Getting to ‘no’

Middle-class parents need to learn how to say “no” to their children, says a Newsweek story.

This generation of parents has always been driven to give their kids every advantage, from Mommy & Me swim classes all the way to that thick envelope from an elite college. But despite their good intentions, too many find themselves raising “wanting machines” who respond like Pavlovian dogs to the marketing behemoth that’s aimed right at them. Even getting what they want doesn’t satisfy some kids — they only want more. Now, a growing number of psychologists, educators and parents think it’s time to stop the madness and start teaching kids about what’s really important — values like hard work, delayed gratification, honesty and compassion. In a few communities, parents have begun to take action by banding together to enforce limits and rules so that no one has to feel guilty for denying her 6-year-old a $300 Nokia cell phone with all the latest bells and whistles. “It’s almost like parents have lost their parenting skills,” says Marsha Moritz, 54, who helped found the Parent Engagement Network, a support group in Boulder, Colo.

The parents need a support group? What wimps!

When my daughter said, “I want” too much, her father would sing, “You can’t always get what you want” till she begged him to stop. I just made it clear that nagging, whining and sulking never would be effective strategies. Keep asking and what you get is a mean, crabby mother.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. My starter rule is you get an explanation once. After that nagging is grounds for punishment. Find a friend if you need to vent. Although, as children reach adulthood children are biologically driven to establish their own rules and identity. They are driven by the decisions they make about their personal beliefs, their beliefs about society, current social issues and their friends. It’s a tall order for everyone.

    “It’s almost like parents have lost their parenting skills,” says Marsha Moritz, 54, who helped found the Parent Engagement Network, a support group in Boulder, Colo.

    Parenting skills, passed mostly from mother to daughter for millions of years are waning. How, why did that happen? It’s going to take more than finding someone to blame, and more education to fix it. I don’t think kids are home long enough to establish a relationship with a biologically motivated adult(a parent).

    The argument many parents have is teachers don’t provide adult direction at school. Instead they engineer groups and place child leaders in positions of control. When child teachers produce poor students, that is also blamed on the parents. Statistically US schools do not involve teachers less in verbal correction than countries that produce higher test scores. Isn’t it funny that psychologist who once sold the nation on the idea the village would raise the children, beats the ‘bad parent’ drum when the idea doesn’t work.

  2. Oh for crying out loud.

    Where is the time-honored retort of “Get a job and pay for it yourself”? Part of the problem may be parents who deny no material goodie to themselves — if they have little self-control over getting the latest pair of shoes or gadget, where do they see the impetus in denying their kids anything?

  3. “Parenting skills, passed mostly from mother to daughter for millions of years are waning. How, why did that happen? It’s going to take more than finding someone to blame, and more education to fix it. I don’t think kids are home long enough to establish a relationship with a biologically motivated adult(a parent). ”

    What, are you kidding me? Kids are home longer than ever before! I don’t see how you can figure that any of our current problems can be solved my making childhood even longer than it is already!

    “Part of the problem may be parents who deny no material goodie to themselves — if they have little self-control over getting the latest pair of shoes or gadget, where do they see the impetus in denying their kids anything?”

    How about because they worked and earned it and the kid didnt!

    My kids are in elementary school, and I’m already telling them “if you want to stop taking orders from us, finish school, move out, and pay your own way.” When they’re teenagers, that’ll still be our standard answer. If they get fed up enough, maybe they’ll actually study ahead and do just that. (Hah! More likely they’ll just complain a lot to their friends….)

  4. Ken, I don’t disagree that there’s a difference when you’ve earned the money. But when adults are using money they don’t have (i.e. running up credit card debt) on frivolous items, it’s hardly a surprise that they can’t say no to their kids. When it’s important to the parents to have the latest computer or car so as to look successful, they don’t want their kid to be the “loser”.

    Having grown up as one of those “losers” who wore clothes from Kmart and Goodwill, and little caring what the Joneses are up to, my kids will find no sympathy from me in trying to look cool with material goods. What gets me is that in =my= day (aka the 80s), my mother had no problem dealing with the “everybody else has one!” whine with the standard “If everybody else jumped off a cliff…” line. I do believe some cultural knowledge is being lost.

    What =really= gets me is that a 54-yr-old woman is the head of this group. My ma isn’t even that old, and I’m 30. And have a kid of my own. What is up with these people? They’re at the age to have grandkids that they can spoil and not say no to, and they have little kids to deal with? What?

  5. With all due respect, it is legal to procreate after the age of 30, even 40. Many 54-year-old women have teenage kids.

    On topic: We do not play the “I want, I want” game. We buy only when we *need*.

  6. “Kids are home longer than ever…” may be true in terms of kids leaving the nest, but in terms of families spending quality and quantity time together, they spend a lot less time with mom and dad (except for those “Whacko” homeschooled kids who are socializing with adults and people of all ages instead of being institutionalized with other deliquents their own age :-).

    Kids hide in their rooms, talk on their own phones, watch their own TVs and surf their own computers. Mostly, though, I like to blame the baby boomers. But that’s cause I like to blame them for all the ills of the world! Many of my friends have parents who are on the oldest edge of the baby boomers. Now that I’m older, I really appreciate the fact that my parents were depression babies and not baby boomers. As someone a few years younger than the youngest baby boomers, I’m tired of their whining, permissive, the world revolves around me lives! Almost all of their grand “social experiments” failed, but they refuse to admit it!

    So now I’m getting off my soap box and going to bed!

