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You're Doing Too Much

Are you screwing up your child's chance of future happiness by making them too happy now?
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...And is it screwing up your kids?

baseball boy

I just finished reading an article called “How to Land Your Kids in Therapy” by Lori Gottlieb at The Atlantic. A mom and psychotherapist, Ms. Gottlieb was seeing more and more patients who were unhappy and didn’t know why--for absolutely no reason. They had all the love, support, and advantage their parents could have given them, but were adrift in their young adulthoods.

Ms. Gottlieb contends that our very preoccupation with keeping our children happy at all times is turning them into unhappy adults.

I don’t mean trying to make your children well-adjusted and happy, it’s beyond that; parenting that’s creating an artificially happy world for children. Think about basketball games without scores. Telling your child they’re great every time they tie their shoes. Calling another parent if your child doesn’t get that birthday party invitation. Jumping in the instant a child skins a knee. It’s parents that are doing TOO MUCH. Gottlieb asks an interesting question, “Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness at children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults?”

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It looks like the answer is, yes.

I remember once being on an outing to a park, my son fell down and started crying. I didn’t react right away. In fact, I felt almost pressured to react by the way the other moms were looking at me. Wasn’t I going to immediately rush to his side? Wasn’t I going to hold him until he stopped crying? The seconds ticked by like bombs as I slowly walked to his side, did the mini-inspection, and sanctioning him continuing to play. I admit, I probably wouldn't have walked over there at all if all the other moms weren't staring at me. You know when your kid is really hurt, and when they just got a bump.

Of course my heart breaks a little with every tear they shed, but sometimes, my kid simply did something stupid. He tried something physically advanced, stretched his wings, ran on the side of the pool, tried a stupid move. Maybe he should get hurt so he understands his limitations. Maybe the next time he tries he won’t get hurt. I’m not going to sweat it.

The truth is, when my kid grows up and tries something advanced at work and it crashes all around him, I won’t be there to pick up the pieces. He’s going to have to find it inside himself to learn the lesson and keep going. No one is going to lavish praise on my 30-year-old son for making his bed in the morning, or matching his socks. I can’t call up an ex-girlfriend and demand that she get back together with my precious angel. And all the games are going to have scores.

Are you guilty of doing too much?

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