Culture

Are They Kids or Employees? Are We Parents, or Just the Boss?

The other day I came across a “Consequence Chart” when surfing parenting Tweets. It’s a simple list detailing consequences for various actions taken and it’s meant to hang in a common area of the home as a contractual reminder of punishments for childhood crimes like “using unacceptable words” and “disrespect.” It reminded me of the many corporate flowcharts I viewed during my 9-5 working days in HR. Thinking of those made me impulsively shudder. The last thing I want is for my kids to feel like they’re going into the office every day.

Which is probably also why I have quickly developed a near-seething hatred for “apps that teach your kids time management skills” like the one featured in Paranoia — er, I mean Parents magazine. Why does your 6 year old need a device when all you have to do is say, “It’s time to…”? Since when does a kid that young need to learn how to manage their time independently? Since kindergartens have become “skill-and-drill” factories in which free, imaginative play is sacrificed for the sake of academic excellence. After all, time management is a skill working mommies and daddies both have to excel at, so why shouldn’t junior, too?

In fact, working parents already acculturated to the corporate lifestyle crave parenting styles that provide a businesslike structure in the home. Along with contractual charts and educational apps, there is the infamous calendar containing a schedule loaded with color-coded blocks for before and after-care, playdates, homework time, extracurricular activities and social events. Parents used to having to overbook in order to achieve in a corporate environment have no problem pushing their kids into a high-paced bevy of activities in order to “keep up” with their peers and get smarter, faster. Some parents are so desperate to give their kids every “experience” on the book that they’re crowdsourcing funds to pay for it.

The question becomes, when did parents cease to be parents and begin being bosses of their own children? When is the last time you felt comfortable having a heart-to-heart about your bad day with your boss? The answer is, never. And if you’re the boss of your child, they’re not going to be comfortable expressing themselves to you, either. Being managed doesn’t equate to being happy. Nor, in fact, does it equate to being successful later in life. In fact, the primary accomplishment of corporate parenting is to bring more stress into the home, not less, for kids and parents alike.