By Dr. Randy Cale
Why am I writing about the Great American Wimp? There are numerous authors discussing toughness and grit, and how these serve our youth. Yet, much of this valuable advice is not helpful to those families who find toughness and grit to be repulsive, and so they ignore these messages. For these parents, it would appear that more value is put on raising the Great American Wimp. In an effort to be reaching all audiences, I am offering this set of structured (tongue-in-cheek) lessons for those parents. So, if you want to make sure your kids evolve into the wimpiest of the wimpy, keep reading. These key lessons in parenting will certainly get you there.
1. Invest in lots and lots of words. Require no action.
One key to ensuring your child evolves into the wimpiest of all is to place inordinate value upon words and talk. In other words, make sure you have daily word battles or at least repeated discussions over some type of false expectation. For example, pick something simple like putting their shoes away. Rather than require action, engage in daily dialogue over the shoes left lying around. Scream and yell a bit until your child starts to scream and yell back (this will come with time; just be patient.) The secret then, after a few years, is to just give up. (This happens in middle school or sometimes high school.) You see the magic here: You engaged in many, many word battles but no action plan was required. The result is that the mouth muscle is worked a bit, but not any other muscle. When this is happening every day, you are surely on the path to building a true American wimp.
2. Fill child brains with ego-inflating labels and traits
Here’s how you do this: “Oh sweetheart, you are so smart” along with “You are a natural. You don’t have to work at it.” The key is to start early, and repeatedly tell your child how smart and beautiful he/she is, implying that real work or effort is beneath him/her somehow. In this way, they learn to believe that they are special, smarter, prettier and that things should come easy to them. In essence, everyone should like them because they are smart and beautiful. Now, of course, their peers may be jealous of the wimp and may not show affection toward them. For example, peers may value effort, kindness, playfulness or happiness over wimpiness. Those children are on a different path so do not let this dismay you. Instead, intensify your message so your child clings to these labels despite what the world says to them. To be a successful life-long wimp, they will need to learn early to ignore the input of the outside world and stay isolated in their inner sanctuary of wimpiness.
3. Never value growth, learning or doing your best
These values suggest that life is a process, an evolution of constant growth and learning that naturally unfolds from doing our best and productivity, responsibility and happiness all stem from applying ourselves to life fully and giving it all we can. Let’s be clear: This sounds like effort, perhaps even real work. And it is! Such values are toxic to the wimp, and any one of them could undermine years of wimp training very quickly. So stay away! And here is how you do it (pay close attention): If you child learns quickly, let them get by with the least effort early on. They will still get good grades. Let this be enough and praise them for being so smart, so brilliant. If your child doesn’t learn so quickly, show them that you will do the work for them. Remember: Use lots of words, explain it over and over but in the end, do not require them to work hard. You do it for them. You must teach them that you will work harder at their life than they do. Now, this leads us to the final lesson.
4. Always allow them to have an excuse and give up easily
Regardless of the situation, be interested in their excuses of how hard it is, or how someone else was mean or cheated them. Engage and discuss their excuses and then let them give up. Require no staying power or real effort. This is always in your mind, so you must believe their excuses and let them off the hook. Sure, it means you might have to do things for them and this will increase with age, but that’s a small price to pay for building a real American Wimp. If you are truly successful, your son or daughter will be living in your basement at 28, and while you are working hard, they are still out partying until 3am and sleeping until noon. Even then, do not require more. Just a lecture, a few good yelling sessions and let them storm off crying about how mean and unfair it is. Forget about the whole thing the next day and let life continue. If you reach this pinnacle someday, you may find the Great American Wimp is alive and well in your home and, of course, it’s not your responsibility—or is it?
Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit www.TerrificParenting.com.