Should we be less mollycoddling and more ‘get on with it’ like Pierre?
I watched in horror on our recent ski holiday, as Pierre, my kids’ self-loving, unfriendly ski instructor smoked a fag and laughed nonchalantly with the equally self-loving, unfriendly lift operators (he really was called Pierre, by the way – when I wrote Mrs S.H.I.T.’s top tips for your first family ski holiday, I mistakenly didn’t think Frenchmen were actually called Pierre anymore).
But had he not heard the little girl in his ski class screaming the mountains down? The rest of the Alps had.
She was terrified to get on the lift. And all Pierre was worried about, it would seem, was how big his packet looked in his tight red all-in-one. Quite big by the way.
I fought back the urge to run over and angrily inform him that he was cold-hearted and negligent. I couldn’t quite bear the humiliation as I, that middle aged British ‘mum’ – the one who pitifully tries to flirt with him and pretends her kids aren’t really her kids as she drops them off, stinking of camembert and red wine (that’s me not the kids, they’re more chocopops and nesquik) – fell flat on my face in the snow as I tried to stomp over in ski boots.
But I wanted to ask him if he’d not done his ‘how to constantly make children feel good about themselves’ training? Was he in fact even DBS checked?
This child needed help. She needed care and attention. Gentle words of encouragement, and to be told how proud we’d all be if she managed it.
But lo and behold, when it was the extremely distressed child’s turn to take the button lift, she only went and grabbed it. Et voilà, off she went. The sobs subsided as she glided, seemingly quite happily, up the slope.
She’d done it, because she had no other choice. And let’s face it, although it seemed unkind at the time, Pierre’s anti-pandering technique worked a treat.
Is Generation Wimp a British thing?
It’s not just the ski instructors, the French and other nationalities, in general, seem to have the same mentality when it comes to parenting. They’re less of the mollycoddle variety, and more of the ‘get on with it because you’re a kid and you need to learn that some things are hard’ type.
And it’s effective.
When we dropped the littlest S.H.I.T. off at the nursery ski class on the first day, all the tiny tots were crying. I mean, who can blame them? Our wee man had thought he was going to be an extra in Frozen all week, and here we were leaving him with a strange woman who barely spoken any English. She did seem to have mastered ‘GET UP AND STOP CRYING’ however, very fluently.
But the French, German and Scandinavian parents left their children with minimal fuss. A quick peck on the cheek, ignoring any tears, and off they went for a lovely morning’s skiing. Not in the least bit uncaring, just practical. They did what they had come to do.
All that was left were the wimpy Brits, lingering on, hearts breaking, everybody crying through their goggles. I could hear couples sniping over who would have to give up their morning of freedom to stay with little Johnny or Jemima because they could not possibly leave them with these barbaric teachers.
And guess what happened on day two? Of course, the other children knew crying wasn’t going to change anything, and off they went. Meanwhile the English kids were whimpering and clinging. Everybody was still crying, and the parents were definitely having the worst holiday of their lives.
So, my point is, are we guilty of over-love? Over-encouragement? Handling our offspring with kid gloves, telling them that they don’t have to do anything that puts them remotely out of their comfort zone (which, let’s face it, is pretty much anything that doesn’t involve hanging out with iPaddy).
Overpraising Our Kids For Doing Nothing Really
I am guilty of applauding my kids for such high achievements as getting dressed. ‘Well done, you pulled on those jeans so well, here’s a chocolate coin.’
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for praising the positive rather than focusing on the negative behaviour. But are we doing them a disservice? Will they expect a prize for merely getting themselves out of bed?
They will have no experience of failure because they’re being told all the time that everything they do is astoundingly brilliant. So, when they really do do something great, do our words of praise have no effect because they’re used to hearing it all the time?
I grew up with not a huge amount of praise from my parents. I never ever doubted their love, but my brothers and I were expected to work hard. No rewards, no £10 Woolworths’ voucher for getting a good report card, no ZX Spectrum for doing well in our exams.
But we did work hard. We always have done. It’s been instilled in us that opportunities aren’t offered to you on a gold platter. You have to earn them.
When the words of praise did come, I knew they were really, really meant and it felt amazing. Even now when my parents say they’re proud of me, I genuinely glow because those words aren’t dished out very often.
So maybe Pierre has the right idea. Ok, not so much the spray on ski suit, but treating kids as kids who are better off learning the hard way. Not little princes and princesses who think they have a right to rule the world and expect everything to come to them. That’s not real life, but working hard to get to where you want, is.
It’s not always an easy ride and the sooner we teach our kids that, the better it will be for them.