Naturally a parent wants to shield his/her child from disappointment in life. So how do you give the right amount of discipline and love to ensure your child is healthy and balanced?
Not an easy equation. Have you ever seen a 10 year old having a two-year old tantrum? Not a pretty sight, and wouldn’t you say “whoa I’m glad that’s not my kid!”
But what really went wrong here? How did that tantrum get to this stage and what are the components of a healthy approach to disappointment?
Well that’s the million dollar question for every parent, so let’s look at some possible answers.
A child who throws a tantrum is really saying “I can’t deal with my deep frustration and disappointment.” But why can some kids deal with frustration, and others can’t?
Preparing Our Kids for Life
The truth is that it depends on so many factors and many of them are not in our control, but here are the ones that I have found:
Incremental coping skills: We as parents love our children right? And we want only the best for them. And here lies the crucial formula. Love means that we allow our children to have experiences that build a strong backbone. Because we love our children, sometimes we try to shield them from pain and discomfort. That can be a good thing in the right dosage. But sometimes the shield becomes the main dish instead of the spice. Too much shielding means that we aren’t preparing kids for life and its inevitable disappointments, and thus the 10 year old tantrum.
We are all advocates for our children and we should be; that’s our job.
Has your child ever asked you to write a note to excuse him from homework because he simply didn’t do it? Giving him the possibility to duck responsibility weakens the backbone and doesn’t make for great coping skills.
Of course there are very valid reasons for missing homework. There are events in life that are just more important than homework. And sometimes a kid can slave at homework for three hours and just not get to everything. These are not the cases that we are talking about.
What would your life look like if you had never experienced the consequences of your actions? How would you cope if you never had to do an unpleasant chore or save up for something you wanted?
When kids never experience the consequences that they have created, it is very difficult to cope with disappointment in life.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t love our children. We love them to pieces, but would you want your child to go out in a snow storm without a coat? Not allowing our children to experience disappointment, hard work and consequences is the equivalent of sending our children out into life without a coat, so to speak.
Help By Rehashing Events
So how do we love our kids? We love with lots of warmth, memorable experiences, and plain old good family time and compassionate discussions. We can be guides to help our kids review and discuss disappointing events and the resulting unpleasantness that came about. Here is where our compassion comes into play. We can share how difficult it was for us to learn certain lessons and how these lessons changed our perspectives.
And here is where we sometimes fail in our parenting journey. If we get pulled into a bad decision or are too angry to reach out, then we can inadvertently leave our kids without our support at crucial crossroads. This is a learning time for the parents and children. We have to get over our disappointment in our children’s actions in order to help them in their time of need.
Helping our kids to dissect events and helping them understand how things went wrong is where our love and support shine. Our kids will know that we will always help and support them even if we don’t agree with their choices and even if we don’t give them an easy out in a sticky situation.
When I look my child in the eyes and can be with him in his pain (not consumed by his pain) and at the same time not give him the easy way out, I have begun to mold the backbone of character.