Part of building and rebuilding one’s life is helping one another do the same.
But what does Help mean? Does it mean doing For someone or helping them attain the skills and tools so they can do for themselves.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Chinese Proverb
I’m not sure how and why this phenomenon of protective parenting started. The better term for it nowadays is helicopter parenting. Also, bubble wrap parenting. Both of them are great visuals.
We’re swooping down and hovering over our kids constantly. And we’re bubble- wrapping them so as to keep them from getting bruised, hurt and dirtied up from the daily toils of everyday living.
Is this stemming from our deep parental love, from our living vicariously through them, from our need for their success (and therefore ours as well) stretched to a ludicrous extreme of unattainable perfectionism, from our own guilt? Whatever it is, this new parenting style has reached levels of narcissism and parental agendas par excellence.
Where is the child in any of this?
What are we doing to them?
What are we doing for them?
We’re surely not teaching them to live in this world. We’re preparing them for a utopian world of perfection, silver spoons and beautiful wrappings; a world of entitlement, of “me-me” and of “not me”. A world where personal responsibility and accountability doesn’t exist; a world where only ‘good’ feelings can be tolerated and bad feelings are submerged under thick layers of addictive wrappings.
What tools and skills are we giving our kids so they can grow up into competent and independent adults who can function well in the ‘real’ world?
We all need heavy doses of resiliency so we can bounce back after disappointments and hardships and get back on the horse of life, galloping on forward. We need those resiliency muscles strengthened even more so when we have major challenges and adversities strike out at us from left field.
In my years of working in schools and giving parenting workshops, this ‘do all for my kids’ parenting style has gotten progressively worse. I am sad to say that our kids are being raised ‘tool-less’ and ‘skill-less.’ Their resiliency muscles are very weak.
Yes, media, technology, societal values all play a part. But I maintain parenting is a key factor. We have little control over what goes on outside our homes, but we have control over the happenings within our four walls. It’s up to us what we impart to our children; what’s acceptable and not; what are our limits, our values, our goals.
Knowing what we want for our children down the road must guide us in how we interact and raise them on a daily basis. We want them to be independent, we must give them (age-appropriate) independent tasks. We want them to be competent, we must allow them the opportunities to be competent, struggles and all. We want them to be responsible, we must give them responsibilities.
We want them to have life-long skills to manage and function well in life, then we must let them experience the 3 Fs:
Allow them to Feel
Children must be allowed to feel the ‘bad’ feelings and know it’s O.K. and normal. We must allow for them to feel sad, angry, frustrated. For it is only by feeling them can we learn to manage them. And it is only by going through them that we learn we can withstand them. We can survive the painful feelings and still be whole. We do not break because we feel badly.
Allow them to Fall
Children need to know they can fall down and get back up again. They can get dirty and messy, get bruised and can scrape themselves off. How else will they learn they can have disappointments in life and can get back up and continue on, even with ‘positiveness’. If we don’t allow them to experience falling down and picking themselves up, then one big fall later on can be a crusher. They need to know the world doesn’t end and they can get up and move on.
Allow them to Fail
Obviously this is similar to ‘fall’ but emphasizing again the idea of making mistakes. It’s not about perfection. Perfection doesn’t exist. It’s about trying and maybe failing and then trying again. If we can’t continue on after a mistake or failure, we’re doomed. Successes are built on efforts failed. There is no greater joy than that of trying, trying, trying and finally succeeding. We all know most times we’re not fortunate enough to succeed immediately. It often takes many attempts. If we as parents run in after one attempt or not even one attempt, to do For them so they don’t have to struggle, how is persistency learned (a necessary quality needed for success)? It’s not. What’s learned is, “I don’t need to do for myself, someone will be there to do for me.” And when nobody’s there to do for them, uh oh, they’re stuck, immobilized, crippled, dependent.
The best help we can give our kids is allowing them to experience and feel the emotions of life, with our support and guidance. But not in our rescuing, hovering and tightly wrapping them in the hopes of avoiding any pain and struggle.
“Learning to endure times of disappointment, suffering, and sorrow is part of our on-the-job training. These experiences, while often difficult to bear at the time, are precisely the kinds of experiences that stretch our understanding, build our character, and increase our compassion for others.”
Joseph B. Wirthlin”
I’d love to hear your take on this subject. Thanks for stopping by and reading.