We Have To Stop Crippling Our Children

Father and Son

There are lessons I want to teach my children. There are lessons for being human and teaching moments that I look for and to. We talk about questions of dignity and I am careful to make sure they know your personal wealth has little to no correlation to a person’s IQ.

I have a very clear understanding of my responsibilities as a father. It is not only because I am a better father than you are but because I have spent hours thinking about what it means. Go through this page and you will find a ton of links in which I share thoughts, feelings and ideas about being a father.

That is because I could be a better father. I want to be better. I don’t write all this crap because I want to be the greatest dad blogger ever. That is not what my kids will remember me for.

They won’t care how many pageviews I get or any of the other social media metric crap we all sometimes worry about. They don’t care if I am the keynote speaker at BlogHer or Blogworld. They just care about my time and how much I give to them.

Private Versus Public School

I pulled my children out of private school and enrolled them in public school. I have no regrets about the money I have spent on their education but I can’t keep it up. I took a beating for them that had to stop.

I knew months ago that this would be the case and began preparing them for the change, but I also knew that it would make them a bit nervous.

Change is often frightening. They have heard other parents speak very poorly about public school but they never heard it from their mother or I. We are public school grads and we haven’t ever seen it in black and white terms. Some are good, some are bad, some are in between.

Earlier today my son and I had a long talk about what is going to happen tomorrow when they go back to school.

I won’t make you the bubble boy. I won’t stop you from failing or getting hurt. I won’t prevent you from falling down and skinning your knee. But I will always be there to help you back up and support you.”

He didn’t flinch when I said any of these things because he has heard it before. He knows that I think many parents are crippling their children.He knows that I don’t believe that everyone gets a reward for just showing up and that I think failure teaches you how to deal with adversity.

But he doesn’t know that I am nervous.

It Will Be Ok

My heart and my head are on the same page. This was/is the right decision but it feels a bit awkward to me. That is because change isn’t just frightening for kids, it is for parents too.

My daughter is still in grade school so I feel pretty good about that. She is a force of nature and the dark haired beauty is a freight train like me. She’ll figure it out and within a couple of days all will be easy for her.

Her older brother is a force of nature too, but he isn’t as cognizant of his strengths as she is. That is ok, he’ll get there.

But I would be lying if I said that his being in middle school didn’t throw me a bit. I remember it as having been a crazy time. I got into a four or five fistfights in middle school.

It wasn’t because I was a bad or tough kid, it was just part of being a boy. They weren’t the first fights I had been in. My guy hasn’t really been in a fight. That is ok too.

Several years ago he was bullied for a few days. I called the father of the other boy and we fixed the situation. I like that he hasn’t been in any serious scraps, but I worry because this school will be a little bit rougher than the old one. They were sheltered there, but sooner or later you have to learn how to walk on your own.

We Have To Stop Crippling Our Children

Technically it is not my place to tell others how to raise their children but I wonder what is going to happen to the boy/girl whose parents never let them get hurt. I wonder what will happen when they finally fail and no one is there to catch them.

It concerns me,  but the only place I have any “control” is in my home and even that is limited.

School starts tomorrow. I wish my children well and hope like hell they come home and tell me that it is amazing. And in between all this I’ll probably get lost trying to figure out how the boy who was born yesterday is old enough to be in middle school. Won’t be long before the “monster” is truly big enough to be one.


This is part of Just Write #48.

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  1. Henry Elliss August 29, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Oh Jack, I do so love your writing!

  2. Nina B August 14, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Have you read Blessings of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel? This posts speaks beautifully to that book. I believe in her theories (kids need to develop resilience) and completely agree with Mogel and with YOU that we absolutely cripple our kids when we do everything in power to shield them from even the most minor unpleasant moments in life. Great post!

    • The JackB August 15, 2012 at 11:54 am

      I know the name of the book and think she might have spoken at my shul, but I don’t think I have read it yet. Oy, the list of what I need to read is getting so darn long.

  3. Joe August 14, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    I hear you with this one. My son is coming out of a special ed program and into our city’s public middle school, with its reputation for tough kids. I’m a little nervous. My son is a first degree black belt in tkd, but he’s only 12 and kinda small for his age. He’s not a fighter at this stage. I’ll be taking some deep breaths when the school year starts…

    • The JackB August 15, 2012 at 11:24 am

      Hi Joe,

      It is nerve wracking, but our children often rise to the occasion and surprise us with how well they do. Easy to say, not so easy to just accept, at least not until we see them do it.

  4. Seattledad August 14, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    I wish you the best of luck with this decision Jack. We have labored over this decision as well, and have decided on a small private school, which for the first year at least, won’t cost much more than public school. The class size is small which we believe he needs as he gets started in school. We may eventually end up doing the same as you. I will be interested to read how it all goes.

    • The JackB August 15, 2012 at 11:23 am

      @ff82f50cbbf6bbfa1e32ec116f491472:disqus I think that it is great for those who can afford to do it. My kids thrived in the smaller classes at the old school and I think when they were really little it was a big help.

  5. nicole_asmanyasgiven August 14, 2012 at 6:59 am

    My kids have always been in public school. My oldest will be in 5th grade this year. I’m already nervous about middle school. She’s a girl, and I keep hearing how tough middle school is for everyone, but especially girls. And she’s very sensitive. But we’ve made peace with our school choice and our family choices. I really like what you have to say here though.

