Parenting & The Millennial Problem

12744088_10156567717745704_2030223407849631240_n

Since birth, countless a child has been coddled and made to feel “unique” and “one-of-a-kind.” Meanwhile other children have been guided through a more structured and goal-oriented upbringing. Nurtured children are much familiar with being rewarded for the smallest achievements: hoorays for hitting that tee ball and great job buddy for finishing your homework. Meanwhile, children raised in checkpoint-based relationships are much accustomed to hours of tutoring and hobbies like playing piano and competitive chess. This “tiger parenting” is the ethnic Asian response to the traditional American positive reinforcement parenting. But which one is right? Is one better than the other? And more importantly, how is parenting style affecting the youth of today?

Traditional American parenting raises children by way of positive reinforcement, allowing kids to dream, desire, and achieve. Kids are encouraged to pursue whatever they deem their passion and this tradition comes at an early age. In early schooling kids are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Kids enthusiastically and naively respond “Police officer, nurse” and sometimes even “firetruck!” Regardless, the seed has been planted and if Tommy really wants to be a firetruck when he grows up, he will gosh darn be a firetruck. Because that’s precisely what American parenting does! Parents are continuously reinforcing their child’s unique and singular existence. This kid is going to change the world. This kid is going to be know exactly who he wants to be and will live who he wants to be every day of his life. Mind not the mountain of debt nor the lack of satisfactory wages post-passion pursuing. But this raises a confident kid nonetheless. He owns his mistakes and is confident in his ability to rectify them. This is precisely what American parenting does, coddles and nurtures but makes clear that once adulthood is reached, Tommy is the commander of his own ship (even if it is leaking and on the brink of crew abandonment). But how is this different from Asian/tiger parenting?

If Tommy was Asian, he could probably count the number of “attaboys” and “I love yous” on two hands. Instead of receiving praise and encouragement, he would be regimented into violin or chess practice. He’d be sitting through hours of tutoring after school, competing for college admission and scholarships before he was even in high school. Tommy would go on to learn coding in high school, compete in science tournaments, win prizes leading to prestigious college admissions, and maybe become a college professor or scientist. But Tommy likely missed out on playing with the neighborhood kids, watching movies over summer break, and crushing on or dating a girl. So now his stunted emotional development manifests in his own children, but lucky for him that doesn’t really matter because he has a big fat paycheck to support himself and his family (including his parents). Is tiger parenting really any better than traditional American parenting?

The answer is no. Each style has its pros and cons, and so balance and moderation is once again the answer in a time of extremes and “need to have nows.” Regardless of parenting style, kids are growing up un-fulfilled and confused in a culture of “you can do it all” and “you’re unique.” Not everyone can do it all. It’s important to foster a relationship where children and parents can openly communicate possible strengths and weaknesses.

So let your kids be frustrated when a concept or skill doesn’t naturally come to them. Encourage them to work hard and reinforce work ethic and the importance of practice. Talent can be innate, but skill and finesse are from countless hours of practice and effort. And if finally the skill doesn’t develop, then be at peace knowing both you and your child put in the maximum effort. don’t revisit, don’t resent, let the child be.

 

Please refer to the father and happy children in the featured photograph.

 

 

Advertisements

The Case For Adoption

Growing up, I always wondered why someone would adopt a child if they could create, nurture, and birth their own. I even recognized I would never be able to love an adopted child the same way. Over time though, my opinion has diametrically changed. Age and experience weathered me. Here’s my attempt at addressing/refuting the original doubts I had about adoption:

