August 12, 2017

"A 6-year-old... can seem like a black hole into which you pour all your attention, hopes and dreams to no avail."

"They are not happy and not grateful. Why does this happen? Is your child intrinsically selfish? No, not really. She is a child, so she is naturally self-oriented, but in essence, you are giving her too much of what she doesn’t need. What she needs is for you to stop trying to make her happy. Stop planning too many events for her. Stop taking her bad attitude personally.... [H]umans are funny in that the more we try to please them, the more it elicits bad behavior. When we try to make our kids happy, we end up becoming needy. The kids control our moods, our plans, our parenting and our confidence. It is paradoxical, but by taking back the planning and letting go of how grateful your daughter appears, you regain the power you are giving away. She feels your confidence and will begin to relax in that she is no longer in charge of everyone’s feelings. Trust me, there will be major fits thrown as you hold the boundary of keeping your own agenda; your daughter will not like this at all, but over time, she will relax. And you have to give this time."

From "Our 6-year-old has a fun, comfortable life. Why isn’t she grateful?" (WaPo).

67 comments:

rhhardin said...

Six year olds should be out working.

Michael K said...

Child centered societies are a very modern concept.

When I was starting kindergarten, my mother had a boy across the street walk me to school the first day to show me the way. It was about five blocks and across one busy street, After that, I was on my own.

My grandchildren would never be expected to do that. My own children were driven to private schools because there were none in walking range. My older son walked to school until we moved to Orange County and all three walked for the first years. After they began private schools that ended. The school I walked to was a Catholic school but California had none in walking distance.

traditionalguy said...

The Patriarchy had the answers to this supposed mystery from time immemorial. Too bad it had to be eliminated to please the Feminists.

rcocean said...

Why didn't I have that kind of mother when i was six? I don't remember anyone catering to MY feelings.

tcrosse said...

Some day you'll thank me.

Saint Croix said...

I am guessing this is a one kid family, and they are spoiling the hell out of their one kid. And now they're wondering why their one kid is spoiled rotten.

Our insane society, with all its abortions. "We want the right kid, at the right time, with the right person." And you wait until you're 39 to start having your one kid. You worship your damn kid!

Why would anybody pour all their hopes and dreams into a six-year-old child? Maybe keep your damn hopes and dreams to yourself and let your child develop their own hopes and dreams. Or have 2 or 3 kids so you're too distracted to screw them up with your helicopter love.

Angel-Dyne said...

I always wonder about advice-seekers like the one writing to the WaPo here - did they themselves have the misfortune of being raised by clueless parents who themselves were raised by the sort of clueless parents who had credulously consumed faddish "expert parenting" advice instead of respecting the wisdom of the ages about child-rearing (in which case I can sympathize with their clueless plight)? Or are they just the sort of assholes who are sure they know better, only to find that their superior progressive child-rearing magic has saddled them with insufferable little assholes?

I've met both types.

Saint Croix said...

I think The Brady Bunch covered this when Peter wanted to throw a party for himself and nobody came. Ask yourself, "what would Carol Brady do?" I'm not saying wear a wristband. WWCBD. But I'm pretty sure this question has been asked and answered.

Fernandinande said...

Only one more year 'til the six-year-old can stay home and look after two younger siblings, like The Woman's sister did 70 years ago.

Paddy O said...

Kids are often a lot like marriages. We can do for the other person what we think would make us happy but it's not what actually makes them happy. Personalities are different, but getting to know that takes time and effort. Oddly enough, it can be more exhausting and busy doing it wrong.

"Honey, whenever little Jimmy eats this it makes him sick."
"Well, stop feeding him that."
"That can't be it."

Ralph L said...

I took the bus to kindergarten at 4.

Who will only children share their memories with when they're older?

Unknown said...

People are all Reverse Psychology.

Opposite Day

JAORE said...

" [H]umans are funny in that the more we try to please them, the more it elicits bad behavior."

Words that apply to a host of social programs.

Unknown said...

Maybe someone should point out the differences between six year old boys and six year old girls.

Cath said...

Parents with more than one kid know that kids are born with their own personalities, and not every kid is born with a nice one. The parent's job is to raise or teach or train the kid as best they can to have good values and behavior. This is easier with some kids than with others of course.