    • The JackB August 15, 2012 at 11:10 am

      Hi Nicole,

      I am comfortable with the choices we have made with our children. The school situation is really tough. It is an ongoing challenge that is worth investing time in. If you are comfortable with your then you have already won part of the battle.

  6. Cris Moxam August 14, 2012 at 5:40 am

    Hi Jack. I enjoyed your article, as always. I agree with your school of thought that some parents are over-protective of their children and it can hurt them on long term, and, probably, shape the “brat” personality. Lucky ducks with a sense of entitlement. I am the parent of a toddler and he is my only child. I am learning to be a parent hands-on. Tough job. It’s like I applied for the position of CEO when I didn’t even finish high school. And, oddly, I got the job. Hah! Sorry to go off topic here. I was going to say that I let my young son explore everything (well, almost every thing) on his own so long as he’s not in harm’s way. Of course, that means constant supervision, lots of cleanup after him and yes, at times, scraped knees. But, he can wear good clothes on a week day, eat a pound of dirt, touch knickknacks, jump on the bed, go for a walk in the rain ( with the stroller rain cover on), run in the house, and of the sort. Also, although I don’t condone violence, I wouldn’t mind if he held his own in a fist fight in middle school (so long as he didn’t initiate it). I am so afraid to cripple his personality by constantly saying “No! no! no! no!”. I decided that my job is to make sure he is safe in his endeavors and adventures around the house and I, well…I trust him. How do you trust a toddler to know right from wrong without your input as a parent? Maybe trust is a strong choice of a word. What I mean is that many times I watch him for a long time before I intervene to guide him and steer him away from a situation. I am watching for his pilot light to see if it kicks in. I am trying to be the small government whose job is to protect our liberties and let free markets work their magic. Hahaha me and my analogies, eh?

    I command your drive to be a better father regardless of the number of page views and, so far, your articles convinced me that you are successfully achieving your goal. I come to your page for inspiration and I hope you never take this site down. Thank you

    • The JackB August 15, 2012 at 11:06 am

      Hi Cris,

      Parenting is always on the job training and it changes all the time. Just when you figure out one age/stage they move on to the next one and if you have more than one kid you enjoy learning how they all like to be different.

      I like your philosophy to let your toddler learn by doing. I am biased, but there is much to be said for not turning our children into fearful creatures who are afraid of everything.

  7. Heather - Hopelessly Flawed August 14, 2012 at 4:42 am

    Agreed about crippling our kids. While in my head I want to crush everyone who hurts my babies, I know it’s part of the process, and I hope to help them learn to navigate it on their own. Helicopter parenting makes me crazy. I like to sit back and watch them wade in on their own – they learn to swim faster than they get credit for!

    • The JackB August 14, 2012 at 11:29 pm

      @3d71986348b5dc547cf4e030b737deb6:disqus It is impossible not to want to smack the people/things that hurt our children. I think it is a natural response but trying to find the balance of letting go so they learn how to deal with life is natural too.

      Most of us do just fine and unless we give our kids the opportunity we never allow them to grow.

  8. Stan Faryna August 14, 2012 at 3:23 am

    My mother gave me the choice of going to a public or private high school. I chose the public. Because public school was real. Public school is where what’s real is going on. The smart ones, the bad ones, the rich, the poor, the weird, etc. They’re all there and you have to work it out with them all – if you want to succeed in life.

    You’re still a great dad, Jack. I’m saying it just in case this issue gave you some wee doubts.

    • The JackB August 14, 2012 at 11:28 pm

      @faryna:disqus It is good to see you.

      Public school is real and that’s a big part of why we moved them. It was time for them to start learning more about the world and all of the different kinds of people in it.

      It is always good to see you here Stan. Hope things are well out your way.

  9. Lindsay Bell August 14, 2012 at 2:43 am

    I love this post. I’m 100% on your side regarding bubble wrap kids – drives me bonkers and having already worked with the “first generation” of them to hit the workforce, it does them no favours. My son is almost 13 – and he has learned that the world actually *doesn’t* revolve around him (though it DOES in my heart!). He takes the subway in Toronto, understands the rules around being home alone, and dealt with hitting grade seven/new school/bottom of the totem pole last year. Just yesterday, due to crazy big city circumstances beyond our control, he had to hop a ferry to TOs downtown island airport, check himself in, and RUN for his flight – *all by himself* – due to unforeseen big city living circumstances beyond our control (construction mayhem). The alternative was missing his flight to visit extended family in New Brunswick. And HE DID IT! We knew he could do it (though I was freaking out), and I was never so proud of him as I was yesterday. Sometimes I feel like a terrible parent – that I don’t measure up to the uber soccer moms and dads who coddle their children like Waterford crystal. But I know I am doing the right thing for him. And I know he’s SAFER in the big bad world because of it. You are doing the right thing Jack. Your kids will thank you one day. And they’ll be just fine in the process.

    • The JackB August 14, 2012 at 11:26 pm

      Lindsay Bell It sounds like your son had quite the experience this week and one that will help bolster his self confidence.
      I understand the second guessing and the wondering about parenting. I really wonder about parents who don’t ever question their decisions. Being a father/mother is a huge responsibility so it is natural to ask if we are doing the right thing.
      it is not always easy to let the kids go and find their way but if we don’t do it then how do they learn to take care of themselves. What do they do when things go wrong and no one is there to help. They deserve better.

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