There was an insightful article about parenting published in the latest issue of “The Atlantic” called “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy” written by Lori Gottlieb. She wrote about how when parents try to raise their kids’ self esteem and do whatever is necessary to make them happy, they may actually be doing the opposite.
Parents want what’s best for their kids, and a lot of times it seems like they’re willing to sacrifice an arm and a leg to make sure the kids are happy, even if it means protecting them from the hardships that could pose challenges while they’re growing up.
There was one example given in the article about two children fighting over a toy, and one of the kids’ mother swoops in to make sure her son got to play with it because he got it first. Instead of letting her son resolve the little conflict, she solved it for him.
Of course parents want their kids to be happy and pampered. It feels nice to see bright smiles emerge on their faces when they’re given what they want. It can feel good to know that you’ve stepped in to help them solve their dilemmas, and maybe it’s partly because it feels good to know they depend on you.
The thing is, rejection and hardships are inevitable. It’s a part of life and no matter how much parents try to protect their kids from bullying peers and negative feedback, they’ll eventually get a dose of it. And if they’re constantly reassured “it’s not you, it’s the people around you,” how are they supposed to deal with it later when mom and dad aren’t there to tell them that they’re great?
The case of the two children fighting over the toy is an easily resolvable squabble that the kids could figure out on their own. It’s fine to let kids work out their own problems. Mom and dad can be there for advice, but they shouldn’t always be there to fix things. Unless the problem is something way out of hand, it’s probably fine not to step in and just let children fix the problems themselves.
There’s this cliche saying about “learning the hard way,” and while it’s probably a last resort for a lot of parents, it’s a saying that exists because people do tend to learn the hard way. When people endure hardships, they learn because those kinds of experiences stick. If someone were to become so broke that they had to live out on the streets, they’d learn how to fend for themselves and remember how difficult it is to live without a roof over their head. And if the time came that the person eventually got to live in a house or apartment, they’d likely to be smart about their money in fear of living out on the streets again.