So the other day I came across an article by a psychotherapist and author who discussed the hidden dangers of ‘shake it off’ parenting. She uses the term to describe parents who tell kids to shake it off when they get hurt, and describes an incident that happened when her six-year-old son got hit in the head with a soccer ball during a game. When the boy came over to her in tears, another mom screamed, “Shake it off! We need you back out there.”
Now, the mom of the boy was pissed that this woman would ‘publicly humiliate’ her son, and goes on to talk about the dangers of shake it off parenting. She believes that telling kids to shake it off when they are hurt sends the message that they’re not enough- be stronger. She also believes it doesn’t teach kids kindness and empathy towards others when they aren’t getting that type of comfort at home.
As a mom two little girls, a six and three-year-old, I had to think about that. While I can totally understand that the other mom was way out-of-place for screaming at the boy and basically telling another mom how to raise her kid, I do agree with the ‘shake it off’ mindset. Obviously, no one is saying that it’s never okay to comfort a hurt kid, but teaching them to ‘suck it up,’ or ‘shake it off’ sometimes is not going to kill them. In fact, it’s going to help them in the long run.
Frankly, I see it all the time in kids who barely get nicked while playing and lose their minds. They cry and whine to the point that everyone has to stop playing to cater to them, and it’s not fair to the other kids. So if by the psychotherapist’s logic, we’re letting our kids cry it out whenever they get hurt because we want to make sure they learn empathy towards others, it’s not a good trade. The result is we end up raising a crybaby.
And think about it, crying kids turn into crying adults. How many of us run from friends who feel like the world needs to stop turning whenever they’re going through something? If she’s struggling with her man, you’re going to hear it. If he has back pain, you’re going to feel it too. They expect us to indulge them while they suffer. They even feel entitled to our complete attention because I’ll bet that’s what they learned as kids. Sorry Boo-Boo, ain’t nobody got time for that. Sometimes your own husband or wife won’t even deal with it. That’s just life.
So in a way, the psychotherapist is right, shake it off parents are sending kids the message that they need to be stronger, and as a result, they might lose some empathy along the way. It might even make them a little less likeable, but in my opinion it’s a good trade. As long as they don’t disrespect or tease anyone I’m okay. Steve Jobs wasn’t known for being liked and neither was Michael Jordan. They expected a lot from themselves and from the people around them. Michael Jordan became the 1997 NBA finals MVP due in large part to his incredible flu game.
No one can forget how he led his team to victory while battling a devastating flu, showing us all what champions are made of. They don’t expect to be coddled in the face of pain, they overcome it, and I bet he learned that as a kid. I want my kids to be like Mike. Heck, I want to be like him.
But it’s learned.
This article first appeared on Madamenoire 1/27/16