Friday, July 25, 2008

When Kids are the Center of the Universe

A recent thought-provoking article at a British newspaper's Web site caught my eye. It laments the rise of the child-centered world, where keeping Junior’s self-esteem intact becomes Job 1. The large number of comments after the article makes it clear that the writer struck a nerve with a lot of people. Apparently, there’s a bumper crop of self-absorbed young people around these days.

It’s easy to bash schools where teachers aren’t allowed to correct students’ work in red pen because it could make them feel like failures. It’s natural to lament parents in the store who fall all over themselves trying to make their children like them by buying them presents (yes, I have actually seen mothers begging their child to choose a large toy. It’s an amazing thing.)

But it’s also tempting to think that it won’t happen to us when, as homeschoolers, it could easily happen to us.

I mean, homeschooling takes over your life. You find yourself poring over curriculum catalogs, spending hours on the phone signing your children up for co-ops and lessons and staying up late planning upcoming learning experiences.

And that’s just in the summer! Then there’s all the time you put in working with your children, reading to them, making sure they understand concepts they’re having trouble with, taking them to zoos and museums ….add in feeding them and clothing them and making sure they live in a healthy environment, and you can easily end up living in a child-centered world. And that’s not a good thing.

In a child-centered world, kids are the center of the universe. That’s how they come to believe that their needs are more important than anyone else’s, and often turn into adults who continue to believe that.

Over the years, I’ve struggled to maintain a balance between giving my kids what they need in order to grow and develop properly, and giving my kids what they need in order to learn that they are not the center of the universe. I haven't always been successful.

Being sensitive myself, and having been hurt in childhood by some adults, I wonder now if I protected my children’s feelings too much. As they’ve ventured out into the world of work, they’ve sometimes gotten their feathers ruffled over things that aren’t the end of the world. Maybe I should have been tougher on them.

There were also times when I wondered whether I’d gone overboard in creating a learning environment for my kids, because once they discovered an interest in something, they took off with it on their own, with no encouragement from me. Perhaps some of the time spent making lesson plans would have been better spent on a dinner date with my husband.

Oh, yes, him. That patient guy I married. He worked to pay for all the books and educational games and craft supplies, and he never complained about how much time I spent with my nose in the Rainbow Resource catalog. Sometimes I think we should have carved out more time for ourselves.

But on the other side of the scale, there were times when I managed to make my kids understand that the world does not revolve around them. We limited their outside activities so we could have time together as a family. Occasionally, they’d find me on the sofa with a good book or having fun using my sewing machine and they knew that anything they asked me to do right then would be denied. Of course they had chores and responsibilities that they had to do, whether they were in the mood or not. And then there were the evening walks-for-two that were reserved for their dad and me.

As they say, hindsight is 20-20. The end result is that my kids, while not perfect, are doing fine. But looking back, I can see that if I hadn’t struggled with maintaining a balance between their world and ours, they might not have turned out so well. That’s why even now, with only two children left at home, I keep fighting to maintain that balance. Because it’s when you’re not aware that you need that struggle between your world and theirs that you fall into the child-centered universe.


Marbel said...

This is such a great post; a real keeper. My kids are young yet so this is particularly helpful to keep in mind.

Brumbemom said...

Great post and ever so true. I try to remind my kids alot that the world doesn't revolve around them. You are right about letting HS take over. It has become such a way of life that it is easy to make it top priority, when in reality it is just a small part of what we need to be doing here.
(Thanks for the honesty on your comments. I can feel you struggles and hope that things come to pass as you have directed)

Susan said...

Oh, Barbara, thank you! I struggle with so much guilt over what I'm not doing for my kids that I should. And I feel so bad for those few times that I indulge myself, or am just simply too weak & selfish to respond cheerfully and happily to provide the kids whatever they want/need immediately. But you're right -- I shouldn't act as if the world revolves around them. And even if it IS selfishness or laziness that causes my non-response to their wishes, God uses it for their good. (I still think that's why God gave me so many children. Any fewer, and they would have been indulged horribly!)

Polly said...

Thank you for the comment on my blog! My husband had long blonde hair too and his father even cried when they cut it when he was around 18 months!! :)

I agree with this post. My mother used to tell me "you are NOT the center of the universe!" So true!

Janet said...

I definitely worry about this, because I am horrible for ALWAYS thinking about my kids first. I don't think it's always a good idea. They have to learn, at some time, that the world doesn't revolve around them. I pray for wisdom every day.

Barbara Frank said...

Marbel, thanks--glad you liked it.

Brumbemom, homeschooling can take over if we let it. As for the struggles, I remind myself often that God uses it all for good.

Susan, I have thought the same thing! If we'd have stopped at two kids like the dr. suggested, what would they be like now?

Polly, thanks for stopping by. Your little one is adorable.

Janet, I pray for it, too, all the time. The older my kids get, the more wisdom I need!

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by.

Renae said...

Thank you for sharing these words of wisdom! I will keep fighting for balance. It's life-long, isn't it?

Brandy said...

You have a wonderful post here that I really enjoyed reading. I hope you don't mind, but I've linked to your blog and the article on my blog today.

Barbara Frank said...

Renae, I don't know about other people, but so far it's been life-long for me!

Brandy, thanks so much for your kind words, and for linking to my post :)