Are we raising snowflakes?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard that we are now living in the ‘snowflake generation’. But what the hell is a ‘snowflake’? From what I can gather, it’s a derogatory term used specifically to identify a millennial who is too emotionally vulnerable to cope with anyone challenging them. Basically, it’s someone who is failing at ‘real life’. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to raise brave, smart, confident and resilient children in a world full of people who are offended by everything. It’s quite honestly, bloody depressing!
Can’t cope or won’t cope?
Apparently, ‘Snowflakes’ kick up a fuss about the smallest perceived injustice. I’ve read stories about people who can no longer work due to the ‘stress’ of being told off at work; helicopter parents who don’t want their children being told off at school; mums who have run straight to the newspapers because their child has been excluded from school over a dodgy hair cut! Arghhh! Just follow the rules and then your kid won’t get in trouble in the first place! What are we teaching our kids if we constantly undermine school or the work place? We’re setting them up to fail by telling them they are right and everyone else is wrong. By sheltering them from everything that is tough or uncomfortable in the world, we’re not doing our job as parents.
On the other hand, I completely understand wanting to protect and shield your child. The world is becoming increasingly dangerous and scary – we have kids being gunned down in schools, maniacs running mothers and children over in the streets, kids being blown up at pop concerts… I want to wrap my kids up and shield them from these atrocities too. But let’s not get these dangers confused with the regular, normal crappy things that happen to all of us. We can’t wrap them in cotton wool and shelter them from everything.
Who do you want to raise?
This issue has really made me think about the type of children and the type of people that I want to raise. I want my children to be sensitive, empathetic and kind but I also need them to be resilient and capable of dealing with shit in life. My oldest is just about to start speech and language therapy at school. His vocab is great but his ability to communicate his feelings, isn’t. As a result, I’m starting to over analyse every little part of my parenting. Is it all my fault? Have I made him this way because I’ve messed up somehow? Children are a mixture of nature and nurture for sure. But mostly I believe that children are a product of their upbringing. Or maybe he’s just an awkward little bugger and I’ve been too soft on him. We shall see…
School can only do so much…
As a teacher, I have seen increasing numbers of parents over the years who hold their hands up when presented with a behavioural problem as if to say “I’ve tried, it’s not my fault – you deal with it!” And let me tell you – school cannot do it alone. Unless what we do in school is backed up by parents, it just does not work. The children that make progress are the ones with proactive and supportive parents. It’s not rocket science, is it? So why have so many parents given up seeing raising their children as THEIR job? Increasing numbers of children are starting reception wearing nappies and still using dummies. Is this because parents are too lazy to do it themselves or really is it because they’re too afraid to say no to them?
Quick to judge…
It’s easy to judge others whilst walking around the shops or on the school run. I have both watched and been the parent that drags their children into school or out of a soft play centre. Many people think that they could do better; That they’d NEVER have a child that does that! Personally, I always smile at those mums because I’ve been there and I know how mortifying it is. But it seems it’s surpassingly easy to fall into the category of ‘those’ parents; The ones you look down your nose at before you have kids of your own. Before you realise what little terrorists they can be and how bloody HARD it is to get things right all the time.
Parenting today is tough! It’s really not helped by the increasing number of articles that flood the internet and social media about how to be a ‘better’ parent. They tell us we need to stop talking and ‘listen’ to our children more. To be ultra sensitive of our children’s feelings and emotions. I think this often gets confused with ‘letting them do and say whatever the fuck they want’. I know I fell into this trap at one point. So keen was I to be his friend that I stopped being his mum. I ended up just constantly making empty threats that I never followed through with. I didn’t want to upset him and god forbid, scar him for life so he soon learnt that he didn’t need to listen to me.
No losers, only winners!
Last summer I read a story about a school who had banned sports day. Another had banned clapping and instated ‘Jazz Hands’ instead! WTF? Apparently some pillock in an office believes competition promotes low self esteem. (He was probably the kid who came last at sports day and is still bitter!) Cheering can by all accounts be very damaging for the children that don’t succeed. Eh? What about the children who are GOOD at competitive sports? They aren’t allowed to be told they’re good in case that offends the kids that are crap? Well, that’s hardly fair is it? For fear of offending, we are overlooking one of life’s simple truths: You can’t always win. We’re also failing the successful kids – they deserve to be celebrated!