Our first kid was an easygoing peach of a guy who almost never gave us any trouble. We naively wondered why all our friends with kids weren't, apparently, putting the same level of effort into teaching their kid to be calm, friendly, and tractable as we were. Then we had a second one and quickly learned that it had very little to do with us.

I think the advice columnist gives a pretty good answer.

Gahrie said...

Children are born as barbarians, and must be civilized.

Spoiling or indulging them allows them to remain barbarians.

iowan2 said...

Michael K indentifies the core issue. Child centered families, produce messed up kids. We never gave a hoot about making our kids happy, never. We had a very structured home. Our kids thrived. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever seen, is, say no to you kids on a regular basis, for no other reason than, 'because'. We practiced that from before they could talk, and if you ask them, they will tell you the had the best childhood of all their friends.

campy said...

This woman sure is lucky that 6 year olds aren't encouraged to divorce their moms for cash 'n' prizes.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Simple answer: the *only* life the child has experienced is things being set in front of her without effort on her part. Experience has taught her that whatever is needed will be provided with no effort. That is her expectation.

Recall the child who never spoke a word until one morning at breakfast, at age six, he said "Mother, the toast is burned." The Mother, astonished, said "Why Darling, you can talk! Why have you never spoken before?"

"Till now, everything has been OK."

mockturtle said...

Children are born as barbarians, and must be civilized.

Spoiling or indulging them allows them to remain barbarians.


Yes. It is the parents' job to make responsible citizens out of them, not to please them or make them happy. Unfortunately too many children [and millennial adults] have never had boundaries set nor rules enforced so they are ill-equipped for the real world.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Cath: "Parents with more than one kid know that kids are born with their own personalities..."

Yes. Absent extended families where one can learn parenting skills by observation rather than trial and error, a major lesson for a new parent with first child is to not project one's own understanding of things onto the child. The child is their own person, with their own personality, and most assuredly lacks the accumulated life experience of the parent.

Much of that likely going on with the WP writer.

mockturtle said...

Exactly, Hammond @11:26! What possible incentive do they have? Low expectations=low results.

BTW, St. Croix: What DID Carol Brady do?

surfed said...

I never did squat for my daughter other than the odd upside down rollercoaster ride. However she was always invited along on my adventures and was expected to live up to the responsibility of the invitation. She had an awesome life as a child and as my little companion in a life of cool adventures.

Howard said...

Former British prime minister John Major: "If you want gratitude, buy yourself a dog"
Blogger tcrosse said... Some day you'll thank me.

Also, "this is going to hurt me a lot more than it's going to hurt you", "if you want your toys back, you'll clean your room", "find something to do in the yard", "let me see your homework", "I see you got 93% on your test, why not 100%? What did you screw up?"

In the middle of a 7-mile hike through the forest and the young one is lagging and whining you say: "better keep up or the Banshee will fly down from the treetops and eat you. They can hear you whining." Then point to every forest sound as from the Banshee while looking up and around for it.

rhhardin said...

Dogs are grateful.

Howard said...

Your job as a parent is to make your kids happy, healthy, smart and strong. This is achieved by constructing adversity to be overcome. Some of you, apparently with puritanical hangups, think happy is a bad thing. However, happiness is really just mental stability and self confidence (not self esteem) tempered by humility.

Kathryn51 said...

From the columnist:
"My father loves to look at churches of all types (the more historical, the better), and we spent many weekends driving around in search of a church that “someone had told” my dad about. My brother and I sat in the back seat, no technology, listening to whatever music my mother liked, and we waited.. . . .
No one asked us whether we liked this. Were we bored? Of course. But my adult brother and I love a good church today. Something about those outings worked."

We didn't look at churches, but we organized several family vacations around the Lewis and Clark trail (including crossing the Rocky Mountains on a gravel road at Lemhi Pass and drinking from the same spring as Clark). Lots of "boring" museums for at least an hour or two. Even visits to family across state would include at least one remote "back road" on the return trip. We live in Microsoft land (in the midst of mind boggling wealth) and many of their friends never vacationed ANYWHERE that didn't involve some sort of plane trip (Hawaii/Europe/Disneyworld.

