In this persistently challenging world, don’t you wonder how best to successfully equip our children to navigate these rough waters of life? Indeed, no simple answer will come close here. Yet, it seems that we find ourselves daily lamenting about these tougher times. And yes, no doubt, it has been and will continue to be challenging times. Given that fact, what is the best approach for helping our children get through the challenges ahead?
Maybe We Grew Up Hard?
Plenty of us have weathered the storm of difficult upbringings. It might have been due to a volatile parent, a bitter divorce, or substance abuse within the family. In some cases, we may have had an excessively reactive parent or a tense, angry relationship between our parents. For others, you may not relate to those struggles because childhood life was generally enjoyable, and parents remained calm while rules were predictable.
But regardless of your home life, we all know that challenges and struggles await both as children and adults. It is clear by now: we all have had our challenges.
Many of you reading through this piece can identify with this, as you might be navigating another one of these challenges now. But also know our children will invariably face their own trials and challenges. It’s just part of the human experience. So here lies the pressing concern: “How do we equip our children with the emotional resilience, the GRIT, to handle future hurdles and challenges?”
Current Trends in Parenting
Should we make things easy? Relieve any future struggles or anxiety? Perhaps prepare teachers and coaches with careful instructions to ensure no excessive demands are placed upon our children?
The answer seems to be yes if we poll most parents’ approach. I call this the ‘Make It Easy’ method of parenting. This goal is to lessen any stress, predict challenges in advance, and remove them. If there is any sense of failure or pending struggle, parents jump in to take over. Many take on the role of fortune tellers, trying to foresee any struggle, disappointment, or discomfort and ensure that their child avoids that struggle.
The real clincher is this: If a child or teen is about to experience the consequences of a poor choice, the ‘make it easy’ parent jumps in front of them and protects them from any possible discomfort.
Disabling Children Through Removal of Learning Opportunities.
Why is the Make it Easy approach so problematic? Because each time we try to make things easy, we protect them rather than give them opportunities to learn critical life lessons. Wisdom, resilience, and toughness come from experience. And that experience inevitably must contain success and failure, struggle and ease, effort and then the reward.
Bottom Line: life will not let us escape the natural consequences of our choices because this is the ONLY way we can learn from our choices. If it’s a great choice, then we get the benefit. If it’s a poor choice, we feel a bit of pain. If it’s a choice that strengthens a muscle, we benefit. If a choice makes us weaker, then we suffer that result. If we avoid stress, we become less capable of handling challenges, and soon… everything becomes stressful. Conversely, if we embrace a bit of stress as part of life, we seem more resilient and capable of handling more challenges. All of these are valuable and equal teachers.
The key here is that experience brings the opportunity to learn and grow. If we limit experiences for our children, we restrict their learning opportunities. Worse yet, if we create experiences that are false teaching moments, we provide inaccurate and misleading lessons about life. We genuinely disable them from being prepared for reality because their beliefs do not align with the fundamentals of thriving. They will grow up believing it is YOUR job to fix their life when struggles come their way, and they will project responsibility for years to come. (But it gets worse.)
Making It Easy Now Will Make It Hard… Guaranteed!
Let’s check on something. Do you find reality easy, with your guardian angel stepping in to help you through each challenge and struggle?
Honestly, I don’t know many folks who live that life. It does not fit reality, as the world does not work that way. Yet, many children are raised with expectations that match such a fantastical world. These children are not hard to spot because they develop the false expectation that others will work harder at their success and happiness than they do. They expect remarkable results and benefits with little effort. If more effort is required, then they give up. Or turn to the nearest adult and demand that you do it.
The more you make things easy now, the harder life will be when reality comes to call. And trust me, reality will always be there to teach the lessons on toughness if we do not. Success, happiness, and contentment with life require an inner sense of personal responsibility to ‘take action’ when challenging moments confront us. Life will disappoint if our children learn to withdraw, look to others, or ‘pull out of the race’ because challenges or failures seem imminent. This approach leaves them angry, frustrated, and incompetent in handling the demands of reality. They will likely fail, and they will also probably blame others for their pain. They expect an easy life without the struggle! But reality will not bend because they are unprepared. Please remember this.