We are spoiling our children

I don't mean in the 'buying them tons of crap' way (although we do that too) I mean in the 'stifling them by protecting them' way.

We are told to tell children they are great and that we are proud of them at every turn (and no I'm not advocating telling them they are vile and frankly, when snotty, an embarrassment), we are encouraged to spout the 'You can be what ever you want to be' mantra, and at party time, pass-the-parcel now has to be sure to contain the EXACT number of layers so that EVERY CHILD gets a turn and ...and every layer must have a prize!

We are in Wonderland, where everybody has won and all shall have prizes!

Life is not like that. Childhood is practice for life. Playing is important but only if we let it be real. I don't suggest snapping all your child's toys into pieces and yelling 'Life is tough! Deal with it!' when they are 4, but letting your child win every game (or even 'a fair share' of games) doesn't help them.

All animals play and as they grow and get older the play changes too. Play is a way animals learn about their peers, what will work at making a friend or an enemy, how to get along, how to stay safe. If we tell our children all to 'play nice' that might be fine until the day they come across a child that has never been told that. I have always told DD we don't do hitting. But I have also (for example) explained how to keep herself safe should someone hit her! (no one has ever hit her so she has never, yet, had to use the advice)

Children need time to find things out with minimal adult supervision as they grow. We need to keep them alive and free from injury; but hurt feelings, and how to deal with them, are a thing that needs to be learned. Being sad and the feelings that surround that are very real, play can help children learn how to cope later when they are adults.

Failing is something that will happen one day (unless you are amazingly lucky!) and far better that you have learned how to cope with failure when it was (relatively) unimportant than to have it thrust upon you for the first time as a young adult.

Children certainly need to know we love them, but not that we love them because they are clever, or a winner, or pretty, we love them because they are 'them'.

Do you remember the first time you failed or were sad or felt something wasn't fair? Were you a child? How did you cope?

Maybe you think I'm wrong? Should childhood be a happy protected time where fairness and laughter rule?

Love to hear your comments.


  1. I'm all for promoting "the real world" to my children. Sugar coating won't prepare them for life's ups and downs. I've had a hard adult life, but thankfully back when I was a child there was non of the "everything must be fair" rubbish so I'd say i was well prepared.

  2. YES YES YES, I do agree, we are treating children like little dolls, somtimes lessons in life are hard and lots of mistakes are smaller as a child than an adult, so let them make mistakes. You are there to help them not live for them or make their life perfect. Those who tell their kids life should be perfect and everyone will love them are lieing, these huge lies will do harm. Who are we over protecting our kids for them or us? Are we over attached and belive everything refelcts on us? Are we doing it for our own hang ups? I think some parents have the wrong motivation.

  3. Brilliant post and I agree with you wholeheartedly, reading it this quote from Robert A. Heinlein sprang instantly to mind, it is from the book Time Enough For Love: 'Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.'

  4. i was constantly complaining as a child if I thought something to be unjust and my mother was constantly replying 'life isn't fair!'

    It would drive me mad, and I would futility protest 'well it SHOULD BE!'

    You can't make childhood a sunlight haven from all frustration - it's impossible. Though I do advocate filtering a little, children are growing and developing emotionally as well as phsycially and can't just take everything without getting dangerously stressed.

    For example, i have an extremely unreliable brother in law who periodically turns up out of the blue with all this grand plans of fun things to do with our kids that never (or rarely) come to fruition. I no longer share these ideas with the kids, as constant disappointment just isn't fun, what's the point? If something does happen, yay, they can enjoy it. But I don't tell them about the 10 things he previously texted about that never happened.

  5. Totally agree with this, it is so important for children to learn about REAL life from an early age while they still have the support of parents to help them deal with it. Sure parents should guide and advise but hiding children from reality doesn't help the child long term.

  6. Anonymous6/11/13

    I agree with all of this. I want Caspar to have a happy childhood but I was brought up with "tough" as the response to my whinging "it's not fair" and it prepared me for adult life, where nothing seems very fair, but we have to cope with it!

  7. I soooooo agree - kids need to learn that life isn't perfect - and that we are there to help them when its not! :-D

  8. Anonymous11/11/13

    So true, my eldest is quite familiar with life isn't fair. Also give her the space and independence to make mistake as so much can be learnt this way.

  9. One of the biggest things a child needs to learn is resilience. That ability to pick up, dust themselves off, and face life again.

    To learn to get up once first has to fall.

    Striking the balance is yet another of those difficult things we have to navigate as parents. I had a childhood that was pretty difficult in some ways but wonderful in others, and I learnt that resilience the very hard way.

    You can't and shouldn't raise your children in a bubble.

  10. Anonymous27/11/13

    I do agree with the concept; many of us do wrap our kids up in cotton wool these days. Maybe constant media scaremongering has a lot to do with that... Not to mention the ridiculous health and safely laws schools and various other organizations, together with parents are expected to adhere to,

    However, it isn't always that easy with some children. Take mine for example, and a whole bunch of of others with autism and special needs. There are so many things that differ in her childhood to my own that I'd be here all day trying to explain. I grew up in the 70s when pass the parcel was a game, not a treat. My daughter never did parties because she simply couldn't cope with the noise and the attention focused on her. I love her unconditionally and she knows that, but at age almost 14, she does need clarification that she's beautiful and popular. She needs to know she isn't overweight and that she's liked. It's her life, and it's now mine. Not all children are the same.

    CJ x

  11. Totally agree. Your line "Childhood is practice for life" is so true, as is your commenter who said we're not here to make their life perfect. This is exactly the culture of our age - ensuring everything is perfect for our kids, no harm, no risk, but in the process we are harming our children, and ourselves by the stress we put ourselves through. I put it down partly to the H&S culture, the over-information we get about whats best for our kids, but also the perfectionist and comparative parenting culture that I inspired me to start my blog. Mums are so much better educated than ever before, and i think we bring the culture of the workplace to our homes....And of course, it doesn't mean to we don't affirm them with words of truth about their beauty/strengths, that is equally important. Every new parent should be given in their Bounty pack a card with those words - you are there to help your child, not make life perfect....


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