The soccer dad, dressed in cream-colored fleece and green pants, eerily blending in with the soccer nets and the field as he stands there like a fixture all Saturday and half of Sunday; The friend emailing with gaze fixed at the computer outputting an update to her friends: “We have hockey three times a week, dance class, violin, and karate…”, with hardly a mention of herself at all (except to tell you that she's upped her dosage of Prozac); The mom, who suddenly short-circuits when after dropping her son off at school he asks her to drive back with a different sandwich for his lunch and yells, "This is what I’ve become?! My kid’s employee?!...

Meet the Automamoms and the Daddroids.

The six-year-olds staring into their i -Phones with masked, not mischievous faces; the kid coming home from a full day of planned activities with two hours left before bedtime who asks, "What are we going to do when we get home?"; the fifteen-year-old cheating on his test because if he doesn’t get the highest score in the class he feels he’s worthless…

Meet the Botkids.

Welcome to Robotic Parenting. Had enough?

With our quest to be perfect parents, we have reduced ourselves to mere machines. We have renounced our own goals, dreams, and needs, for the sole function of raising the perfect child. With the quest to raise the perfect child, we have reduced our children to robots. We have programmed our children simply to perform, while neglecting the development of their inner selves: their imagination, compassion, self-awareness, motivation, creativity…

We are the Automamoms and the Daddroids. It’s nice to meet you. Don’t ask us about ourselves because we really can’t answer – we have lost our identities. Ask us our names and we will pause only long enough to tell you, “I’m Jane’s mom…” and, “I’m Justin’s dad…”

Meet our Robokids. Please note that they won’t care about meeting you unless you talk about them. Ask them their names and anything else that concerns them, and they will tell you. Then they will be silent. Perhaps waiting for instruction.

In our impossible quest to be perfect parents, we have lost our selves as people. And we are destroying all that makes us – and our children – human.

The good news is parenting is a behavior and behavior can be changed.

This is your wakeup call. Hello? Are you in there? Life is calling…

The Ten Steps for going from humanoid parent back to human being

  • 1. Put yourself first (at least sometimes).
  • 2. Keep the family together.
  • 3. Don't be your child's friend.
  • 4. Get disorganized.
  • 5. Bore your kids.
  • 6. Put your children to work.
  • 7. Miss the soccer game.
  • 8. Pare down.
  • 9. Tell your children they did not do a good job.
  • 10. Get back in the real world.

Quiz: Are you a Robotic Parent?

Instructions: choose (1) or (2). Add up the points at the quiz's end.

1. For you, a "driving range" is defined as:

(1) green grass, blue skies, and your yellow golf balls
(2) the miles between hockey rinks (soccer fields, etc.) your child plays on during traveling team games

2. How well does your child know spiderman (barbie, etc.)?

(1) pretty well, by reading or watching a dvd they were in
(2) very well, as spiderman (barbie, etc.) has come to see him personally, at his birthday party

3. You artfully arrange a double sleepover (away) for your two kids on a Saturday night so you can:

(1) seduce your husband
(2) finish up studying how to help your kids with their homework

4. After a game of tennis with your daughter, you:

(1) give her a bottle of water, to rehydrate
(2) give her your remote control, thank her, and leave the room

5. You are cleaning the dinner dishes yourself because:

(1) your kids are in full body casts from a freak accident and can't help
(2) your kids are busy texting their friends

Scoring: If you scored 5 points, you are still a human person. If you scored 7-9, you are in the danger zone. If you scored 9 or 10, you have crossed over and become a robotic parent. Time for the 10 steps...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Great job breathing!

It was the monthly “Recognition Assembly” at school, where all students are celebrated. I watched Ms. McDermott instruct her fifth grade students to stand up to be recognized and honored for their accomplishments. “Randy, for handing in his homework on time,” Ms. McDermott began, announcing their accomplishments, “Jessica for sharing her ideas.” “Sara for completing her class work on time.” “Kevin for being respectful.”

As I sat there I wondered, where was, “Nick for talking clearly”? Where was, “Kristen for coming to school with shoes on ”? What was wrong with this picture? What next? Jason, for not killing anyone. Michelle, for being able to walk and talk at the same time. Samantha for breathing without prompts?…

We’re setting unrealistic, unfair expectations for our children, yet at the same time we’re giving awards to our children for just doing what they’re supposed to do.

