Generation Wimp: Why Today's Parents Should Stop Second-Guessing Ourselves

Here I was almost sitting for a moment. Must have felt good.

Here I was almost sitting for a moment. Must have felt good.

I could tell by the way he was ripping around the church, he had learned to walk maybe three weeks ago and then just that week, he picked up speed. A little boy, not much past his first birthday, who wanted nothing to do with sitting still for Easter mass, was outpacing his father, who was tracking him up and down the aisles with a nervous look on his face.

Been there, done that — two times over.

When the abundance of incense smoked me and my burgeoning bronchitis out of the church, I went outside to catch my breath and wait for my family. That’s when the little blond blur burst out of the church, Daddy in tow. Soon, Mom and big sis appeared, and they all followed the little guy to the parking lot. Five minutes later, I wandered there, too, to wait for my family by my car, the keys for which were in the church with my husband.

As I neared the parking lot, I heard loud protests. The young father was trying to get his swift son into his car son, but the toddler was having none of it. So they let him out, put him on the ground and –DASH! He was off again with his father at his heels.

Once more, they tried to put him in his car seat, but the tot screamed, so they let him out again. This time, the father told the mother, “Give me your cell phone and come back for me in an hour.”

He was going to chase his son around the parking lot for sixty more minutes. On Easter.

The mother didn’t comply. Instead, she waited.

“It gets easier,” I offered. “I didn’t sit down from 1997 until 2003.”

“We don’t like to force him into the seat or he’ll scream the whole way home,” he explained.

I wanted to say: “You are teaching him that whenever he screams, he gets his way. At this rate, you will be chasing him around parking lots until he’s 18.” Instead, I bit my tongue.

Been there, done that.

The whole scene reminds me of what is wrong with this generation of parents — my generation of parents: We second-guess ourselves. We give too much power to our kids and try to be their friends instead of behaving like their parents. We worry that if they cry or fuss or scream the whole way home from church, we will cause permanent damage to them. We are wimps.

Now, I’m not saying we should swing the parenting pendulum so far back the other way to the kids-should-be-seen-and-not-heard style of “I’ll give you something to cry about” parenting. But a little backbone and some take charge attitude would do us, and our kids, a lot of good. And I say this as someone who took 16 months to get her son to sleep through the night.

Like I said, been there.

When I told my mother-in-law, a German-Hungarian immigrant who raised three kids that were at one time all under age three, about the boy in the church parking lot, she scoffed. Then she softened.

“I remember when Peter was a baby, and he cried in his crib. So I patted his back,” she said about my husband, who was, apparently a cute but potentially manipulative baby. “As soon as I stopped patting his back, he started crying, so I patted him some more. I got tired, so I asked Opa to pat his back.”

She recalled how they continued this charade every night for three nights until finally, they had enough.

“I knew that he was okay all day, so he would be okay if I didn’t pat his back,” she remembered. So, she stopped patting his back. Her baby cried and cried and then, he fell asleep. And that was it.

“How come you figured it out six weeks into motherhood, but it takes my generation so much longer — if at all?” I asked.

She shrugged and then offered, “Our pediatrician said, ‘No baby has ever died from crying.'”

Eventually, the young parents got their toddler into the car and left the church parking lot. I could hear him protest as they drove by, offering embarrassed waves to me.

“Happy Easter,” I said, but I’m not sure they could hear me. But at least they were sitting down for a change.

This is exactly why my books are called “Stop Second-Guessing Yourself.” If you’d like some common sense advice with a few good laughs, pick one up today:

Pssst! Hey, you! We’d love to hear from you. Anything. A little hello. A “that was funny.” A “I’ve been a long-time fan” or “I’m new here.” Let’s get the conversation started. Some of you provided such great quotes for my books, that I’d love for everyone to hear from you here, too. You are such clever fans, all of you. Thanks!

No responses to “Generation Wimp: Why Today's Parents Should Stop Second-Guessing Ourselves”

  1. Karen Dewberry

    I JUST came across this from another site. You are absolutely right! I too see so many parents cave in because it is easier to “let it go” than it is to do the right thing. I remember giving my son a pop on his leg, which happened RARELY, because of unbuckling car seat. He was 2 and my oldest was 11. There was a sheriff’s deputy next to us. My 11 yo asked if I was worried that I’d get in trouble by him. I said if he could do a better job, he was more than welcome to. I can honestly say, my kids have been popped, most always on the rear, and most before they were out of diapers. It didn’t hurt anything but their ego and they learned there were consequences. Am I a bad mom? I don’t think so. I’ve seen many parents that “reason” with their children and many of those kids do what they want anyway. My 11 yo is now 16, thinks sex is gross and doesn’t want kids till she’s 30. We’ll see. But all 4 of my kids do well in school, are polite to others and are pretty well behaved. They are still kids after all;) I am definitely going to look for your book=)

  2. Kathy Sena - Parent Talk Today

    Just read Denise’s comment, above. I love it: “Start as you mean to go on.” Wise advice.

