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Fayette-Mom: Preventing meltdowns, overindulging kids

Posted July 25, 2011

Jennifer Joyner

I’ve known several teenage girls who were reluctant to get their driver’s licenses. They weren’t anxious to take driver’s ed, and they didn’t pester their parents to take them to get their permits. When they turned 16, it was weeks, months even before they finally went to the DMV.

This baffles me. When I was 16, I couldn’t wait to drive. I remember marking the days off the calendar until my 16th birthday. I so looked forward to not having to beg for rides all the time, and of course, I loved the independence.

So what has changed? At first I chalked it up to the fact that for many kids these days, begging for rides isn’t a reality. Parents are much more indulgent, especially in the name of keeping our children safe. Another mom pointed out to me that some schools limit which students can drive cars to school, so sometimes it’s pointless to get your license as soon as you possibly can. And it would surely seem that fewer teenagers have part-time jobs than when I was growing up, so there is even less of a need for reliable transportation.

So it would seem the difference is merely the changing times. Or is it?

Over the weekend, I started reading a book that was given to me several years ago called “Raising the Responsible Child." I wasn’t finished with the first chapter before I had already picked up several tips I could use with my own kids, and then I was surprised when it addressed the very issue of kids not wanting to drive.

Basically, it said when parents overindulge their kids, when we try to remove any potential problem from their lives, we prevent them from not only learning how to solve dilemmas on their own, we also deprive them of the confidence there is to gain by finding solutions for themselves.

Whoa. It was like a light switch clicked on for me. How often have I, as a mom, surveyed a situation, trying to figure out what could cause my child to become upset, and then worked to avoid that very same thing? Sure, I was probably preventing a meltdown in the short term, but what does that do for my child in the long run? I don’t want them to get hurt, but I do want them to know it’s OK to fail, too. It’s unavoidable.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book. Have you ever had one of those “light switch” moments as a parent?

Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in September. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.


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  • momnay Jul 26, 2011

    Sounds like a good book to check out. My "light bulb" moment came early on as a parent, but 11+ years later it still works. The idea that in the early years part of teaching our children to make wise decisions in life (including what to eat, wear, etc) comes from telling them. As a mother, I plan their meals, lay out clothes, plan fun activities, etc. While I value their input, I make the decisions and they follow. This way I can introduce new foods, new activities and the like. Their preferences and ideas are taken into account, but it also gives them the experience for making decisions. One example, my now 11 yr old son can make healthy snack choices from a variety of items because for many years he has been given healthy snacks. Some parents allow their children to choose the cereal to buy, the clothes, etc from a very early age when it is based on TV commercials or pretty photos, then trying to steer them right later on becomes a battle.

  • Pseudonym Jul 26, 2011


    I think the book Jennifer is talking about is telling people EXACTLY that: trust your instincts. For eons, parents have been raising responsible, moral, thinking, reasonable people. They have been doing this by trusting their instincts: Mothers have the nurturing instinct, and fathers have the teaching instinct. Mothers' instinct is to give a child a fish, fathers' instinct is to teach a child how to fish. KIDS NEED BOTH. It's only been within the past 50 years or so (since Dr. Spock) that kids (as a whole) have gotten spoiled, whiny, and selfish.

  • MyThreeDaughters Jul 26, 2011

    Jennifer, I completely agree with you. I really have been disgusted with the attitudes of many of the young people. I thought my generation was bad with the give-me give-me priviledged attitude. The teens of today have an attitude of "why should I". There are cetainly exceptions to this and there are some good kids out there, but the reality of it is most of the ones I have been in contact with have disgusted me. My three daughters think they live a hard life. So I must be doing it right.

    Learning to cope with life is part of growing up. The ability to solve problems, rejoice in successes and learn from failures all comes from living life. Many parents, and I have friends who do this, over compensate for any situation and they are left with children who expect Mom and Dad to do everything.

    Driver's license is only a small symptom of the bigger problem. If a young person has learned to adapt without it, then they are much further along than their peers.

  • Killian Jul 26, 2011

    I've had many moments like that over the years, but honestly? Driving has never been one of them.

    My oldest is 19, a rising senior in college. She doesn't drive and has absolutely no desire to do so. She knows it's inevitable at some point, but is comfortable using public transportation for now.

    In my opinion, pushing her to dive is not helping her "learn to solve dilemmas" on her own. It's putting a reluctant driver on the road, operating a deadly weapon of metal and glass, at the potential peril of herself and others. That isn't good parenting - that is irresponsible parenting.

    My kid works two jobs, carries 18 credit hours, and has an active social life, all without driving. She bikes, she uses buses, and she shares rides in return for other favors. If she is still not ready in her head to be hauling tail down I-40 at 70mph, then she needs not to be doing so.

    Trust YOUR instincts, not a book.