Replacement Bunny

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September 14, 2011 by jbrettjacobsen

During the summer, I overheard one of my daughters tell her sister if she ever lost her bunny that mommy and daddy had a replacement bunny to give her.  In the midst of hearing this, I was reading The Parents We Mean to Be.  Well, as you can imagine, this situation made me reflect on my parenting, but it made me think about society at-large.  In order to protect or insolate my child from feeling (insert your word), was I contributing to a “replacement bunny” epidemic?  While our intentions seem to be ok, did we fall into the “happiness trap” or “rescuing” as Richard Weissbourd discusses in his book?  Losing her favorite bunny (while not traumatic compared to children in poverty, abuse, neglect, etc) can be an “engine” to learning how to cope and overcome a set back even at a very young age. 

Weissbourd’s book had a tremendous impact on me as a parent and educator.  The following are some impactful quotes:

  • Our children’s moral qualities were also shaped day to day by what we registered, or failed to acknowledge, in the world around us, and what we asked them to register — whether we let them treat a store clerk as invisible, or commented when a child in a playground had been treated unfairly, or pointed out to them a neighbor’s good deed.
  • But making happiness so central can damage children’s moral development in many ways.  We don’t have to choose between morality and happiness.
  • Self becomes stronger and more mature less by being praised than by being known.
  • For children to separate in healthy ways, then parents, need to separate as well.
  • William Faulkner thought we as a species need to prevail: “a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”  Too many of us are too aggressive about promoting our children’s achievements and too passive about their moral lives. 
  • But there is no magic wand.  We will have to ask more from our children, we will have to ask more from each other, and we will have to ask more from ourselves.

As a starting point and a catalyst to learn from each other, Mount Vernon launched Parent Unversity this week dialoguing about The Parents We Mean to Be.  On September 26 at 8:15 a.m. on the Founders Campus, we will Skype with Professor Weissbourd.

By the way, as you can tell from the picture, the “original” bunny is still around and the replacement one now lives in the basement.


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Dr. Brett Jacobsen

Head of School
Mount Vernon Presbyterian School
Atlanta, GA

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