  • You can’t love someone else’s child the same way as you would have loved your child
    • This was my main apprehension for many years. And, it’s valid. How can you go through conceiving, nurturing, and birthing a child and be able to equate that experience with an adopted child? Would you not be missing crucial bonding moments? Admittedly, one would miss some precious/enforced bonding moments. But, bonding experiences can be created and groomed in other ways. Humans routinely fall in love with and grow to love pets, significant others, and friends. Strong bonds can be built with step-parents, friends of friends, role models, and aunts/uncles. I am confident that there is no difference if the emotional growth is fostered.
  • Adopted children can have unpredictable medical conditions/personalities
    • You can’t control everything in life. An adopted child is just like a biological child: intelligent or otherwise, athletic or otherwise, etc.
  • You don’t have to surrender your body and health for nine months
    • I haven’t ever birthed a child but it certainly seems to wreak havoc on the body! Most women must presume the pregnancy and labor process as necessary to mother children. But if you expand your horizons to the many children available for adoption, you might never have to experience the indentured servitude. You can also adopt at an older age when it is not biologically feasible for you.
  • Your adopted child won’t look like you or share your traits
    • This one is most certainly true and can’t be beat. If you want your kids to look like you then you gotta give birth.

I’m not sure where I was even going with this post. Just random thoughts.

When it’s ok to have fear:

IMG_0260

The hot spring air bristles through my hair, the sun peering over the sky cloudless. I listen to the windy tumult surrounding me as I’m wedged between sandstone rock walls on each side. I am hundreds of feet above the desert canyon ground. I haven’t placed any protective gear in what seems at least 20 feet. If I fall, I will likely be severely injured or die. The immutable grounds of the Earth will swallow my soul with naught a hiccup.

I know this, of course, and I push aside the ever-present sense of fear. Moving again, I ascend through the mud chimney for what seems like infinity. My mind reasons: Hand…foot…hand…foot…keep the core engaged…pull smoothly…lock your fingers on that edge. Soon the wind picks up cooling the beading sweat on my neck; I know I’m close to the end of the pitch. The belay ledge should be just a few feet up ahead.

I pull my body out of the crack and spot the anchors, right past a wide but jump-able chasm. If I clip in to the anchors, I will be safe; my climbing partner below me will be safe when he ascends. But the chasm grows wider, filling with my uncertainty. The howling wind rips uncontrolled as I hesitate to jump across.

I haven’t placed gear in over 30 feet. If the piece below me was placed properly, I will fall 30 feet to the gear and then another 30 feet before the rope catches my fall. I’ll probably be dead from impact to surrounding rock before the rope ever feels my weight.

Still, I jump. No prayer for my fate. My feet touch the landing in sequence and I exhaustedly saunter to the anchors. I clip in, I’m safe. Five seconds pass, the wind still howling, the sun still beaming. I tug a section of rope into my hands and begin to form a knot so I can belay my partner during his ascent.

The adrenaline coursing through my body has subsided. Taking its place is dread. My hands weave and unweave rope, fumbling to create the right knot. My mind races: how do I tie this damn knot? How can I forget the one knot I am supposed to know? How am I supposed to finish this route if he can never climb up safely?

I peer over the ledge looking to lock eyes with my partner, and fail. I scream for help but the wind swallows my calls. Returning to the anchors, I realize I am the only one I can count on. I control my fate. Focusing keenly, my hands clasp the rope once again. I breathe deeply.

To my bliss, I loop the right knot. I give the rope a tug and signal to my climber: I’m ready.

With another two pitches remaining, I climb with an aware confidence. I control the challenge and its attached risk and consequence. Each move I make chisels away a bit of my fear. Yes, I will likely die if I fall, but I am also the one who made the choice.

Only after descending the route do I realize how close I was to death. The best protection was my ability to not fall. Even better protection would have been to not climb that route at all. Sometime after I climbed that day, my life’s dogma changed dramatically.

Immortality succumbed to a conscious awareness. Reckless decisions became carefully considered choices. I’m still learning to caution the over-eager adrenaline-junkie. But now, I willingly control rather than naively encourage. Fear is not inherently good or bad. It should be sensed acutely and moderated sensibly.

IMG_0262                   IMG_0268

But an ant in the presence of Earth’s wonders.