activities in the room where this little girl was seated, now perched upon her grandmother’s lap instead of dad’s. The grandmother was not so kind as she told me “Sarah is scared. Sarah, do you want her to leave?” Which of course she nodded yes to with grandma’s lead. I kindly explained that I had met Sarah the other day and was simply saying hello and trying to get set up to do activities. Grandma was once again cool and dismissive. Okay, what would I have recommended she do?
In this instance, rather than reassuring the little girl and showing her the correct way to deal with a situation, grandma rudely hustled me out. Rather than teaching Sarah how to confidently conquer her fear, grandma took over and got rid of it before giving her a chance to see she was in no harm. I wish grandma could have been a positive example. Three years old is a perfect age to demonstrate proper social behavior and interactions, as well as building confidence in one’s own abilities.
I have seen a lot of children unable to cope in social settings because of family members who do not give them the chance to learn on their own. Children need to know they are safe and protected, but they also need to learn skills to function independently. It’s a fine balance. Think of it this way- if you were teaching your child to ride a bike, it is much better to support them and slowly let go. The kid might fall a few times, but eventually learns to balance. You teach them not to give up and try again. It would be insane to hold on to the bike every time your child got on, then expect them to ride alone when you’re not there.
I have a lot of opinions on how children are being raised and what sort of teenagers and adults we are setting them up to be. There will surely be more on this topic, but hopefully I won’t be in a princess costume when I write it.