    DrLiz

  7. All of these “get a job and earn it yourself” comments seem to have forgotten that one of the foremost educational challenges that teens face is the fact that they have part-time jobs that they give greater precedence than their education so that they can do exactly that what we demanded of them…

    And to be honest, some of this demand on the part of teens is in response to social requirements in both the teen *and* adult world that you fit in both behaviourly and *materially* in order to be part of a social order.

    This order may be good or bad. But failure to be part of those orders will effectively bar you from many of the most promising careers unless you are otherwise luminous (which most of us are not). Many parents may know this without being aware of it. (Of couse, it bars you from many of the more undesirable social orders as well.)

    (I say this as the parent of two children with ASD who desire very little. Even as my children are being praised by adults for not being “greedy” and not lying, I can see that this bars them the social groups that will become our most successful professionals. Luckily, they don’t (yet) care…)

  8. I was disgusted when some mother was quoted by the NYT’s as not knowing what to do with her kids when the teachers went on strike. I feel sorry for anyone who associates discipline with being crude or unkind. If we don’t watch our kids they are bombarded with stupid advertisments. Even schools request parents make all kinds of expensive and useless purchases. These are huge industries armed with psychologist training kids to nag. The solution is turn off the tv.
    My mother made my clothes when I was a kid. Creamed tuna on toast was a weekly standard. I don’t think some people realize that most vegetables are seasonal. My older son, 30, paid for his own phone, sold cars, and did lots of volunteer work as a teen. The younger one (17) is too politically passionate to go that route, but I didn’t put a tree a xMas because he didn’t want anything. The younger one thinks school admistrators are paid for using schools as a billboard for advertising. We didn’t nag, my kids didn’t expect us to give them things they didn’t need.

  9. Is it possible that this isn’t a real story, but just an example of the stupidity of the mass media? I don’t believe most things I read in the NYT anymore, and I stopped believing Newsweek in 1970.

    I agree that there are more spoiled kids around me than when I was a kid, but I grew up in a tiny Texas town, and I now live in Silicon Valley — I think that the difference is that people around me have more money, not that they are fundamentally more stupid. That is, lots of my childhood friends would have been spoiled by their parents if the parents could have afforded it.

    The big difference seems to me that instead of tut-tutting, a “major newsmagazine” writes a sympathetic article that makes these people look like fools. It’s quite possible that all that happened was that a few parents got together to discuss not giving their kids a bunch of expensive crap (sort of the way families with 2 working parents “play dates” for their young kids). Or, given that it’s Newsweek (or the NYT), perhaps it never this is entirely a figment of the imagination of the writer.

  10. Tim from Texas says:

    checking, over and out.

  11. Tim from Texas says:

    Has everyone forgotten that we all make money, and some of us much more than needed, from everyone purchasing those things and services that are not needed? Our system thrives and depends on those very impulses. Our system has evolved into a labyrinth of sucker-impulse-tripping-wires laid out from top to bottom.

    Our long gone parents and grandparents didn’t do everything that well either, but there were some tripping-wires they did not allow and fought against, such as Legalized Gambling. Moreover, I’m sure they are “rolling over in their graves” about Lotteries, and the numbers racket now sponsored by most states under the guise of funding education or anything. Even, the most backward hay-seed back then would have recognized such an idea as extremely foolhardy, if not a downright pathological decision. So, who hasn’t learned the lesson here? I think it is we, the so called educated.

    Alas, our long gone parents and grandparents would be scolding us most stridently for allowing such a wonderful powerful team to get out of hand.
    Have we all forgotten what occurs when such power gets out of hand? Destruction, trampling, horrible things is what I think they would say.

    The discussion here, in my opinion, should revolve around this question. What will the children of today be saying about us 50 yrs from now?

    I am not throwing stones here. My house is not all glass but neither is it entirely made of stone. It’s just the way I see it and it concerns me.

  12. Don’t get me started about lotteries. Oh, too late.

    At least in Canada, the winnings are tax-free. Great. Just what is the government trying to say about what it is trying to encourage when labouring for a paycheck is taxed but getting lucky is untaxed.

    Plus government ads that make it clear that only losers work to achieve success.

    Agh!

  13. My parents set rules that were rigidly adhered to. I knew that when my mother said “no”, that whining wouldn’t get me what I wanted. It would, in fact, get me punished, and that punishment would increase in severity if I continued to complain.

    I certainly wanted for nothing as a child. I was given an allowance, and taught how to count money and the concept of opportunity costs. If I wanted 2 Matchbox cars but only had enough money for one, I had to choose. I could also choose not to spend the money at all and save it for something more expensive.

    I was taught the concept of other people’s property, and not to steal or take without asking to borrow something.

    When I was old enough to work, I decided I wanted a pair of Rollerblades. They cost $300, and my parents informed me that if I wanted them, I could get a job and buy them myself. I did exactly that, and I learned the real value of money.

    These are simple ideas, and yet I hear about so many kids who have no understanding of things like work, earning, and planning ahead (not to mention patience).

Trackbacks

  1. But try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need

    Joanne Jacobs rightfully rolls her eyes at the idea of parents needing support groups in order to say no to their kids. The cause of this eyerolling is an MSNBC article that suggests parents these days have no clue about…

  2. Peer pressure and parental responsibility: where are the lines?

    Peer pressure is bad, isn’t it? It’s the reason why kids engage in destructive behaviors. The excuse for drug use. Everybody’s doin’ it. But last month, on our road trip to the Bay Area, I started to believe that peer…