But now when traveling by car with their friends, my kids are the ones who encourage the back roads, perhaps one tourist spot along the way. It's the journey, not the destination.

(Oh, and we always made sure that we made it to the hotel in time to take a dip in the pool - that helped a bit!)

Earnest Prole said...

The willfulness of young children is like the Platte River: a mile wide and an inch deep.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Basic chores and a very limited allowance. The potential for earning more money by doing more chores. Significant limitations on time spent with electronic gadgets. Make them read. Reasonable bed time.

Eric said...

Circulation dies in stupidity.

mockturtle said...

Howard asserts: some of you, apparently with puritanical hangups, think happy is a bad thing.

From what did you infer this? Happiness may be a result of good parenting but should not be the goal. A child experiences happiness through experiences and a sense of accomplishment. The problem is that parents to whom the child's happiness is paramount will indulge them, which never leads to happiness.

Feste said...


Children are observable. Then there is the "theory of children." Both change, hopefully, as our wisdom improves.

Joe said...

Seems that they're asking that their child deal with them on an adult level and are disappointed that isn't happening. Six year old will express their love doing things THEY think are significant, like drawing a picture or snuggling up to you. When they finally climb that ladder in the playground, they'll want you to watch, in part because they want to share their joy.

I'd say, every now and then deal with them in their world. (In other words, stop being arrogant dicks and enjoy the simple things in life. That may mean stomping on puddles after a rain or just walking aimlessly through a park or looking at ducks or even accepting a horribly made peanut butter and jelly sandwich.)

The joy my kids, and then granddaughter, brought into my life when they were six cannot be measured.

Feste said...

~
"A Warrior's Daughter."

"Great Spirit, speed me to my lover's rescue! Give me swift cunning for a weapon this night! All-powerful Spirit, grant me my warrior-father's heart, strong to slay a foe and mighty to save a friend!"

Seeing Red said...

My daughter is thinking of becoming a therapist. I told her she might not become rich, but she will have steady work because her generation is nuts. This generation is neurotic. Boomers strike again!

Neurosis may be defined simply as a "poor ability to adapt to one's environment, an inability to change one's life patterns, and the inability to develop a richer, more complex, more satisfying personality."

Joe said...

Cath: "Parents with more than one kid know that kids are born with their own personalities"

This stunned me the most. My siblings and I have our own personalities, but they were within a relatively narrow range and we were fairly low key.

Then I had my first. She was unbelievably stubborn from the day she was born and was quite different from my own siblings. She was, and continues to be as an adult, a challenge. My youngest, three kids later, is her opposite.

(The great part is my oldest' first daughter is like her mom times ten. Karma.)

heyboom said...

I read this article and thought, "did someone bug one of my conversations with my wife back when our daughters were very young?" I truly believe this is great advice, speaking from experience.

Achilles said...

Single children.

Achilles said...

Did bullies serve a useful purpose?

Michael K said...

The problem is that parents to whom the child's happiness is paramount will indulge them, which never leads to happiness.

When I was a medical student, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, we had the first long term survivors of acute childhood leukemia. Prior to that time, around 1965, it was 100% fatal.

In the hematology clinic kids began to hit 5 years with no recurrence. It was like a miracle.

One sad case has stayed with me. This kid was diagnosed at about age 4, the usual onset age. The doctors told the parents there was no hope of cure and they should just love him while they had him.

Now, he was 9 years old and the parents had spoiled him rotten. They could not stand the kid and they kept asking the doctors when the leukemia would come back.

He would fit in well at Yale.

gadfly said...

Meghan Leahy has discovered the answer to bringing our man-child president back to a reality in which he can function. With necessary changes in gender, here is essentially Ms Leahy's advice:

A [president with the mind of a] 6-year-old is particularly interesting because [six-year-olds] are very sensitive to their surroundings and how others are feeling [about them]. It doesn’t necessarily make them grateful, but it does help them be more attuned to others.

Other 6-year-olds can seem like a black hole into which you pour all your attention, hopes and dreams to no avail. They are not happy and not grateful. Why does this happen? Is your [child-like president] intrinsically selfish? No, [yes, possibly or] not really. [He] is a child, so [he] is naturally self-oriented, but in essence, you are giving [him] too much of what [he] doesn’t need.

