They can't learn if you rescue them from every challenge.
Here's a scenario most parents can relate to:
The other day, I had just returned home from taking my son to school. I had a million things to do in the next hour. Suddenly, I get an urgent text from my son saying he forgot his iPad on the kitchen island (AGAIN) and needs it ASAP (of course).
So, what should a good parent do in this situation?
I should really say "no" and let him learn his lesson, but it kills me that he might get an F because that assignment (which he did complete) is due today and is sitting right here on his iPad. My mind starts racing: This is high school! If he gets an F, it will affect his GPA. He won't be able to get into college. The next thing I know I've created a future for my son as a bum on the street.
Then, I start thinking about how that 'perfect mom' (you know who she is) would bring him his iPad, or even better, she would have noticed it sitting there on the island and not let her son leave without it in the first place. I should be more like her. We should ALL be more like her, right?
But wait, there's more! If I don't bring him his iPad, he may feel like I don't care about him and develop deep-seeded anger towards me that will generalize towards all women and this will affect his relationships in the future (you know with the other female bums on the street). Yes, all because he left his iPad at home on this one fateful day.
Can you relate to this struggle, moms and dads?
Well, what I really needed to recognize in that moment is that all the times that I've saved him in the past (and thought that I was helping him), I was really just hurting him.
I was robbing him of the opportunity to learn in the most organic way — through the real consequences of his actions (or non action).
As modern parents, we "protect' our children by not keeping score in games and declaring every kid the winner. I do understand that forcing ultra-competitiveness at a young age is also detrimental, but declaring everyone the winner swings the pendulum to the other side of unhealthy. Neither is good.
We end up teaching kids that they don't really have to work hard because everyone is rewarded the same no matter their talent level or effort invested.
But, then we hit our kids with a stark reality as they approach adulthood (because their bosses won't hand out raises just for showing up) and wonder why this generation can't get it together and instead will likely maintain emotional adolescence well into their 30s.
Why? Because we're crippling them with all of our hovering and saving them — that's why!
The truth is that kids need to feel pain (yes, pain) and disappointment and frustration in order to grow and mature. I know it hurts to watch our children muddle through some difficult situations. Maybe we're also really protecting ourselves from that pain as much as we're trying to protect our children.
Our job as parents is not to prevent them from pain, but rather to be there and sit with them in their pain and encourage, teach, and hug them through these critical life lessons.
I wish all these lessons were as benign as a forgotten iPad because I know life can really throw some doozies at our kids, but they need to be prepared for that.
Here are a couple of hard life truths that should apply to parenting as well:
1. Don't do for someone what they can do for themselves.
When we do for someone else (yes, even our kids) what they can do for themselves, we're hurting them and denying them the opportunity to rise into their own capabilities.
2. Let the Universe teach them real consequences.
It is actually easier. God created a natural order in this world and it teaches better lessons than we ever could!
This generation of parents has the highest bar set than all generations before us.
We have more information and knowledge, which is great, but sometimes it's crippling.
Stop working so hard! And I don't think I'm just talking to myself here. I see you helicopter moms and dads on the playground (yep, we all do). We are all in this together.
So, to my son — Kiddo, you're on your own next time you forget your iPad. I love you!
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About Zoe Shaw
I am a licensed Psychotherapist and Relationship Expert, mother of 4 and wife of 22 years. I love healthy relationships! We all want love in our lives and we all want our relationships to work. But we don't all come into this world knowing how to create healthy relationships or problem solve effectively. I help give you the skills to finally make permanent changes that will set you free and give you the relationships that you have always wanted and deserve. In addition to working individually or with couples, I offer webinars and accountability groups focused on helping you create the change you want in your life. I am a public speaker on a wide variety of topics, ranging from relationship issues to life transformations. I earned my Bachelor's degree from UCLA and my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University.
If you are feeling a little or a lot stuck in your life or relationships - whether you are struggling with depression, anxiety, grief, financial issues, the end of a relationship or a major life decision or transition, I will help you find a way through, not just with clarity, but with renewed passion! Ask me about my FREE Consultation. We can connect and see if I am a good fit for your issue.