Sunday, February 14, 2010

Jerry Seinfeld on Parenting and the Three Poison Ps

In this Sunday's Parade magazine, comedian Jerry Seinfeld gives some pretty good parenting advice and one excellent observation on why parents make a common mistake. He calls his rules of parenting "the poison Ps." The first P is for too much praise. Parents today tend to over praise their children. Kids are not stupid, they realize they don't deserve praise all the time and that not everyone on the team deserves a trophy. The second poisonous P is for problem solving. Today's helicopter parents are all too ready to jump in with a solution to a problem without letting a child find the solution himself. Jerry thinks this is stunting their ability to develop effective problem solving skills. I have observed children who just wait for their parents to tell them what to do instead of attempting to fix a problem on their own. The third P is for giving your child too much pleasure. Parents constantly give their children stuff. They are unwilling to say "no" to most requests. Does a 4th grader really need a cell phone?

This last P leads to Jerry's observation on why today's parents spoil their children. He says, "We feel so guilty for destroying their innocence - which is what we did - so we're now trying to repair that by creating perfect childhoods for our children." So parents attempt to buy that perfect childhood with stuff. Buying stuff is so much easier than actually being a good parent. A good parent knows that delaying gratification teaches a valuable lesson, that is, stuff is only possible and satisfying through hard work.

I probably shouldn't make this post about politics, but I have to wonder if one reason politicians try to "give" voters unlimited goodies is because they feel guilty for destroying our country? Just like with today's parents, today's politicians are trying to create the "perfect" society and, in the process, are creating many messed up voters. Voters have come to expect government will solve their every problem. And it does not matter if the cost is passed down to future generations. Parents today should be ashamed of what they have done to their children by ignoring timeless principles such as hard work and delayed gratification and trying to create an illusion of a perfect childhood or society without sacrifice.

“The problem with trying to child-proof the world, is that it makes people neglect the far more important task of world-proofing the child.” Hugh Daniel

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