As I start this third post in my overparenting series, let me be clear. I lean toward overparenting. I have such a hard time watching Claire struggle, watching her hurt, watching her learn the hard lessons. I want to take away her problems and fight anyone who hurts her feelings (even if that someone is a 4 year old little girl in her class). I want to make her path smooth and somehow ensure that her days are full of joy. I worry about her. A lot. My love for her drives me to want to do these things, but my love for her also tells me that I shouldn’t. I am learning to balance protecting and teaching her to be brave.
I tend to look at things in my life and compare them to the way “things have always been done”. Something about the past speaks to me, and my logic says that if people have been doing it for thousands of years, it’s probably a good strategy for me as well. So much has changed in the past 100 years in our society. Really, everything’s changed. Shelter, transportation, careers, entertainment, morals, relationships, parenting. It’s all different. So when I think about parenting, I tend to look back and compare what we’re doing now with what “they” did then. One of my favorite songs is Different World by Bucky Covington. Here’s a short portion of the song:
We were born to mothers who smoked and drank
Our cribs were covered in lead based paint
No child proof lids, no seat belts in cars
Rode bikes with no helmets and still here we are, still here we are
For better or worse, we do live in a different world. We must be vigilant in protecting our kids from the evil they’re bombarded with. We are very protective over what Claire watches, sees, and hears. Compared to others with kids our age, we may be viewed as helicopter parents in these areas. I want to do everything I can to shield Claire from the evils of this world until she is at an age that Chris and I think she is mentally and emotionally ready to handle them. I have great respect for parents who take a stand to protect their kids from scary movies, inappropriate language, and images portraying sexuality.
It seems to me though, that this generation of parents is determined to protect their kids from things that they don’t need protection from. Kids are shielded from every conflict, every difficulty, every simple change in routine. They grow up thinking that the world revolves around them and that their feelings are the only ones that matter. There are occasions where parents need to step in and get involved for their child’s protection or wellbeing, but I think these cases are very few and far between.
When kids get their feelings hurt, parents get involved.
When the lunch menu at school changes unexpectedly, parents get involved.
When a child doesn’t get to play as much as others on their team, parents get involved.
When a kid is punished at school for bad behavior, parents get involved.
When kids have disagreements, parents get involved.
When a kid makes bad grades on a report card, parents get involved.
When a child has lots of homework to complete, parents get involved.
When kids attempt a difficult challenge, parents get involved.
For the love! Where in the scheme of things does personal responsibility come into play? How do kids learn to roll with the punches? How do kids learn conflict resolution? How do kids learn to accept failure and strive to try again? How do kids learn to handle rejection? How do kids grow to accomplish their goals? When we try to shield our kids from every disappointment or difficulty, we create a cushioned little world for them to live in.
The problem is, the adult world isn’t soft. Life is hard. It’s filled with rejection – from potential jobs, potential dates, potential dreams. It’s laced with adversity – disease, broken relationships, and tragedy are all part of the package. Isn’t it better for our kids to learn to deal with difficult peers when they’re five than when they’re twenty-five? Isn’t it better to learn the heartbreak of rejection when kids are picking teams on the ball field than when they get turned down for their dream job?
By the time our kids reach adulthood, they should be well versed in adjusting their plans and goals, dealing with people who treat them poorly, and confronting challenges. When Claire goes off to college, she should be a problem-solving champion, not a novice. When we don’t allow our kids to struggle through their problems – when we insist on rescuing them over and over again – we are setting them up for failure.
I recently read an article about how we stunt our children from reaching their potential as leaders. It is excellent and definitely worth the read. Here’s an excerpt.
This may sound harsh, but rescuing and over-indulging our children is one of the most insidious forms of child abuse. It’s “parenting for the short-term” and it sorely misses the point of leadership—to equip our young people to do it without help. Just like muscles atrophy inside of a cast due to disuse, their social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual muscles can shrink because they’re not exercised.
As difficult as it is for me to watch Claire struggle through something that challenges her, I know the reward will be great. There is nothing quite as sweet as watching the look of triumph on her face when she accomplishes something that she didn’t think she could. My job as her mother is to teach her to meet adversity – head on, with courage, and with grace. Each time I do this, I am giving her the opportunity for growth, and I get an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the courageous woman she will become.