What [our president] needs is for you to stop trying to make [him] happy. Stop planning [and attending] too many events with him]. Stop taking [his] bad attitude personally. And above all, stop talking to [him] about being grateful. Why? First, if we look at the evidence, we know that it doesn’t work. (Trust me, if lectures worked, my kids would be perfect by now.) Second, humans are funny in that the more we try to please them, the more it elicits bad behavior. When we try to make our kids happy, we end up becoming needy. The kids control our moods, our plans, our parenting and our confidence.

1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child; but when I became a man, I put away selfish things.

mockturtle said...

Children do have unique personalities but all need boundaries and standards of behavior during their formative years. This makes them feel secure and helps them develop self-discipline by delayed gratification. Forms of discipline often must vary from child to child depending on his/her personality. The writer could have benefited from a good course in childhood development. Expecting such conceptualization from a six-year-old is unreasonable.

William Chadwick said...

Speaking of over-indulged kids (and if this seems slightly off-topic, please forgive me but it's something I've noticed increasingly, and maybe you have too): Are kids screamier than ever? Kids have been noisy since I was a kid, but just in the past five years or so, living in Yuppie neighborhoods, I've noticed the Yuplings like to emit these high, piercing shrieks you might expect from an animal caught in a trap. I call it "The Cry of the Over-indulghed/Under-disciplined Brat." They seem to emit it for no discernible reason. I don't remember hearing it or emitting it when I was a kid (the Old Man would have just smacked me quiet if I had), or hearing it from other kids. Has anyone else experienced it? Anyone got any idea how it originated or caught on?

mockturtle said...

William Chadwick, yes! I've noticed that too. Since I spend a lot of time in public campgrounds, I hear it a lot and often wonder how one would know if a child were being assaulted or kidnapped. We certainly didn't scream all the time like that nor did my children. I did shriek one time after running through a spider web as a child and saw that fat, brown monster on my shirt. My mother came running out and had assumed I was being murdered.

Ken B said...

Free range kids.

mockturtle said...

And, for heaven's sake, don't give all the kids on the team a trophy! What incentive is there to want to win? Is winning bad now?

A younger friend of mine taught elementary school during a time when the entire class was given a single grade base on 'cooperative' efforts. Few things have struck me as more destructive to learning.

Saint Croix said...

BTW, St. Croix: What DID Carol Brady do?

Damn if I remember.

Might have been Mike who handled that one.

Or Alice.

Or maybe one of the siblings.

Michael K said...

"the answer to bringing our man-child president back to a reality in which he can function. "

This is a fundamental failing of the left. You cannot understand how this man has run a huge international business for many years and raised an attractive family.

Maybe you don't know as much as you think.

Possible ?

William Chadwick said...

"the answer to bringing our man-child president back to a reality in which he can function. "

Not a particular Trump fan--I'm mainly grateful to him for saving us from the Reign of Queen Cacklepants--but any "liberal" calling him a "man-child" needs to take a good look at themselves. These are people who want us to be the docile children of Daddy and Mommy State for the rest of our lives . . . eternal Pajama Boys and Pajama Girls.


Charlie Currie said...

My mother was one of those helicopter moms, always hoovering over me, planning every aspect of my life, minute to minute, I'll never get those words out of my head..."go outside and play"...if I heard them once, I heard them a million times...not much else, though.

Susan said...

Children that age have a belief that anything that happens to them is a direct result of their own actions and they "deserve" it.

If they have abusive parents it's because they are bad so the parents are mean. If something bad happens to mom or dad it's because they "wished" it when they were mad. If things are going well for them it must also be because they deserve it. They can also magically keep parents from divorce if they are good enough.

They get over it after a while and by the time they are teens they realize every bad thing that happens to them is all mom and dad's fault. Some people never get past this stage and move on to taking responsibility for their own actions.

Lucien said...

Why is Gadfly talking about Trump on this thread? Dude, give the shit a rest now and then. It must be exhausting to always have to loop everything back to politics.

Henry said...

If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen, that it may live
And be a thwart disnatur'd torment to her!
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
Turn all her mother's pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt, that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!


King Lear, advice columnist.

rhhardin said...

