“Get Tough”: Is the First Lady’s Parenting Advice Good for Your Kids?

Navigating the world of slights and hurt feelings in the world of tweens and teens can be rough.

One day someone is your best friend and the next day he or she says, “I hate you!”  Show up with the “wrong” accessory and there can be nasty chatter for a week about your lack of coolness. And as our kids get older, and more connected online, there’s the cyber-bullying to worry about.

It isn’t important whether the hurtful comments are true.  Mean words or perceived unfairness hurts. As parents, we spend a lot of helping our kids navigate their way through this time of their lives in an attempt to combat what has become something of a bully culture.

But after a recent comment made by the First Lady, I wonder if we’re being too soft on our kids.

A small handful of tweens have had to navigate not only what we’d call “normal” middle school social issues, but they’ve also had to manage the world of national politics — the ones who grow up in the White House. So what advice do today’s First Parents give their daughters on dealing with mean people? And what can we learn from them?

What passes for political debate in America these days could really be viewed as Bullying 2.0 — it’s a separate level of mean behavior that kids in the White House see firsthand and, sadly, get personally subjected to. So when First Lady Michelle Obama talked about her parenting style to help Malia and Sasha handle the ugliness in the world of campaigns and politics, I was fascinated by her advice  – “Get tough.”

During interviews to promote her new book about her White House vegetable garden and healthy eating, Michelle Obama was up front about talking with her daughters about the need to have a thick skin in order to get through certain mean moments.  And that made me wonder — should we take a page out of her parenting experience and pass that along to our kids? Would a thicker skin be more helpful when managing the cruelties the world has to offer them, rather than being focused on the  touchy-feely aspects of tween and teen anxieties? Maybe the next child-rearing manual should feature a chapter where we tell our kids to man up and get a stiff upper lip.

Clearly, there’s a wide range of behavior issues we need to teach out children about, and there are certainly instances of bullying that should never be tolerated. And I’m glad that most of us will never have to worry about whether out kids will suffer one of those excruciating Chelsea Clinton moments. But on occasion, we have told our sixth-grade daughter that there will be times all throughout her life when things won’t be nice or fair, and that she’ll just have to suck it up, turn the other cheek and be tough.

I’m all for the lessons we teach our kids about being good community citizens and being considerate. But as parents we know that there will be times when we can’t do damn thing about the words or actions of someone else, so maybe it’s a good lesson to share with our kids sooner rather than later.

If President Obama is re-elected, perhaps that will be the First Lady’s next mission. She can follow her “Let’s Move!” campaign with one called “Get Tough!”

What do you think about telling your children to just “get tough” when it comes to certain social situations?

Read more from me at my blog PunditMom and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America.

Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and read more of my posts here at PunditMom’s Spin Cycle, like:

10 Power Moms to Watch in 2012

Partisan Baby Names: Are You on the Right or the Left?

Tween Friendships: We Only Have the Illusion of Control

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