by Timothy Lugg
Previously, I wrote an article encouraging parents to work at building resilience in their children. Of course, all parents want their children to be strong enough to stand against the strong currents they will face throughout their lives. Even so, it is difficult for moms and dads to allow their children to face difficulty in order to prepare them for the strain later on. Consequently, many parents have been labeled: “hovering” parents, “helicopter” parents, “lawnmower” parents who clear obstacles out of the way, and “Velcro” parents. I am confident that people who fit these descriptions are acting out of concern for their children, fulfilling their idea of the role of a good parent.
I am challenging this belief of over protectedness. In last year’s article, I argued that parents misunderstand the nature of love so they over-parent. I have posted the article as a blog on our website and I encourage you to read it. Another cause for this phenomenon is that parents do not appreciate the value of resilience, or grit, as it is popularly known, in their children. If grit were a core value, people would work harder at making their children manifest it. If forced to choose between giving their child a smooth road to adulthood and making them tough, most would choose the smooth road. Most parents are more concerned about giving their children a better childhood than they had, wanting to shield them from negative experiences, or to ensure that they experience fairness. None of these factors will prepare them to better handle the strains they will encounter later in life.
Training children to deal with stress, conflict, inadequacy, etc., begins in the preschool years when parents accompany their children almost 24/7. Of course, intervention by parents to protect their children is frequent in these early years, but it should decrease as the child ages. The child needs to develop the ability to work through difficulties at an age-appropriate manner. For example, a math problem designed for a third-grade student is easy for a parent to solve. The wise parent resists the temptation to give so much help that their student easily finds the answer. Instead, he or she offers guidance and allows their child to struggle through to a correct answer on his own. The same is true when a student faces social problems. A third-grade social problem is easy for the parent as well, but should the parent intervene? A parent will solve the problem very differently from a third-grader, and if mom or dad takes care of the issue, the student does not learn anything from the crisis except to tell mom or dad.
This does not mean that parents remain uncaring or aloof. Instead, it means that the parent should equip the child to work through the difficulty. In fact, the involved caregiver will be hunting for opportunities to give counsel because this is the way the child is trained. Of course, there are times when a child needs an advocate, but these times should be rare. Parents should step in to deal with authorities on these occasions, and the rest of the time allow their child to work through the issue.