Hey little Taylor, sometimes you really are a jerk
Anyone who happens to be a regular on the toddler party circuit can confirm that pass the parcel is not what it used to be.
Contrary to the rules of old, where convention dictated that only a few – or perhaps merely one – of the paper layers unwrapped would unearth a prize, it has gradually been decreed that every single child must win a toy.
Leaving a friend’s birthday celebration laden down with cake and a lolly bag is no longer enough with parents now pressured to comply with the ludicrous notion that no partygoer should emerge from a game empty-handed.
Who would have thought that missing out on the acquirement of yet another cheap and soon-to-be-forgotten plastic trinket is grounds for sustaining serious childhood trauma?
And so, desperately trying to uphold the mantra that “Everyone’s A Winner!”, the average three-year-old’s birthday party now resembles behind-the-scenes at APEC, with organisers running around with realms of paper as they frantically co-ordinate proceedings.
Ensuring the music just happens to stop at precisely at the right moment so as to pair suitable gifts to each and every one of the pint-sized guests at a co-ed gathering isn’t a task for the faint of heart.
That even the most innocuous of activities has been stripped of its sense of competition is an indication of the well-intentioned but absurd hypothesis that children must be shielded from disappointment of any kind.
If we don’t credit our children for having sufficient resilience to rebound from the short-lived anguish of watching a peer win a friendly game, then how are we to equip them to cope with the genuine heartaches of life that lie ahead?
To those about to start nodding in furious agreement that modern children have it far too good and tut-tutting how it’s time to bring back corporal punishment, I’m afraid I must now disappoint you.
Unlike the management of a certain Sydney shopping centre, I’m not advocating a return to the days of the archaic maxim that children be seen and not heard.
Needless meddling in party games aside, most of the changes that have occurred in parenting with each passing generation have been for the better.
From the increased social acceptance of a father’s involvement to the opening up of the lines of communication between parent and offspring, the constant revising of child-rearing practices should be applauded.
Nurturing self-esteem in a child is vital, and shielding them from anger, violence and the other not-so-nice realities of the grown-up world as much as possible is admirable.
But I can’t be the only one who wonders why, as a society, we seems to lurch from one parenting extreme to the other.
Surely there’s a happy medium to be found somewhere between the view that children deserve a smack behind the ears for so much as raising their voice and the philosophy that every thing a child says and does must remain beyond reproach.
Confidence is an indispensible trait and it is a lucky child who grows up in a home in which they are installed with a sense of self-belief.
But we have all encountered adults who might have been far better off if only they had been defeated at pass the parcel a little more often during their formative years.
A failure to gently break it to a child sometime before they graduate high school that things will not always go their way only leads to delusions of grandeur and an unsustainable sense of self-entitlement.
So it’s hardly surprising that a new American study has found parents who shower their children with self-esteem boosting commentary are doing them a disservice, with undeserved compliments preventing a child from accurately sizing up their capabilities.
The researchers found that parents who offered positive yet constructive feedback rather than gushing platitudes better armed their children in learning to overcome setbacks.
Personally I’ve never subscribed to the simplistic yet popular cry of “I turned out fine” as a means of excusing a few of the more regrettable aspects of childhoods past.
There are certain traumatic experiences from which a child should, wherever possible, be spared.
But of all the childhood scars there are, I am willing to wager not a single one can be traced to a failure to unwrap a small toy during a game of pass the parcel.
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