It seems that every day, we find ourselves lamenting these tough times.  And yes, no doubt, it has been and will continue to be challenging times.  Given that fact, what is the best approach for helping our children get through such times?

The Evolution of a Bad Idea:  The Make It Easy Approach

Many of us grew up with lives that we feel were difficult and challenging.  Perhaps it was an abusive parent or an ugly divorce, or even alcohol in the home.  Maybe we grew up with a reactive parent, or there was tension between parents.  And now, we have COVID and a school year beginning with so many variables and questions up in the air.

Of course, we want children to get through this unharmed, if possible.  This is not the issue.

However, tough times require toughness.  Many of you are reading this understand what this means as you may be living this right now.  And at some point, our children will have their own tough times.  And thus, the question becomes, “How do we best prepare them and instill a sense of inner strength, toughness, or perhaps what many call GRIT?”  

The ‘Make Life Easy’ Approach to Parenting?

It seems that one standard answer is to make things easy for children.  In the ‘Make Life Easy’ parenting model, the goal is to lessen any stress, predict challenges in advance, and remove them.  If there is any sense of failure or pending struggle, then parents jump-in to take over.  Also, parents try to foresee any struggle, disappointment, or discomfort and ensure that the child avoids that struggle.

And the real clincher is this:  If your son or daughter is about to experience the consequences of a poor choice, the ‘make it easy’ parent jumps in front of them and protect them from it!  

Destined To Fail:  When We Limit Opportunities to Learn.

Why is this so problematic?  Because each time we do this, we choose to protect them, rather than giving them opportunities to learn critical life lessons.  Wisdom, resilience, and toughness come from experience.  And that experience inevitably must contain success and failure. 

Finally, life will not let us escape the natural consequences of our choices because this is the ONLY way we can learn from our choices.  If it’s a great choice, then we get the reward.  If it’s a poor choice, we get to feel a bit of pain.  Both are valuable and equal teachers.

The key here is that experience brings the opportunity to learn.  If we limit experiences for our children, we restrict their learning opportunities.   Worse yet, if we create experiences that are false teaching moments, providing invalid lessons about life, we genuinely disable them from being prepared for reality.  They will grow up believing it is YOUR job to fix their life when struggles come their way.  

Making It Easy Now Will Make It Hard Later.

Let’s check on something.  Do you find reality to be easy, and your guardian angel steps in to help you through each challenge and struggle?  Is someone there to lift the heavy moments from your shoulders and make your life easier?  Have you found that you can avoid taking responsibility for your actions, as a protector shields you from the consequences of your poor choices?

Honestly, I don’t know any adults who live that life.  It does not fit reality, as the world does not work that way.   It’s delusional.

Yet, I find lots of children raised with expectations that match such a delusional world. These children are not hard to spot because they develop the false hope that others will work harder at their success and happiness than they do.    They expect remarkable results and benefits with little effort.  If more effort is required, then they give up.  Or turn to the nearest adult, and demand that you do it. In these COVID times, it seems that many parents have softened their structure and routines, while life is demanding more and more of mom and dad.  Not good. 

The more you make things easy now, the harder life will be when reality comes to call.  And trust me, reality will always be there to teach the lessons on toughness, if we do not.  Success, happiness, and contentment with life require an inner sense of personal responsibility to ‘take action’ when tough moments confront us.  If our children learn to withdraw, look to others, or ‘pull out of the race’ because challenges or failure seems imminent, then life will be quite disappointing.  This approach leaves them angry, frustrated, and incompetent in handling the demands of reality.  They will likely fail, and they will also probably blame others for their pain.  They expect an easy life without the struggle!   But reality will not bend because they are unprepared.  Please remember this.

In next week’s article, I will cover several pointers to get your home on track to have your children prepared to thrive.  For now, consider where you may be making things too easy for your children and contemplate how this fails to prepare them for life.