When I was growing up, life involved lots of unsupervised playtime. Whether I was out in the backyard, biking around my small hometown or playing in the nearby gully with friends, parental supervision just wasn’t something my friends and I worried about very much. Our parents knew approximately where we were and we knew approximately when we had to be home, and that was good enough.
There are some things I’m glad have changed since I was a child: I don’t want my boys biking around without helmets like I once did and I’m glad that recess playtime at schools is better supervised to ensure that children don’t hurt one another. But when my boys are a little older, I want to make sure that they have that same minimally supervised playtime that I once had. It let me learn about the world, make my own mistakes and develop a sense of identity. I don’t want to take that away from my boys.
Yet already I feel like I’ve become more of a worrier and a micromanager than I want to be. Pressure from media, other parents and my own worrier of a husband is gradually turning me into someone that feels torn between the desire for a relaxed parenting style that lets kids make their own mistakes and the more involved parenting that ensures I am actively supervising and managing my sons’ actions at school, at home and at recreational activities. Needless to say, when I heard about the blog tour for the new parenting book Drop the Worry Ball: How to Parent in the Age of Entitlement by Dr. Alex Russell with Tim Falconer, I couldn’t wait to participate. I received the book a few weeks ago and have been reading and rereading it ever since.
The book is a fresh look at current parenting trends through the eyes of a Dad that, despite fifteen year of experience working as a child psychologist, still occasionally battles the desire to act like a “helicopter parent,” hovering over his children and analyzing their actions. I loved the easy reading, relatable way that Dr. Russell shared his information as well as his sympathy both for the parents trying so hard to do the best thing for their children and the youngsters trying to escape their parents’ ceaseless attention.
Now while some parts of this book don’t apply to me quite yet since my children are still fairly young, the entire book was absolutely fascinating and it was great to get a look at how the desire to be a “good parent” for our children can backfire and result in our kids feeling that they are entitled to having our care and support at all times. It doesn’t sounds like a bad thing at first, does it? After all, I love my boys and want them to feel that they can depend on me for care and support. But when children are never allowed to experience the natural cause-and-effect results of life, they don’t develop the skills they need to handle life as an adult.
Dr. Alex Russell describes the “entitled child” problem as something that is becoming an epidemic in our society and whether or not one believes the problem is that severe, it’s certainly true that there is a downside to giving our children too much. I often say that while my childhood wasn’t the rosiest one I could have wished for, I wouldn’t ever want to change it. The struggles my family went through taught me so many valuable lessons about working for what I want, finding happiness in myself instead of in possessions and fighting through problems to find solutions.
For many of my peers, this wasn’t the case. Instead their parents raised them trying to ensure that their children were happy, secure and never faced with want. I saw some of the results of that attitude among my friends at school: teenagers that would break things that didn’t belong to them and then say, “Whatever, I’ll pay for it!” instead of apologizing, newly-licensed drivers destroying vehicles that their parents provided them only to have the parents immediately provide another one…it shocked me that my peers could be so arrogant.
Yet after reading Drop the Worry Ball, I realized that if I let that anxiety I carry for my children continue to grow, my boys could very well end up with that same inability to understand or appreciate the value of possessions and the rules of the “real world.” I loved the way that Dr. Russell explained how non-catastrophic failures are actually beneficial since they help teach children the consequences of their choices and how to handle disappointment. That’s the important lesson for me in this book. By ensuring my children do have a better and more secure childhood than I did but at the same time allowing them to make mistakes to help develop their resiliency, I can help them learn the lessons of the real world without them ever having to face the serious hardships I went through.
This book is an engaging and fascinating read and because there are lots of real-life stories about entitled children and their worrying parents, there are plenty of chances for “a-ha” moments when reading. From the description of the thought process of a two-year-old when having a tantrum to the breakdown of the actions of a typical entitled teenager, there is all kinds of useful information to help parents understand the behaviour of children in general and, even more importantly, learn how to mindfully watch their children to better understand their own child’s personality. I appreciated that Drop the Worry Ball was essentially an “un-parenting” book; rather than providing a long list of rules and requirements for being an ideal parent, it just gives some tips and tricks for relaxing more and hovering less.
If you’re itching to check out Drop the Worry Ball by Dr. Alex Russell for yourself, you’re in luck because one very lucky Mommy Kat and Kids reader is going to win a copy of this book for themselves! To enter, just leave a blog comment answering this question: Why do you feel it’s important to teach your kids that failing is part of a learning experience? Overall, this book was probably one of the best parenting books for me that I’ve ever read. The philosophies really resonated with me and I’m excited to know a little bit more about how to move forward to ensure my sons learn about dealing with the challenges of the real world while still knowing they can count on me for encouragement. It’s hard to be a parent today when there’s so much pressure to “succeed” at parenting. But with a little patience and determination, we can all drop the worry ball!
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Disclosure – I am participating in the Drop the Worry Ball by Mom Central Canada on behalf of Wiley & Sons Canada. I received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own.