I used to find sports day terrifying but as soon as I stepped out onto the field and heard my mum cheering or saw my dad jumping up and down, all the fear went away. I felt confident and brave. This in turn made me resilient and taught me that sometimes in life you just need to get on with it. Cheering and clapping raises endorphins and makes people feel good. How can they take that away from children? The world has actually gone mad!!
Losing is ok
Above all of this though, is the fact that children need to learn HOW TO LOSE!!! Life is about winning AND losing. If you’re crap at something then you need to know you are. Then either keep working at it for the pleasure of it (I was shit at singing but I carried on because I loved it!) or stop and find something you’re better at. When I was younger I loved netball and playing the keyboard. I always got picked for netball but I was rubbish at the keyboard. So, I stopped and focused on netball. I was good at ballet but rubbish at tap. Good at drawing but crap at french. If I had always been told I was great at everything I would have been a Jack of all trades and master of none.
Positivity or just lying?
I am a huge believer in the power of a positive mindset and in believing in yourself – I regularly tell my children that they are beautiful and brilliant because that’s truly what I believe – I’m their mum! But also, if they believe in themselves, then they will be brave and try hard. However there is a fine line between instilling a positive self belief and giving someone a false self image. I don’t want my chidren to be told they’re amazing at sports or art or music as they get older if they’re not. I want them to be told how they can improve and then I want them to work hard to get better. Or instead, they can choose something else which they can succeed at. This builds resilience after all. All I care about is they try and they work hard. If they’re always told that they are great then they won’t have to try to be better, right? We are in serious danger of having kids that think they’re brilliant at everything and can’t deal with rejection or failure as adults because they have had it hidden from them during childhood.
Raising toddlers and raising teenagers are very alike from what I can see. Granted, I only have experience with the former but I was a teenager once. (A hundred years ago!) Toddlers and teenagers can both be driven by their own selfish desires. They can be sulky, temperamental, tired, easily overstimulated, fussy and extremely emotional. I think it is imperative we get it right with our toddlers and young children in order to set them up to be well adjusted and happy teenagers and young adults.
So how do we do that? Here are a few of the most popular theories:
- Well firstly: Do not be afraid of your toddler! Do not worry about them not liking you if you say ‘no’ to them – it’s your job to tell them no so that they don’t grow up to be selfish, greedy and entitled. They will love you no matter what – that’s one of the best things about children.
- Be firm and fair and FOLLOW THROUGH with consequences. Don’t threaten with huge punishments you would never possibly follow through with like throwing all of their toys away, smacking or going straight to bed – make it small and achievable like 3 minutes of time out or losing one of their toys for an hour. And then quietly get on with doing it. Quietly. No shouting. (I’m working on this one! But honestly, sometimes you need to shout!)
- Reward children with quality time and not material possessions or sweets whenever possible – this helps children to value time and not things. (Love this one!)
Give them love AND boundaries
Never forget that your child knows that you love them and that disciplining them isn’t cruel or mean – they need and want boundaries. One of the biggest and most important things I learnt as a teacher is that rules and boundaries make children feel safe. I was a fun but fairly strict teacher and I had no problems with behaviour in my class (mostly). If you think back to your school days, the teachers you liked best or respected most were probably the most firm – and that’s because you knew where you stood with them. They made you feel safe by being consistent with you. That’s what we need to strive for with our children.
So… snowflakes… I really DO NOT want my children to be part of this awful ‘snowflake generation. I know they are growing up in SUCH a different world to the one we did but we have a huge duty to make sure we prepare them for this world. The real one. Warts and all. It’s not an easy job but by now we already know that nothing about raising kids is easy. Raise your kid to be a person you’re proud of and the person you wanted to be when you were younger. Teach them that it’s ok to fall when they’re reaching for the stars! They need to dust themselves off and get back up. The stars are pretty far after all….
Holly xx owner of LL Southport and LL Preston and Chorley