Monday, August 8, 2011

Parenting Resilient Kids

In How to Land Your Kid in Therapy, Lori Gottlieb talks about how privileged kids grow up to have self-esteem and coping problems.  The problem?  You guessed it.  Parenting.

Gottlieb isn’t talking about parents being abusive or neglectful, she’s talking about a kind of emotional overindulgence.  It’s about the idea that we have to make our kids happy.  All the time.  And we have to make sure they’re never unhappy.  Ever.

What’s the problem with this?  If we protect kids from any type of emotional upset, how do they learn to cope with discomfort?  If we protect them from anything that doesn’t go their way, how do they respond when things don’t go their way as adults?  How to they develop resilience?

I’m recalling a friend telling me, totally calmly, that she’d have to call me back.  Her son was calling her from college.  She was at her job in New York.  He wanted her to give him directions to a job interview…in Colorado.  Seriously?  She thought it was totally fine.

I’m also recalling the time I had my son, 4 years old or so, in a time out in the post office and was told by a woman, You should be ashamed.  Of what?  Parenting authoritatively?  It’s on such occasions I’m tempted to give a stranger my card and suggest they get in touch about any parenting problems they may have in the future.

Gottlieb references Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of theTiger Mother on how we try to protect our kids from the pain of competition and pretend that average achievement is superior.  Who are we helping with that?

My suggestions:

*Let your child make their own apologies, whether it’s to the shopkeeper after they’ve taken a candy bar or their friend, after they’ve hurt them.
*Let your child negotiate their own issues with teachers, whether it’s about a grade they didn't like or an assignment they need more time on.
*Be honest about their weaknesses, and their strengths.
*Use rewards appropriately, i.e., when they’ve done something worthy, not just because you don’t want them to feel bad.
*Be a good coach, i.e., work on how your child might do and say things, but don’t do or say it for them.

You’re going to watch your child go through all manner of losses, failures and hurts.  It’s all going to make them stronger.

House in the Country, Blood Sweat & Tears

No comments: