Hi, my name is Carrie and I have a thinking disability! (Hi, Carrie, echoes my tribe – in my head). This disability is called ‘literal thinking’ and what it means is that if you tell me something I will believe you. Literally. It will not occur to me that you are exaggerating, or wrong. I will just believe it, usually to my peril. Now, not being a complete moron, I have learned that this is a fallacy and that I have to adapt to the real world, but literal thinking is my default, going right back to when I was two and the sociopathic three year old next door told me he had a dragon living in his closet and if I took off all my clothes he’d let me see it. He passed my elaborate verification ritual (me saying really?) and fortunately for my emotional well-being someone discovered us just in time.
But anyway, for those of you who have or know small children, there are RAGING debates (and by raging, I mean if there were SUPER ALL CAPS it would be appropriate) in terms of how to parent one’s children. I’ll use the term helicopter and tiger which are somewhat inflammatory, but the basic idea is you are either ultra-protective to ensure your kid’s self-esteem is nurtured while they are little and they only know love, joy and support. These folks would sooner decapitate a lion than administer a spanking and some think that even using the word ‘no’ can cause developmental problems. Tiger parents, on the other hand adopt a more ‘surivival of the fittest’ mentality to parenting. Consequences are the best teacher! No, I’m not going to protect you from the world, you’re going to learn to survive, damn it! Go ahead, stick your Barbie (or GI Joe) in the light socket Johnny! Time you learned that Mother Nature is no cream puff!
So obviously I’m exaggerating, but there are camps, people. This is serious! As soon as I learned I had a viable fetus I was plunged into this scary world, where one wrong choice can ruin a life! It’s worse than bridal magazines! Positive discipline! Boundaries and consequences! Free range! Blanket Time! Tie your baby to your body for the fourth trimester so it doesn’t get separation anxiety! Let them cry for hours – it strengthens their lungs and they’re 2 months old; they have to learn to cope!! Carried to the extreme, both camps are clearly dangerously absurd but what’s even more absurd to me is that I, the world’s most literal thinker (after my Mom and three year old), can see that this is NOT a black and white thing. So I’ll go back to my leadership training because maybe that’s why this is so obvious to me.
Situational Leadership says that you employ as much hands on direction as someone needs in their phase of development. Brand new employees need you to stand over them and tell them how to count the cash or find the bathroom. This is how they learn and become successful. The manager who stands over a three year employee telling them how to do their job is, frankly, a social moron who is called a ‘micro-manager’, whom everyone hates and won’t work for. Here’s the trick though…if you never give the employee a chance to do it for themselves, both of you will eventually get used to you giving them minute daily direction and you might as well not even have an employee and they will secretly seethe with hatred and resentment towards your controlling ways. At least, I suppose so. Theoretically. Ahem.
So to my way of thinking, we should be having a big ol’ switcheroo…the helicopter people should get all the infants. They can nurture them and be positive and not say no, and cuddle and be really super hands on because, really, babies pretty much suck at making good decisions. Consider that their basic survival strategy is depriving the only people in the world who give a crap about them of sleep and sanity, peppered with non-stop crying and strategic bodily waste elimination? They are not capable of ‘surviving’ and NEVER learn from their mistakes. Trust me…I’ve had 3 infants in rapid succession.
On the other hand, I’ve also spent time with 3 and 4 year olds who are still being micro-managed and these kids would make anyone who didn’t share DNA with them want to barf. They are, to a kid, either nervous and neurotic to the point of possibly needing therapy or complete terrors! And this is saying a lot because three year olds in general have the social skills and empathy of chief mafia enforcers. Even the ones who are told ‘no’ don’t usually take it as an option but the ones who’ve never heard it pretty much surpass most third world dictators for tyrannical practices. So let’s have the tiger parents get all the two year olds and drill some sense in to them.
So there you go…my utopian solution is take a personality test and depending where you fall, you either get babies or three year olds. Or…employing NON-literal thinking (it’s tough, but I’ve had to learn this) maybe we can employ different strategies at different stages of development and NOT pick one parenting strategy, label ourselves, stay in the box and never flex based on our kids’ temperaments and needs. Just sayin’…