Old (1940s) readers' digest quip. When I got married I had three theories of raising children. Now I have three children and no theories.

victoria said...

Your job is not to raise happy children. You job is to raise a child that can survive without you and become a contributing member of society. To get a job, to stand on their own. When they encounter bad things and failure (which everyone does) that they can recognize the failure, learn from it and rise above it. Go forward, not seeking mom and dad's acceptance of what you do.

Believe me,my parents never considered the feelings of their children when we moved,cross country, 3 times in one year. When we moved 9 times over 6 years, to chase promotions. We moved cross country, again, when i was a senior in High School and I was expected to not only survive, but thrive. Did i hate it, you bet i did. Did i survive and thrive, yes i did. I learned over those 6 years to depend on myself and derive my feelings of self worth from my accomplishments academically and socially. Not from coddling from mom and dad. Would i have liked more attention and outward expressions of love, yes I would have, but it was not in the cards.

When i had a child, my husband and I taught her those things and more. She is a productive member of society, works, supports herself and has a really strong sense of her own self worth. When she has had adversity, she has mourned her looses and then moved on to be more productive. Truly a lemonade from lemons person. If she had whined that she was bored or that we weren't appreciating her, i am not sure what i would have done. But she didn't. She can entertain herself and doesn't mind being on her own.


Parenting is not easy, but, when you build your entire life around the happiness of your children, you are doing yourself and them a disservice.


Vicki from Pasadena

Howard said...

Mock: Since true happiness is the main symptom of strong mental health, only someone who has one or more pathological defects manifested in puritanical or fundamentalist guilt tripping would not make a child's happiness one of the four fundamental goals of parenting. That is just plain mean, cruel and petty.

The rub is that to make them autonomously happy, you must make life a struggle from the get-go. Laughing at a crying toddler who just fell is where it starts. Perhaps you don't understand this because it is Dad's job to make them strong and happy while Mom is responsible for healthy and smart. I understand when a kid gets a booboo, your breasts weep milk and your uterus contracts, so you can help it. I'm sure you agree because this is simple biology that gets one fired from Google.

Howard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henry said...

I learned over those 6 years to depend on myself and derive my feelings of self worth from my accomplishments

A parent who wants gratitude from a small child still hasn't learned this.

Howard said...

victoria: everything you describe in the first paragraph is how you make kids happy: self sufficiency. Happiness is vitally important... look at all the psychologically damaged kids eating prozac by the handfuls due to the self esteem child-rearing theory which was designed to make the parents happy. The subject article was about a parent who wasn't happy because of a lack of gratitude from a 6-yo. Typical self esteem parent

mockturtle said...

Vicki from Pasadena @4:17: I agree with you 100%!

mockturtle said...

Howard, I think one reason so many teens are depressed and neurotic today is that they have very little responsibility and chance for accomplishment. Little or nothing is expected of them. Back in the 'olden days' many grew up on farms or maybe their parents ran a small business and the kids were not just involved but necessary to everyday existence. Kids today feel worthless because they are assumed to be so.

Meade said...

If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is “God is crying.” And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is “Probably because of something you did.”
-- Jack Handey

Meade said...

When my kid was 6 I started teaching her dead baby jokes — so that she would learn gratitude.
Now, a 6 year-old isn't old enough to appreciate the humor of dead baby jokes, but it did cause mine to at least stop and think, "Hey, I made to 6. So I've got that going for me."

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I have five, all grown. Some born to us, some adopted. They are great to have around when they are older. My current advice to young couples is to have more children and pay less attention to them. Win-win, I say.

Feste said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Feste said...

Henry @ 8/12/17, 3:51, wrote:

How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!


From King Lear.

And from the same.

I feel these are among the most tender lines anywhere.

Albany - “How have you known the miseries of your father?”

Edgar - “By nursing them, my lord.”


That final, single sentence.

Howard said...

Mock: Yeah, that's a huge part of it. The root IMO is the horrible expert advise starting with Dr Spock that gets pushed on the Today Show, Oprah and The View. One huge mistake parents make is asking kids their opinions and trying to logically explain what is expected of them or to justify a parental decision. Like you said before, boundaries are a huge part of their security. People forget that they are dealing with children who have childish ideas and opinions.