Are We Raising a Bunch of Wimps?

BY  |  Monday, Jul 16, 2012 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (14)

My parents are visiting from Florida and staying with us. My step-dad is an Army veteran who spent a year in Okinawa during the Vietnam War. He has a thick, Jersey City accent and sort of reminds me of Ed Norton from the Honeymooners. His way of playing with my girls is to tease them, scare them and call them wimps. But I promise, he does it in a sweet and loving way.

It’s watching their interaction that makes me think I’m raising a bunch of wimps. Our generation of kids, at least my kids, think the bad “S” word is “stupid.” My girls gasp and cover their mouths when my Step-dad uses that forbidden word. Thank God that’s all he says around them. My mother has warned him that he can’t play with them, the way he did with me and his kids when we were little. He would put spiders in my bed, filled the shower head with ketchup (you can imagine my screams when I turned it on) and warned us not to give him any “lip, or else.” He told us to “shut it” when we were being too loud and once shoved a container of Cool Whip in my face at dinner. I loved it. We had a blast.

But I’m raising my girls very differently.

All according to the child psychology and education classes I took in college. I’ve  never cursed in front of them. I tell them to use “an inside voice” when they are too loud, and I don’t even think to scare them or else I’ll suffer with kids who won’t sleep at night. My kids are wimpy and it’s all my fault. I’m not saying we should go back to child-rearing ways of the 70s. Carseats and helmets are important, I didn’t like being spanked or hit with the wooden spoon, and I think kids should be kids—innocent and not mini-adults. Still, I think I may have gone too far the other way.

Are we raising a bunch of wimps?

(Photo: Flickr)


  1. POSTED BY Jimmytown  |  July 16, 2012 @ 9:13 am

    All I have to say about this is: Kids should EARN their trophy. They should have try-outs for sports, feel humiliation, and even get beat up once in their life (at least the boys)

  2. POSTED BY mandy939  |  July 16, 2012 @ 9:26 am

    YES! We are…and have been! Kids in Montclair (at least it was a few years ago) couldn´t even lose a soccer game by more than 2 points. After 2 points ahead, the winning team wasn´t allowed to score until the others caught up. Our playgrounds are soo damn safe it´s ridiculous. The anti-bullying laws that all but force kids to be friends with everyone in their class are just not realistic. (not to say bullying is good, but hey, hasn´t EVERYONE been victim at some point? any IMHO there is a difference between openly not liking someone and bullying them.) Our kids think they are all sooo special that they are unlike everyone else. Where is the sense of community? this goes right down to the so unique that they ARE in fact like everyone else, with a funky spelling of some name or other, that we brand our children with from birth.
    Our kids don´t even have to cross a street alone until they have graduated high school, though some are old enough to drive the very cars they are being protected from. It´s insane.
    If things keep going the way they are, the next generation will be in bubble wrap covered by purell as they are escorted around town by cops. And then what happens when they graduate? Can you imagine THAT transition to adulthood?

  3. POSTED BY Mrs Martta  |  July 16, 2012 @ 9:27 am

    I know this is a very controversial topic. GG, I think you hit the nail on the head: there’s a happy medium in here somewhere. I curse in private, my husband curses when he watches the Mets, but we don’t do it in public or certainly in front of kids. There’s enough ugliness in the world today, why add to it? I don’t like hearing curse words in a public setting.

    I also agree with Jimmytown and so does my husband who used to coach Little League. NOT EVERY KID DESERVES A TROPHY! Also, not every kid deserves to make the team, period. In the old days, if you didn’t make the team, you went home and vowed to practice to get better so that you had a chance to make the team the following season. Today, if a kid doesn’t make the cut, Mommy or Daddy pay a visit to the school or the coach and beg, plead or threaten to let little Johnny play.

    I am not a big fan of spanking or hitting. I think it just reinforces that violence is the answer to problems. I do think that kids need to know boundaries, though, and that their behavior will have consequences. When we were kids, getting sent to the principal’s office or having a teacher threaten that she was going to call your parents was one of the worse things that could happen to you. Today, it’s not big deal because the kid knows that most likely, the parent will take his or her side.

    I could write volumes about this stuff but I think you get the idea.

  4. POSTED BY Georgette Gilmore  |  July 16, 2012 @ 10:32 am

    I completely agree about actually winning to earn something. That’s one thing I am very tough with my girls. They’e learned that there is only one winner and that sometimes they’ll win and sometimes they’ll lose.

  5. POSTED BY stayhyphy  |  July 16, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

    Answer to the question is yes. I am reminded of the book The Giver when thinking about the direction in which we are headed. No winners, no losers, no under achievers, no over achievers, just simple mediocrity.

    Children need to be accustomed to failure, they need to know pain both emotional and physical, they need to lose. All these things happen frequently in the real world. Someone well equipped can pick themselves up following failure and move on.

