06 October 2010

Who's Really the Nincompoop Here?

First, let it be known that because I have the sense of humor of a 4-year old, the word nincompoop still cracks me up. Mostly because it contains the word, "poop". Obviously, that, coupled with my obsession over all things helicopter parenting meant that I had to read this: Are We Raising a Generation of Nicompoops? It is currently the most e-mailed article on Boston.com - and has been for over 5 days.

On reading however, I was sorely disappointed in what I found. Rather than another interesting commentary on the ill effects of helicopter parenting as children come of age, it was an unintentional slam on the parents themselves. So, I thought it would be fun to dissect the article here (feel free to play along and add your two cents!):

1. Susan Maushart, a mother of three, says her teenage daughter "literally does not know how to use a can opener. Most cans come with pull-tops these days. I see her reaching for a can that requires a can opener, and her shoulders slump and she goes for something else."

My Thoughts: Um...your daughter literally will not know how to use a can opener if she's never been shown. Clearly, you have one in your home because you have inferred here that not all cans in your larder have pop-tops. You have witnessed the dejected sag of her slender shoulders as she realizes that, yet again, she is foiled by a can and may not partake of her snack of choice. And yet...you have not stepped in to demonstrate the fine art of utilizing the most ancient of all tools - the can opener?!

You, Ma'am, have failed.

Nincompoop Score:
Kids - 0
Parents - 1

2. Teenagers are so accustomed to either throwing their clothes on the floor or hanging them on hooks that Maushart says her "kids actually struggle with the mechanics of a clothes hanger."

My Thoughts: You allow your kids the luxury of throwing their clothing on the floor. I will assume here that you pick them up for them. You've given them pegs to utilize. You admit to have seen them struggle with a hanger. Please see comment #1. Again, Ma'am, you have failed.

Nincompoop Score:
Kids - 0
Parents - 2

3. Many kids never learn to do ordinary household tasks. They have no chores. Take-out and drive-through meals have replaced home cooking. And busy families who can afford it often outsource house-cleaning and lawn care.

My Thoughts: How? Why? Our toddler has "chores" if you count the fact that we ask her to put her sneakers in the hallway after she takes them off, and we ask her to clean up her toys at the end of the day. I'll have her put her dirty clothes in her hamper and she throws away rubbish without being asked. Age appropriate chores, but in a sense, chores nonetheless.

Drive through and take away are luxuries - expensive and unhealthy ones 9 times out of 10. Even families I know who have 12 hour days before they get home and start dinner typically cook, especially now, especially in this economy. Granted, that's anecdotal. But it's my experience and the concepts in this paragraph are so foreign to me that I'm afraid the parents lose this round again. Clearly, chores and home cooked meals can happen. These parents simply choose to not have them happen.

Nincompoop Score:
Kids - 0
Parents - 3

4. "It's so all laid out for them," said Maushart, author of the forthcoming book "The Winter of Our Disconnect," about her efforts to wean her family from its dependence on technology. "Having so much comfort and ease is what has led to this situation -- the Velcro sneakers, the Pull-Ups generation. You can pee in your pants and we'll take care of it for you!"

My Thoughts: So, Miss Maushart is actually trying to wean her family off of the technology that she chose to raise them with. Interesting. That aside: Velcro is great for right now. Our 2 year old can fasten her own shoes. However, I do note that shoes with laces are still in great abundance (and velcro was around when I was a wee lass, yet I still know how to tie my shoes...) and as kids age, there's nothing stopping a parent from buying them.

Pull-ups factor heavily in our lives at  the moment - or perhaps they don't? After all, it's only during very long car rides, naps, or bedtime that Miss A wears them. She's getting goood at this "using a toilet" thing. And she's only 2! Imagine that. Teching a kid that peeing in your pants isn't for life...wow.

[sigh] This is really getting depressing.

Nincompoop Score:
Kids - 0
Parents - 4

5. The issue hit home for me when a visiting 12-year-old took an ice-cube tray out of my freezer, then stared at it helplessly. Raised in a world where refrigerators have push-button ice-makers, he'd never had to get cubes out of a tray -- in the same way that kids growing up with pull-tab cans don't understand can openers.

My Thoughts: OK. Really?! 99% of the homes I've been in, either my own or friends' or acquaintances, have normal fridges with freezers that require ice cube trays. In fact, my own fridge does have an ice maker (though it's not an "in-door" model), but we have no water line to connect it to. So, we use ice cube trays. Just like most of the canned goods in our larder, and so many others, require an opener (have you noticed that a pop top actually adds a buck or more to the price?!), so we must suffer in what's apparently viewed as neolithic servitude - slaves to our manual kitchens that do nothing for us, never mind wipe our bums too.

Nincompoop Score:
Kids - 0
Parents - 5

This is too depressing. I think I'll stop here and call it a loss for the parents.

Now, while I'm the first to gleefully admit that I can't wait to be of that age where I can scream at kids to get off'n my lawn...and I've certainly been known to go off on my own, "KIDS THESE DAYS CONSARN'T" rants and raves (usually after a cherub-faced 6 year old tells me to "F**k off"), I will also be the first to come to the defense of the youth of today when they are unfairly maligned.

It's not the kids who are the nincompoops here. It's the parents who never taught them; who never made the time; who value the material and ease over anything else. I also suspect that the number of kids who are like those in the scenarios culled from the original article and noted above is vastly smaller than those who aren't - and it's totally unfair to use them to paint a generational picture like this. Let's call it like it is: There Is a Generation of Nincompoops Passing Their Nincompoopery Along to Their Offspring.


Anonymous said...

I'm with you - but I would like to believe that most kids aren't quite "that" helpless. Though, I'm not really sure, since I haven't raised a teenager in a while.

I think today's "parenting" discussions are so focused on "childhood" stuff that we sometimes forget that our goal is to raise adults. (After all, there's money in stretching childhood out.) Also, many don't realize that kids are most teachable (on practical matters, at least) before they are 11 or so - because hormones make people stupid. So it is counterproductive to have kids focus mainly on self-centered "kid" stuff like soccer, homework, and video games when they are in elementary school, and then expect their home ec skills to kick in when they are in middle / high school / college.

I do hire a monthly maid service and I don't cook much. However, I am committed to raise adults and have them trained in all the basics as early as possible. 3yo has cooked a couple of things herself, ties shoes, etc. 4yo keeps her things neat and organized, and keeps track of schedules. Most kids have the ability to do things for themselves, so I don't see the attraction of holding them back.

Oh, and I'll bet the kid who couldn't hang clothes on a hanger or use a can opener could handle plenty of complexity if it was for something fun. - SKL

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