Written By Leslie Kennedy
I am currently home full time with my 3 year old son, who naps, and my 5 year old former JKer who is home for the summer. Typically I use my son’s nap time to get my work done, be it writing or cleaning or whatever else needs to be done.
My 5 year old is currently watching television while I write this blog. I felt a pang of bad mom-ness about it until my friend pointed out that her own mom probably didn’t entertain her the whole time she was home as a little kid in the summer. I doubt my mother did either. “You don’t need to entertain her all the time,” my friend said. “She’ll survive. And probably figure out new ways to entertain herself.”
Celebrity lifestyle guru Olga Levancuka agrees. Though I’m loathe to use a celebrity anything as a compass for any behaviour, be it vaccinations or parenting choices, I happen to completely agree with her philosophy, controversial though it appears to be.
“Be a selfish parent!” she says. Levancuka encourages parents to stop praising and start ignoring kids. It sounds harsh and really, I don’t think you can praise children too much, to your children. (The whole world doesn’t need to hear about how awesome you think your child is all the time. We all think our children are awesome, but I digress…)
But I do think there is value in ignoring them.
“She advocates being selfish with your time and taking care of your own needs – it’s good for your kids,” The Sun reported. “Get your kids to do stuff for you. You are not their servant, nor the doormat. The earlier you stop behaving like one, the earlier they’ll grow to respect you,” Levancuka said.
In the age of Pinterest and daily extra-curricular activities, ours is a culture dominated by entertaining and interacting and indulging our children with all of our spare time and energy. We are made to feel guilty for being on our phones at the playground, which we took them too so they could burn off energy and entertain and enjoy themselves for a change.
I often feel like a cruise director, trying to find ways to constantly engage and entertain my kids and feel like I’m somehow failing them if I’m not. But why? I used to play for hours on my own, conjuring up scenarios and games and adventures using nothing more than my imagination. We didn’t have all the latest toys in my house. I did one night of dance a week for six months out of the year. And yet, I had a fun and full childhood. I spent a ton of time playing and most of that was not at the behest or direction of my parents.
Youth psychologist Dr. Carl Pickhardt told the Sun that parental attention doesn’t automatically lead to indulgence and entitlement, as long as it is qualified in two important ways. “The child is also taught to pay attention to parental need, so the relationship works two ways, not just one – the child’s; and the child is taught attending to one’s own needs so they don’t become overly dependent on parents for self-satisfaction,” he said.
So maybe while my daughter is entertaining herself while I get some work done, which is both selfish, I guess, and necessary, she is learning that there are needs beyond her own entertainment that need to be met. And maybe that’s something she is not too young to learn.
“As parents let go of doing for the adolescent, the young person must become more self-sufficient in doing for her or himself,” Pickhardt said.
Levancuka’s isn’t advocating for the neglect of children and ignoring their needs. She is advocating for parents remembering they have needs too, which should not be ignored by parents or their children either.
There is value in letting children do things for themselves, problem solve for themselves and find ways to entertain themselves without expecting or even demanding anyone else do it for them.
It seems backwards but perhaps the best way for parents to teach their kids how to not be selfish, is by being selfish themselves.