Why are we setting the bar so low? What’s next? A parade for the student who says “Bless you” when someone sneezes? A plaque for the student who stays in school for the entire school day? Shouldn’t we be teaching our children that doing what is expected is the norm? The bare minimum? Great, yes, commendable yes, but not award status!

Shouldn’t we encourage our children to strive to be the best they can be, and not just meet norms?

And why do our children have to be amazing? Outstanding. Perfect! Why can’t we value our kids just for just being themselves? For being good people. Why is this not enough?

How can I help my child develop a realistic sense of herself and a healthy sense of self-esteem?

Robotic Parenting Step #9: Tell your children they did not do a good job.

Excuse me, do you want to take this outside?

“I am so good at X Box tennis. I bet I can slaughter you.” David told his mom.

Lynn swallowed hard in order not to lose it. Lynn had, she joked, (but only with half seriousness), raised her kids to be playmates. She’d taught David how to play tennis when he was five. He’d played golf with her since he was three. Samantha, her nine-year-old, did yoga with her and both kids loved to go to the water park. Lynn considered playing together to be a great way to connect with her family. Throw in the fact that playing is exercise and everybody wins.

While she was no Serena Williams, X Box Connects was also no kind of tennis.

“Get off the couch and play me out on the court!” Lynn wanted to yell at David. However, instead, she strategically made a bet with him:

“O.k., I bet you can beat me at X Box tennis and I can beat you at real tennis.” she challenged.

“Hey, you know what’s really cool?” Lynn asked him then.


“You know that 3-D movie you saw that you loved?”

“Yeah! That was cool!” David replied.

“Playing actual tennis on the court, really seeing the ball and it’s round shape, and holding the racquet, that’s 3-D!”


“Really.” Lynn responded.

Had she just sold real-life to her son as the latest high-tech phenomenon?

With only slight surprise, she realized that yes, of course she had. Her son, as with every other child she knew, had become so ensconced within technology; had strayed so far from real, human games. She was afraid that he was losing touch with the real world. She was afraid of him losing interest in real sensations: The “ping” of the tennis ball as it bounced off your racquet, the “sssss” of the tennis ball can as you peeled off the top…..the cause and effect sounds that occur in real life; so much more resonant than the sound effects generated by virtual reality.

Step # 10: Get your kids back in the real world.

Take anything with the word “Wii” or “Xbox Connect” in it, cross out the words Wii or Xbox Connect, and go do the remaining words, in the flesh: Instead of playing Wii Tennis, go play tennis. Instead of doing Xbox connects golf, go play golf. Forgo Wii drawing to draw. Turn “Wii” back into “Wheee!” which will be the sound of you and your children enjoying real life again; Turn “Wii” into We, as in we are playing together, rather than against a computer-generated opponent.

Playing together, there is inherent interaction and socialization. Sure, you can play the Wii together, but that is more like parallel play, or the type of play that babies, who are not developed socially play. (Aren’t we are supposed to be socially developed by the time you we can hold a Wii controller?) Parallel playing involves babies playing at the same time, in the same space, but not really interacting with each other. Staring at the t.v. screen, manipulating figures on it does not truly allow you to interact with each other: to face each other across the net on the tennis court; to take water breaks in between games; to comment on the wind that is affecting your serve….and playing a non-real opponent on the screen by yourself does not even afford you the pseudo-socialization provided by parallel play.

Monday, April 2, 2012

are you dating your son?

"We just got back from Italy and it was great." my friend told me. I assumed she'd gone with her husband and her mother had stayed with her kids when Jane told me that the hotel room they'd stayed in had been as expensive as the airfare.

"Isn't Italy so romantic?" I asked Jane.
"I guess, but I was with Sam," she said, referring to her son.
"Oh. Did everyone go?"
"No. Just me and Sam. Dan stayed home with Monica because Monica had a basketball game."
"Yep. I take Sam everywhere he's going and Dan takes Monica, since he's her team's coach and all."
"Yeah. No more family vacations. Both kids are on the traveling team level now." Jane told me matter-of-factly.
My heart sank for her. I scrutinized her face to see how badly she felt.
It was blank.
Resolve? Defeat? Acceptance? Indifference? Why was Jane's face blank?

No more family vacations? What kind of nonsense was that?!
Has the vacation become going where the team plays? With the player and the chauffeur?
Apparently it has.
Has the family turned from a romantic couple with kids into coupling within the family - adult/child pairs who see the world together?

Are you dating your son?