This article contains valuable principles for parents of children of any age, bar very young ones. It is written by Richard Watts, author of ‘Entitlemania’ on adversity as a teaching tool.
Many of us believe the wisdom we distill from surviving life’s obstacle course is best directed at rescuing our kids from the difficulty and heartache of similar growing experiences. More strategic than yesteryear’s helicopter parents, today’s drone parents seek out and destroy perceived impediments to our children’s success. But it is not the successes of life that expose our kid’s uniqueness.
As Michelangelo said of his statue David, “David was always inside the block of marble. It just a matter for the sculptor to hammer and chisel away the pieces that didn’t belong.” Life’s setbacks and sufferings help us to identify and embrace what is most important to us. To separate the valuable from the meaningless. To find our own way. Why would we want any less for our children?
Allow for Stumbles
Most parents love their children. But love is a tricky word. For many parents, love means protecting and making sure no harm comes to our kids. These are well meant efforts. However, I prefer to think of love as an unconditional promise to affirm our kids without interfering in their life course. That used to be called tough love; often as tough for the parent as for the child!
You say: How can I allow my son or daughter to stumble down a path that may be detrimental or destructive to his or her future?
Think of your own life experience: Life took numerous directions your parents may have thought negative. You recall some of these times as being so disorienting and destructive, they caused memories of permanent hurt. Although sometimes painful, these detours provide us contrast, teach discernment, groove a confident path and ingrain the skill of recovery.
Adversity: A Valuable Teaching Tool
Adversity is a teaching tool more valuable than success. Sometimes, wrong choices help our children identify the right ones. And once the right direction is selected, their passion energizes the will to outrun any obstacle because of one thing they have realized: they care deeply about the finish line.
Yet as parents, we often manipulate our child into choices that are preferred by us, with no regard for what our child may have wanted for himself or herself. Parents prefer their children have a certain future, although intuitively they know uncertainty plays a significant role in them finding their path.
The Risk to You
What our children deserve is an authentic story … their story. One they believe in. It might take several attempts at different opportunities. And what is the risk to you? They might fail.
You should respond with encouragement and affirmation, because if we script their lives, they will never identify the inner passion which gives them the self-stamina to drive through adversity. They need to be allowed to stumble, yet recognize with perseverance they will eventually find their way.
One has to be lost to be found. Our children need to determine what personal goal is worth giving their all. Sometimes that requires them to walk into walls. Absent a path of self-discovery, our children will never realize and develop the natural gifts that make the an original instead of a copy.
Rather than raising them to fulfill your expectations, what if you put as much effort into helping them realize their own?
Richard Watts, author of Entitlemania: How Not to Spoil Your Kids, and What to Do If You Have, is a personal adviser and legal counsel to clients, and founder and president of Family Business Office, a legal and consulting firm in Santa Ana, Calif.