Emma Jenna has been a nanny for 20 years, she is the author of “Keep Calm and Parent On” and she’ has recently written a blog post “5 Reasons Modern-Day Parenting Is In Crisis” which has gained a lot of attention from parents both applauding her and disagreeing with what she has to say.
She has concluded that “… if we don’t start to correct these five grave parenting mistakes, and soon, the children we are raising will grow up to be entitled, selfish, impatient and rude adults. It won’t be their fault — it will be ours.”
Before I launch into a passionate defence of why I choose to parent how I do, I want to start by saying that there are many ways to raise happy and healthy children into kind and thoughtful adults, so I’m not saying that if you agree with Emma Jenner that you’re a terrible parent, but just that these are not parenting mistakes.
1. A fear of our children
I would fail the “Sippy Cup Test”! Emma Jenner asks “What are you afraid of?” I’m afraid of a lot of things, but what I’m not afraid of is my children. I’m not afraid that if I don’t swiftly discipline or ignore them for expressing an opinion about something that obviously means a whole lot more to them than it does to me, that they will turn into selfish little monsters.
What bigger lessons do I think my children are learning from this exchange? They learn that it’s okay to change your mind, to negotiate and to accommodate others – by having consideration shown to them, not just demanded of them.
They don’t get their own way all the time, they are absolutely told “no”, but that I don’t say “no” for the sake of it, or just to teach them a lesson.
2. A lowered bar.
I expect my children to behave like children and I don’t think that’s lowering the bar; I think that’s just reality. I expect if my 2 year old gets hungry, over tired, over stimulated, bored or is having a bad day, she might have a meltdown. It might happen in public. I expect it to happen – because she’s 2.
I don’t expect my children to behave like miniature adults. When I take them places they don’t want to be, to do things they don’t want to do, I don’t then expect them to sit still, smile and not complain. They don’t get a choice about whether or not they come grocery shopping with me, but they do get to say about how they feel about it.
Shockingly, Emma Jenner even suggests that it is rubbish to expect that children will be surly in private. I’m surly sometimes! All people, everywhere, of all ages, unless they have some pretty impressive mood stabilisers, get surly occasionally. To expect children to always be pleasant IS rubbish.
3. We’ve lost the village.
Yes, we have lost our village. We are often parenting alone, if we’re lucky we have two people in a partnership to raise children, but that’s often the best modern parents can hope for. However, the “Village” I long for is the one where household chores can be shared between family members living under the one roof. Where there’s always an extra pair of hands to sooth an unsettle baby, additional play mates and adults to supervise them. When I dream of this amazing and supportive village, it doesn’t include strangers telling off my children, or telling me how to raise them. That’s not support, that’s interfering, unnecessary and annoying.
4. A reliance on shortcuts.
While there is an over-reliance on technology these days, but I don’t see how that relates to babies learning to self sooth, or toddlers not being picked up when they hurt themselves. I respond to my children because they’re my children and I am their mum, it’s not a shortcut, it’s the basis of our relationship.
5. Parents put their children’s needs ahead of their own.
I do agree parents have to rank themselves as important and sometimes should put themselves first, because we can’t look after our children when we’re running on empty. But it is natural to want put our children’s needs first and I don’t think parents going against their own instincts is necessarily putting themselves first either. For example, getting up to my children in the night isn’t exactly the highlight of my day, but not getting up – leaving them to cry – wouldn’t be putting myself first. It would be as awful for me as it would be for them.
Finally, while I’m not going to say that someone who has been a nanny for 20 years can’t have a valid opinion about raising children, the relationship between a child and carer is very different to the relationship between a child and parent. As a childless child carer I could have written the book on “How parents are getting it wrong” but now I would write a book titled: “Whatever feels is right for your family probably is.”
What do you think of Emma Jenner’s “grave parenting mistakes”?