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I’m Sierra. I live in the Boston area with my family.

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What Do You Want For Your Kids?

by Sierra on April 7, 2011 · 13 comments

in news,parenting

I posted on Strollerderby yesterday about Amy Chua’s cub getting into Harvard, and why my kids won’t be following in her footsteps. The bottom line is that I don’t have Harvard ambitions for my kids. As I said in my SD post:

I don’t lack the willpower to drive them toward excellence. I just have different standards of excellence. I care more about health and happiness than I do about wealth, power or fame. This seems to be a point Amy Chua is missing in her Tiger Mom manifesto: She thinks “Chinese mothers” are superior because they push their kids to succeed and get results, but some of us “Western parents” really don’t care about those results. I don’t need to see my kid play at Carnegie Hall or get accepted to Harvard. I just want them to be happy.

I guess that makes me a satisficer rather than a perfectionist as a parent. I’m pretty OK with that. Turns out, that might be the best anyone can really do. A new book called Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids, by economist Bryan Caplan, argues that all this intensive parenting doesn’t change outcomes very much anyway. Whether we shuttle the kids to ballet class or park them in front of the tube, they’ll grow how they want to grow.

I’m a bigger believer in nurture than Caplan is, but I think he has a point: micromanaging kids is an investment that won’t pay off. Our kids are more than the sum of our parenting efforts; they’re people in their own right.

It got me thinking, though, what do I want for my children? I may not be as ambitious as Ms. Chua, but I realized I do have a mental “bucket list” of things I’d like my kids to have by the time they hit adulthood. It’s a work in progress, but I’m pretty sure I’d like my kids to have:

  • Safety from violence
  • A good education
  • A love of reading
  • The ability to swim
  • Ditto riding a bike
  • A driver’s license
  • Healthy diet and exercise habits
  • Basic musical skills
  • The ability to manage their finances
  • Healthy attitudes about sex
  • Happy childhood memories
  • The courage to chase dreams
  • Rock solid self esteem

What else should go on my list? What’s on yours? What do you consider essential to teach your children before they fly the nest?

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  • http://meadowsweet-myrrh.blogspot.com/ Ali

    I think you’ve articulated it very well, and I’m right there with you. (As a side note: One of my stepchildren suffers from television-induced seizures because she was exposed to TV at too young an age, so I do think that while micromanaging kids is a one-way ticket to unnecessary stress, there are definitely things you can do wrong that ultimately hurt a child’s well-being.)

    It’s all about nurture – not building or constructing a child into the adult you want them to be, but nurturing and cultivating in them (and teaching them how to cultivate in themselves) that seed of potential they already possess. Because that seed is going to put down roots and send out shoots no matter what you do, and you can’t micromanage a dandelion into a daffodil or an oak into an elm. All you can do is give them the nurturing they need.


    Sierra Reply:

    “you can’t micromanage a dandelion into a daffodil or an oak into an elm”

    Well said! Love this.


  • http://reproductiverites.wordpress.com Reproductiverites

    Maybe this falls under the category of “a good education” but I want my daughter to have a healthy sense of curiosity and the skills to find things out.


    Sierra Reply:

    Curiosity is totally going on my list!


  • Cat

    In no particular order…

    The ability to learn new and master things as the interest or need strikes.
    Basic finances. Basic cooking. Laundry. House cleaning. How to change a tire.
    How to hold down a job.
    Critical thinking about marketing & advertisement
    Critical thinking about everything!
    A love of reading.
    The ability to ask for help. The ability to give it.
    Applied generosity.

    This is not a comprehensive list.


    Sierra Reply:

    Thank you! I know you’ve thought a lot about this one, so I really appreciate your input. Asking for help is totally being added to my list, along with generosity.


  • http://profiles.google.com/alicat2020 Alison Mee

    Thanks for introducing us to the word satisfice. Now I know how to explain what I’m doing when people wonder why I can make a decision without obsessing over all the possibilities.

    I love the lists you and other folks are putting forward with hopes for kids. Two of the things on mine are an ability to function interdependently in community, and the ability to maintain healthy close relationships.


    Sierra Reply:

    Those are great ones!


  • http://twitter.com/edgetocenter Sarah Twichell

    Thinking critically about whether something is true and the desire to know this in the first place

    Comfort with intuition, emotion, and other “non-rational” ways of knowing as valid and valuable

    Hope, which is to say, a sense of themselves as active agents in the world, people who can and will change things for themselves and others

    Knowing where to find information they’ll want in the future


  • phoenix

    I tend to go with broad categories, then fill in the details, (or not).

    I’d love my children to grow up to be robust, flexible, joyful, and loved.

    This may require things like: the ability to learn throughout life, healthy bodies and healthy habits, skills for working with others and in society, the ability to find joy where they are, etc. If they happen to be stunning cooks, wild-crafters, mechanics, carpenters, gardeners, dancers, artists and/or writers, I certainly won’t mind, but primarily I want them to be able to find their way in the world and contribute, no matter what the world is like at the moment.


    Sierra Reply:

    Thank you! I especially love this: “I want them to be able to find their way in the world and contribute, no matter what the world is like at the moment.” YES!


    Phoenix Reply:

    I forgot ethical! It goes in the first list.

    (My excuse for forgetting it is that in my world it’s such a given.)


  • http://kidsatthought.com/ Kidsatthought

    What a courageous post. I had the same thoughts when I came across the news piece about the cub and Harvard. Who cares?

    One goal I’d add to your encompassing list is true independence. Independence with all its risks and benefits


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