  6. POSTED BY Liz George  |  July 16, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

    They’ll learn the other bad words soon enough 🙂

  7. POSTED BY ihateplaydates  |  July 16, 2012 @ 7:40 pm

    I politely beg to differ! I cannot imagine any child enjoying being called names or being “teased” mercilessly–unless they are masochistic. If my kids are “wimps,” it’s because they understand their feelings and the feelings of others,and because, frankly, they feel valued. Not perfect or above the fray, but valued. I’m not even sure what a wimp is–it seems like another term for someone who has compassion, or isn’t a demanding narcissist, or perhaps chooses cooperation over competition.
    (P.S.That whole trophy-for-anything thing is such a tired issue. Neither of my kids have ever received a trophy simply for “competing.” (My oldest is in middle school, so they’ve been around a bit.) IMHO, adults drag this weary example of things-gone-wrong-in-childrearing as a smokescreen for something else–maybe envy that children these days are treated more humanely than they were?)

  8. POSTED BY Kristen Kemp  |  July 16, 2012 @ 9:41 pm

    Jimmytown: No one needs to “get beat up once in their life.” No one needs to beat anybody up either. That’s medieval. We’re not teaching our kids to be wimps these days, we are teaching them to be civilized. My kids aren’t wimps even though they get a trophy at the end of each soccer season. They beam over those shiny plastic statues. They’re ages 6 and under. Any encouragement energizes and excites them. Life will teach them soon enough that not everyone gets to be the top dog. When that happens, I don’t think they’ll be devastated. Instead, they’ll have enough self-confidence to try again. Humans are tough and resilient by nature. Being kinder than we were a generation before builds character for kids and parents alike.

  9. POSTED BY Kristin  |  July 17, 2012 @ 7:58 am

    My son received a trophy at the end of the Montclair United season, and he got a medal at the end of Kiddie Soccer, and both my kids have gotten ribbons and stickers at the end of the Geyer classes. The soccer awards irk me, but it’s not as though adults don’t expect the same thing. Think about how people used to enter all their personal information on a credit card application to get a free t-shirt or plastic piggy bank. (Don’t tell me you never did something like that!)

  10. POSTED BY Jimmytown  |  July 17, 2012 @ 8:06 am

    Yes Humans are tough and resilient by nature. And parents today and trying to reverse this process. If a kid doesn’t make the team, he/she must try their best during the off season to make the team next year. That’s called an accomplishment, and I assure you that will create a more concrete foundation of self-confidence the next time around. If they still can’t make the team, you get that kid involved in something else. Find their talent, whether it is art, music, acting, etc. Do you think it is fair that a superstar athlete is limited field time to hone his/her athletic ability just because little johnny wants to be quarterback for 5minutes a game?
    Yes a 6 year old sees a shiny trophy as an accomplishment and im sure that is real exciting. And I dont know the exact age that a kid should earn their trophy, but the sooner the better in my opinion.
    If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, then all possibility of life is destroyed. The core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences. When you want something in life, you just gotta reach out and grab it. You don’t just sit on the bench and wait for the ice cream. We are obsessed with sheltering our children from their fears. Let them get hurt, let them feel. I’m not saying that they should be bullied and beat up, and I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once. To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head. Let your kids get dirty. Let them build their own immune system.
    Let your kids run free in a park. Don’t worry, I assure you there isn’t a dark hooded man lurking in the shadows to take your kid. Kids are so protected, I don’t think anyone is considering the jobs out there that involve being tough and brave. Cops? Military? Firemen/women? Professional Athletes?

  11. POSTED BY walleroo  |  July 17, 2012 @ 8:51 am

    I would never hit my kids. I prefer mind games instead–leaves no visible marks. I curse at them, humiliate them and verbally abuse them at random times, so they’re always on their guard. It’s important for kids to know that in this harsh world you can’t count on anybody, especially your loved ones.

  12. POSTED BY Holly Korus  |  July 17, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

    Funny but my mother grew up in the 50’s and they were not allowed to call each other stupid or call each other names. Nor was I allowed to in the 70’s. Good manners are still good manners.

    If my kids say, “Can I have blah, blah, blah?” I say, “I don’t know. Can you?”

    Kids are becoming whimpy because their parents can’t say, “NO.”

    I just took a family trip with 8 kids. Let’s just say the parenting styles were different. With that said, if you yell at Aunt Holly and demand OJ she will pour the whole G.D. carton down the drain before she caves to that nonsense!!!!!!

  13. POSTED BY Kristin  |  July 17, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

    Holly – My father was very strict about not using Stupid. And we were NEVER allowed to say Shut Up to each other. You’re right that it’s nothing new.

  14. POSTED BY Georgette Gilmore  |  July 17, 2012 @ 6:11 pm

    I don’t like kids using that kind of language either, hence the gasp when they hear the word Stupid. But I do think there is a happy medium to parenting. I once met a parent who warned that they didn’t use the word “no” in her house because it hurt her child’s feelings. Ridiculous. There’s nothing wrong with a parent being a parent. And treating children like their little fragile beings who can’t be disappointed raises college age kids who bring Mommy with them to the their interviews.

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