Thursday, March 23, 2017

When Did We Become Alright with Referring to Kids as A**holes?


I recently came across an article on ScaryMommy with this title: Not Being an A**hole Isn’t Good Enough.  We Need to Take It a Step Further, Folks. Now before this, it never occurred to me to think of a toddler or an small child as an asshole before. Adults, yes, teenagers, uh-huh at times, but they go through moments of hormone induced insanity, so occasionally understandable.

The first line in said articles says that “Don’t Raise Assholes” is the parenting philosophy du jour. I had no idea. (Here is a link to the article if you are curious. It’s a short read and rather good IMO.

Curious, I googled Kids and Assholes. Look at this, 786,000 (I guess 786,001 if this one makes it on there 😉). 
Kids Are Assholes, Bad Behavior

So it seems that this really is a thing. There are articles blaming parents for kids behavior. There are articles with parents proudly calling their kids assholes. There are articles telling you not to raise an asshole, and apparently ones telling you that not raising an asshole simply isn't enough.

That got me thinking about the definition of asshole. Would it really apply to a kid? Here is what Merriam-Webster's definition #2 a. says, "A stupid, annoying, or detestable person." For me this definition is a little incomplete. I feel like there needs to be intent in these actions for one to truly be an asshole.  

You know what makes someone an asshole? If you are stupid, annoying, mean and detestable on purpose and you know better or you should know better. When I say "should" I mean what would a reasonable (presumably non-asshole) person think of what you just said or did?  

I think we can agree in most cases, children are not stupid, annoying, detestable, and mean on purpose.

So what is really going on here?

I think it’s a backlash from people being sick and tired of people living in the world like they are the only one living in the world. Like they and their needs are more important than your's or anyone else’s. This is being an asshole.

Yes, kids do this, but in toddlers and super young kids it is developmentally appropriate. We are wired for survival and being selfish means survival, so at a young age developmentally and biologically, it makes sense.

However, at some point survival isn’t the most important thing, human connection, helping others, being a productive member of society. That is what is most important. So parents, when your child is developmentally ready to have relationships with others, as in make friends, then they can’t be an asshole anymore. This asshole behavior will not typically correct itself, so you have to step in and help them, even before they really understand it.

Why is this important? Imagine your child as an adult acting they way they do now. When you let them get away with that behavior, you are guaranteeing that their life will be harder, lonelier, and according to a buttload of studies unhappy.  

We all want our kids to be happy, right? That is often why we don’t draw firm boundaries for them and stick to our guns.  That is why we protect them from consequences when maybe we shouldn’t. It is heartbreaking sometimes watching them go through the learning process.  

But this happiness is short lived because you know what has even more google searches than Kids and Assholes? Happiness and What Makes One Happy? As in 327,000,000 articles for adults trying to find happiness. That's over 300 million!!!  That's a lot of people looking for happiness.
When I click through these lists I find listed in the top three consistently: Helping or Caring for Others, Strong Social Relationships, and Close Friends.

We must teach them that other people matter too, and make them take responsibility for the effect that they have on other people. Does that make them responsible for others’ happiness? No, but what is said and done should come from a place of kindness or at least absence of malice. As parents we should not protect them from what the consequences of not sharing, of bullying, of picking on people, or otherwise being mean are (not that not sharing is "mean", but there is a consequence to that decision, and it is your job as a parent to help you child understand that so they can make an informed decision, which may be to not share, and that is okay.)  

Will they make mistakes Of course!  Does that mean that when your kid hits mine, that I am going to freak out, think you are a bad parent, and they are an asshole? Of course not! Kids make bad decisions, and then they are taught to make alternative decisions instead. That is how they learn. Not by being perfect, but by making mistakes. Now, if your kid hits mine, and you ignore it and pretend it didn't happen, then you are being as asshole and your kid is likely turn into one too.

If my kid is being an asshole, then I want to know. Is it hard to hear? Yes, because let’s face it, our egos often are tied to our kids’ behavior. We don’t want the world to know that our kid is an asshole because that may imply that 1) we can’t parent, and, or 2) maybe we are assholes, and that's where they get it from.

For the sake of your kids future happiness, though, it is important that we swallow our pride and help them not develop into assholes. I can assure you more parents talk about those that don’t parent than those that do (around 786,000 apparently).  Last but certainly not least, remember, they will mess up. They will make mistakes. However, don't turn a bad decision into a label. Their happiness may depend on it.

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