We’ve been introduced to and labelled every kind of parent there is. The free-range parents, attachment or gentle parents, tiger parents, snowplough parents, and the cut-the-crusts-off-your-bread, pick-the-boogers-out-your-nose helicopter parents.
The latter has gotten a lot of flak for “overparenting”, but it stems from a place of wanting to protect and guide their child who may not yet have the ability to navigate the world on their own. And that’s completely understandable if we consider it may very well save them from something that may have lasting physical and psychological consequences in years to come.
Bubble-wrapping our kids to ensure they never experience failure and rejection though? Well, that’ll leave lasting psychological effects of its own.
Choosing a parenting style or approach isn’t easy, and oftentimes you’ll even find yourself switching between one, two, or a few techniques. So taking it on a case-by-case basis may be the best possible approach when it comes to raising your child.
With that I present the latest in parenting pickles: birthday party invites and how to go about handing them out to kids in class.
Read more on parenting styles here: From tiger to free-range parents – what research says about pros and cons of popular parenting styles
A school in Sydney recently went viral after banning learners from handing out birthday party invitations to their friends at school. Mosman Public School made the decision in the hope of trying to avoid hurting the feelings of learners who aren’t invited to the party. Parents are to “covertly collect email addresses”, reports News.com.au, to forward on invitations instead. Further, learners are also encouraged not to discuss the party at school prior to or after it’s taken place.
Yahoo News added the school has requested parents avoid sending birthday cakes that have to be cut by teachers in class. To ensure the safety of learners.
“Mosman Public School’s parent handbook requests that birthday cakes be cut up before they are brought to school, so there are no knives in the classroom,” a spokesperson for the school said, while other schools in Australia such as Seven Hills West Public School, for safety reasons, told parents to only send cupcakes.
When it comes to the safety of our kids, we understand the school’s concern, but no cutting the cake on their birthday? Is it just us or is this school reaching?
Surely rules and regulations can be put in place for teachers to ensure they don’t leave knives lying around in class – you don't need a sharp knife anyway.
So back to party invitations – is it fair? Or are schools and helicopter parents being a little too sensitive?
In this particular case, it’s pretty much a toss-up between two things: The aftermath of rejection or the risk of not building resilience.
No one wants to feel rejected. No one wants to feel excluded. When you’re young and you’re the last person to get picked for the team or, in this case, the only one not invited to the party, it can and probably will leave you feeling alienated. As a child, you probably won’t be able to navigate through exactly what you’re feeling, and that can have lasting effects on your well being.
In a study on childhood friendships and psychological difficulties in young adulthood, Kwame S. Sakyi, et al. explain that a child’s social environment, which includes classroom dynamics and peer rejection, plays a key role in their ability to make friends. Further, having friends, or “at least one friend”, can protect them against internalising symptoms such as depressions and anxiety in young adulthood.
"Friends can be a source of emotional and instrumental support, and help youth access different types of material and symbolic resources that favor well-being,” they explain. “In childhood and adolescence, friendships offer an environment in which children are able to develop social competencies and build their self-esteem, skills that are essential for good mental health throughout life.”
So that being said, invitation etiquette should be a thing, and by that we just mean encouraging your kids not wave any invitations around in front of kids they aren't inviting to their Frozen party.
Of course, a happy child is one with friends and a subsequent sense of belonging. But a resilient child is one who, after inevitably getting rejected later in life, and without mom and dad around, will bounce right back.
In their research on child development, Sheri Madigan and Nicole Racine explain, bubble-wrapping kids doesn’t work and oftentimes has the opposite effect of what parents are trying to achieve. “Helicopter or bulldozer style parenting is associated with poor outcomes in children and adolescents, including mental health difficulties and low life satisfaction,” they say.
“Children of helicopter and bulldozer parents have also been shown to be less resilient. For example, they do not seem to develop some of the coping skills required to solve problems independently.
“College students who described their parents as helicopter parents show decreased confidence in their ability to succeed,” they continue, while the opposite is true for students who had parents that encouraged autonomy and independence.
With that, while we want to protect our kids and we don’t want them to get hurt, I can’t help but wonder if maybe they... should?
The truth is, in life not everyone is going to be nice to you, let alone your friend. So if we don’t raise resilient children, when they fail or fall in adulthood, they won’t be able to get back up again – on their own.
So having thought about it, I think I, personally, would pick resilience and a free-range parenting approach. But when my kids aren’t invited to the party and require a little cheering up and validation, we’ll sit down and talk about their experience, tie their value to their character and not anyone else’s in the class, before letting them come to the conclusion that they won’t ever be friends with everyone, and that’s okay.
Until the next parenting pickle, lesson learned, onwards and upwards, thank you for tuning into my channel, don’t forget to like and subscribe.
What are your thoughts on the topic? Does your school have a policy in place to protect learners' feelings? Tell us and we may publish your comments.