  3. Kathy Sena - Parent Talk Today

    Oh, Jen, this is SPOT ON! Years ago, I watched a mom at my son’s baseball game do something similar for an hour or more. Her two-year-old was in charge. She seemed to feel helpless and unable to put her foot down and “be the mom.” Now her son is in 7th grade and he’s an obnoxious kid who treats his mom as a servant. And she still puts up with it. I can hardly hold my tongue when I hear how he talks to her. Please keep talking about this issue. When I see a mom who is lovingly taking charge, I try to offer encouragement. It’s hard to do it in public, which is why, I think, so many parents don’t do anything. But they’re not doing their kids any favors.

  4. Jasmine

    I agree 100%. We are whimps. And they (our children) know it. You are very funny and your style leaves me wanting to hear more. Thanks so much. Look forward to reading your books!!!!

  5. Ailsa Price

    So very true! I especially enjoyed being stared at like I was an abusive parent last night when I refused to cater to my three-year-old’s meltdown at the grocery store. Sure, it was partially my fault for having her out so close to her bed time. But, please people, having a full out screaming, ranting, boo-hooing rage and chucking a chocolate Easter bunny at your father’s head is just not acceptable behavior in my book regardless of how tired you are. So we picked her up, put her in the cart, and let her scream it out. Guess what? She was fine by the time we got her to the car.

  6. Denise Schipani

    Well. You already know how I feel about this subject! My major parenting mantra has always been: start as you mean to go on. You want to get up 14 times a night? Then be prepared to do that for a long, looooong time. My first intro to this came a year before we had our first. Friends who lived in a TINY one-bedroom in the EAst Village had a baby, and set up their bedroom a nursery, and moved their sleeping quarters to the living room. Thing is, they kept the baby in their bed, figuring when they felt like moving her to her crib in the bedroom, they just would. Guess what? For the year they lived there, the three of them camped in the itty bitty living room, while the bedroom remained unused. That girl is 8 now. She STILL does not spend full nights in her own bed. Which is fine if you like it, but let’s just say they don’t. You can’t switch from squishy to tough, you know? And that family you saw at church? They are EVERYWHERE.

    They need my book…


  7. The Mommy

    I have a (single, childless) aunt who occasionally watches my kids. She thinks that no child should cry. Ever. When one of them (usually the 3-year-old) has a temper tantrum and I ignore it (which is what I’ve learned to do) she literally gets sick to her stomach and starts flustering around. I can’t make her understand but I absolutely REFUSE to let my kids have their way because they’re crying. Just like you said, if you give in you end up with a tiny tyrant. I can’t make her understand that and just seeing her reaction to them DOES make me second-guess myself. But I KNOW I’m right! They’re MY kids and I’M the one who has to deal with the consequences of giving in every time they whine.

    It literally takes me DAYS to regain control after she babysits…and she wonders why I turned down her offer to watch them over the summer so I can grocery shop. I would rather shop with all 4 kids in tow than spend that much time regaining my authority. Sorry this is so long, but I can’t blog about it on my OWN blog because she reads it. And I know in my heart she just loves them (and me). {SIGH}

    It kills me when I hear a parent say, “The baby won’t LET me…” OKaaay. You’re the parent. BE the parent. Like when someone says, “My baby won’t give up his bottle.” Really? He can prepare it himself? Seriously. Take.It.Away. BE the parent. {SIGH}

  8. Melanie Davis

    Jen —
    Brings back memories. I was judged for installing a baby gate across my twin toddlers’ doorway so they couldn’t run screeching from their bedroom after being read to, sung to, cuddled and put in bed. Yes, they cried and sounded miserable at times, but at age 18 now, they show no signs of needing therapy because their parents didn’t cave into their 24-month-old tantrums.
    You’re right that parenting takes resolve and non-wimpiness. And sometimes, even baby gates, leashes, and earplugs.

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