Perspective: “First-World Problems” (or “How to Raise a Kid Who Isn’t Whiny & Annoying”)


I’m reposting a very insightful article that one of my cousins shared a few days ago on her facebook page.  The Huffington Post ran the article, titled “How to Raise a Kid Who Isn’t Whiny and Annoying,” by Lyz Lenz.

A few of the phrases and lines from the article that resonated with me–“First-world problem,” “time-outs can occur at anytime and anywhere, so be on alert,” “I don’t care if that kid took your toy, get it back yourself, that’s street justice,” and “social media-induced ennui means you should probably shut the computer and read a book — a real book.”

Parenting–like love–is an art.  And, like love, parenting–because it is a type of love–requires much discernment, patience, attention, warmth, consistency, reflection, self-control, balance, among other virtues.  Most of us will just never be master virtuoso parents.  Masters & virtuosos are, by definition, anomalies, rarities.  Most of us–most people–are in the middle, mediocre, talented and skilled and proficient in some areas, deficient (or lacking talents and skills and proficiency) in other areas.  Most of us carry a few extra pounds, don’t cook like Gordan Ramsey, don’t parent like SuperNanny, don’t look all that graceful when we play sports or workout, and tend to look rather odd when we dance.  We’re mediocre.  We’re not what we see on TV–airbrushed, photoshopped, the result of take after take and clever editing.  We’re not the digitally re-mastered 48-track greatest hits compilation; we’re the garage band.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t improve our parental skill sets and become better at Loving and at being a parent (the two are inter-related).  Improvement and growth are what we’re here for–not just to get comfortable and coast and consume, consume, consume; but to grow, evolve, branch out, improve, develop, et cetera.

And as parents we have an obligation–a moral obligation–not just to want the best for our children and to act in ways that promote that, and that promote and nurture the development of their talents, abilities, better capacities, love of life, as well as their character, sense of right and wrong, conscience, thinking and problem solving skills, we also have a duty to raise kids who are respectful of others, who will grow into teens and young adults who play well with others, who aren’t bratty, self-centered, whiny, exploitative, and who won’t walk around with a sense of entitlement.

Anyways, I appreciated the sense of humor and the amount of perspective in the article.

The entire article can be read here.

A previous draft of the article can be here, on the author’s (Lyz Lenz’s) website.

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How to Raise a Kid Who Isn’t Whiny and Annoying

by Lyz Lenz

In a recent TODAY moms survey, 42% of mothers say that they “sometimes suffer from Pinterest stress.” According to Today.com, “Symptoms include staying up until 3 a.m. clicking through photos of exquisite hand-made birthday party favors even though you’ll end up buying yours at the dollar store, or sobbing quietly into a burnt mess of expensive ingredients that were supposed to be adorable bunny cookies for the school bake sale.”

This is what I like to call, first-world problems. Mad because those Valentines you spent two weeks making for your kid’s party were outdone by another mom? First-world problems. Your teen refused to wear a coordinating shirt for your carefully-crafted family pictures? First-world problems.

I’ll admit it: I’ve been sucked in by the radiating allure of Pinterest and the joy it promises. My DIY bangs turned out to be a hack job. My super-easy gingerbread men on a stick looked like the walking gingerdead. And that awesome no-fail dessert everyone was pinning failed on me. It turned into soup. And our guests, because they are Midwestern, politely insisted on sampling it and sipping their cake from their bowls like stew.

“Well, it tastes like pudding,” our friend kindly said. They haven’t been over since. I think Pinterest is trying to kill me. But you know what? First-world problems.

I tell this to my daughter. She is two and blonde and beloved by a whole host of wonderful people. So, when she cries because her strawberry pancakes have too many strawberries or because I turned off “Mickey Mouse” — and not just cries, but throws herself to the ground in a righteous rage — I have three words for her before I walk away: First. World. Problems.

lyz lenz.

Right after I got married, “The Today Show” ran a segment on post-wedding depression, a condition where brides sink into a malaise because they are no longer the center of attention. “You know what I call that?” My dad said when I showed him the article, “Whiny girl disease!” Now, I’m a mom and we’re all whining over mommy wars and Pinterest stress and all those things that well-fed, middle class people with iPhones have to worry about.

Mommy wars? You know who has mommy wars? Women with enough time and disposable income to bemoan the fact that others are “judging” them for how they feed their kids? Pinterest stress? That’s what you get when you need a problem.

I’m raising children in a privileged world. We have food. Money to save for an education. At 2, my daughter has a room that is bigger than any room I’ve ever occupied in my life. We can afford the fancy Easter dress. When we have a bad day, we can afford to get a special treat. I’m glad I’m raising a child in this environment. In fact, my husband and I waited to have kids just so we could do things like take vacations to Florida. But now that we are here, I wonder if we really are doing things the right way…

I remember as a teenager, I was upset because my parents promised to let me see a movie and then back-pedaled at the last second. I was like North Korea with a missile. “That is so unfair!” I whined. “At least have the decency to live up to your promises.”

My dad lost it. “You know what’s unfair? Having to make funeral arrangements for your older sister who died at 17 because your parents were too grief-stricken to handle it.”

I should have stopped. But I didn’t. “That’s hardly the standard we should apply to this situation…”

“GET TO YOUR ROOM!”

I lost that fight and I’m glad I did.

And while I don’t ever want my daughter to feel the pain of real trouble, I wonder just how I can raise a human in this blessed environment, where she is completely inoculated against such petulant, whiny diseases. Pain, of course, is relative. And having financial security doesn’t protect against real problems. But how do I teach my children that petty problems aren’t worth their time? That failure makes you stronger and that social media-induced ennui means you should probably shut the computer and read a book — a real book.

I’m not saying this to be cruel. I love my children. I want what is best for them with every fiber of my being. But every temper tantrum over the fact that I bought off-brand Goldfish Crackers makes me see the bigger picture.

I don’t know the answer to how to raise a kid who isn’t whiny and annoying and who doesn’t think that Pinterest stress is really a thing worth lamenting. But I do know that as a parent, it begins with me. I set the limits. We won’t do Elf on the Shelf because mom has enough trouble getting cookies baked over Christmas. The tooth fairy only brings a quarter. There is no adjustment for inflation. Your birthday cake will probably always come from the store, as will your Valentine’s cards for school. I didn’t buy baby moccasins because the ROI on that investment was one good Instagram picture. Your food won’t be all organic. Yes, I used formula. Walk to school. There is no second breakfast or special dinner for you. I don’t do grocery cart covers or antiseptic wipes. I don’t care if that kid took your toy, get it back yourself, that’s street justice. I don’t care if the neighbor sneezed on you, the flu happens. Time out occurs at anytime or anywhere, so be on alert.

This is where we begin.

My refusal to compare myself with the other mother I see on the Internet and to build a life that embraces the important and repels the petty. And I only hope that lesson extends. If not, I am building a backlog of “Oh, you want to see not fair?” lectures. Just in case.

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(And the line about “street justice” reminded me of the line about “jail-yard justice” from the movie “The Change-Up”–)

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About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
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