Monday, August 12, 2013

It's Okay to Tell Kids to Hurry Up

There was a piece that went around the social media sphere in the last week or two... maybe it's still in your feed, somewhere... in which a mom explained how she's bettered the lives of herself and her kids by "slowing down" to experience the world at the pace of her curious, dawdling young child. The mother says that she was all busy and bothered and rushing around, and then she banished the words "hurry up" from her vocabulary, and ever since, she and her kids are joyously living in the moment, smelling flowers, yadda, yadda.

Oy. Yet another piece of propaganda espousing the idea that having young kids means that they should be the center of every parent's universe. A child must not be rushed or told to hurry, because no parent (or sibling, etc.) should ever have any place to be that might infringe on said child's right to do whatever his three- or four- or six-year-old mind dreams up next. So what if it takes the kid an hour to put on her socks? There are so many hours left in the day! Just chillax, uptight parents, says righteous blogger. Like me.

This piece reminded me of another that went around in the past year or two, in which a writer criticized a stranger, a mother she observed in the playground, for the crime of using her cell phone instead of interacting enthusiastically with her happy young child. But, of course, the critic could not possibly have known whether or not that mother had been interacting all day with the child, and took a needed moment when the child was engaged and playing (on the playground! Not in front of the TV) to get in touch with a friend. Just because the mother was not interacting in that moment, does not mean she was a bad mother. There are so many worse things a parent can do than not acknowledge every single smile of their child's. In fact, just letting a kid play on their own may very well be a great gift.

There is an assumption out there that any mother (let's face it, fathers just don't get this criticism) who does not give herself completely over to her kids is selfish and under-appreciative of her children. I'd like to put out an opposite theory: perhaps focusing too much on young children's every move and desires is at the root of the whole "helicopter parenting" phenomenon in the first place. If you start canceling appointments and changing your schedule so you can dawdle with your slow preschooler, yes, you may come to appreciate your child's curiosity and unique interests. These are good things. But you yourself may have no life. And you may also put your child at risk for an inflated sense of ego.

When time allows, by all means, follow the child's lead. Let the insistent two-year-old push her own stroller up and down the sidewalk. But when it's time to get going, scoop her up and strap her in. She may cry a little; it's okay.

It's just fine to teach a small (or big) kid that there are times for playing and daydreaming and wandering, and times when he or she has to hurry up and be somewhere. This is life. Deal with it, kiddo.

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