It Starts with Ladybugs

After school a few weeks ago I took Wally to the Jefferson Market Library for a story time. He sat down on the floor with the other kids. (With only 3-4 pop ups per story.) He sang songs and did hand motions, glancing back at me to make sure I was doing them too. Afterwards the librarian Rebecca gave them a little craft to do. It was a ladybug on a leaf with googly eyes. 

The body, leaf and wings were already cut out. All you had to do, really, was rip the black paper into pieces for spots and antennas and then glue everything together.

As Wally started ripping the black paper, I looked around us on the rug. Other kids were watching as their moms and nannies ripped black paper. 

As Wally started gluing the body to the leaf and the wings to the body I saw kids watching their moms and nannies glue the body to the leaf and the wings to the body. 

I've heard nannies say they feel they have to do this. The parents want to see what the kids have done all day, the rationale goes. (But they won't get to with this method, will they?) They want to hang their kids artwork up on the fridge.

Wally only did one spot per wing. He did a slipshod job of coloring. One antenna was pointed down. The other was gigantic.

I tried to remember to praise Wally for his effort and not how incredible the ladybug was turning out. That wasn't hard.

You know how sometimes "bad" kid art is still really cute? Not so in this case. 

In the 2010 article Has Coddling an Entire Generation of Children Set Them Up for Failure?, David Rock wrote "It may be that we have failed a whole generation of children by telling them how special and great they are, and coddling them from doing anything too difficult (or dangerous). We've done this because psychologists have told us that self-esteem is important." He goes on to talk about status-seeking and "re-thinking self esteem", arguing that kids need to see themselves accomplish difficult stuff, not just be told that they're fantastic when they haven't done anything to prove that.

An article by Anna Patty called Helicopter parents not doing enough to let children fail, inspired David Rock to write his piece. Patty reports that "One of the first empirical studies on generational differences in work values shows Generation Y or the ''millennials'' (born between 1982 and 1999) are entering the workforce overconfident and with a sense of entitlement." 

Helicopter parents goes on to quote the professor who conducted the story, Jean Twenge at San Diego State University. Twenge says, "'More and more students are reaching university not knowing how to do things for themselves. Parents think they are helping young people by doing things for them but they are actually making them less independent.'"

See, it starts with ladybugs and ends up with calling your kids' professors for him/her and coming along for job interviews because they can't do anything by themselves.

Be part of the resistance with  me. Let kids make crappy ladybugs. Even in public. And put them up on the fridge. 

The one featured above has been on our fridge now for a while. It's probably time to take it down. It's really not that good.


  1. This is funny. However, I respectfully disagree. I think his lady bug is good, though it more resembles a green owl with a prehistoric horn. (I also appreciate how the head is turned completely around so it can look at its own wings.) Many expressionist painters tried very hard to recapture that childlike approach to art. Kids see things differently. The notion that they should see or render things accurately or perfectly is the death of creativity (to me). And yeah, helicopter parents are insane. How did we get to this place?

    - Kristen H.

  2. Thank you Kristen H. for you insight and understanding. I can see the green owl. Funny about head being turned around for nice view of the wings. When Wally puts stickers on his shirt, he puts them upside down so he can see them the right when when he looks down.

    Good point about capturing that childlike approach to art. I'm always--or I should say usually--a bit in awe of it. I could never sketch the way my nieces do. They always seem to catch the essence of things.

    Helicopter parents -- it's so crazy, that in one generation, things have changed so dramatically.


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