5 Reasons Not to Protect Your Child From Adversity
In today’s world, it seems the parenting pendulum is swinging further and further away from prudence. We have now gone beyond Helicopter Parenting, to what a recent article by We Are Teachers describes as, “Lawnmower Parenting”. These parents go to great lengths to “mow down” any difficulties around their children, so they don’t ever have to experience any discomfort. While temporarily sparing heartache, this is a practice that actually hurts children in the long run. Here are five reasons parents should not protect their children from adversities:
Kids Don’t Live in a Bubble
Parents can’t be with their children 24/7, especially as they get older. It is unrealistic to think that a parent could protect their child from every problem life throws their way. Even if major efforts are made to make things fair, like a high school in Michigan that has done away with Homecoming royalty, there will always be bullies and hurt feelings. Children who have been sheltered from such adversities will grow into adults who struggle in their interactions with others.
Instead, kids need the opportunity to experience difficulties when they can be guided by loving parents and mentors. They will learn valuable skills and character traits that will serve them their entire life.
Adversity Develops Compassion and Coping Skills
When children have experienced something emotionally or physically painful, they can relate better to another person’s suffering. This is called empathy, and it is a critical part of emotional intelligence.
A study at Northeastern University showed that participants who had experienced more severe adversity in their life tended to show higher levels of empathic concern. In addition, this empathic concern predicted an increase in compassionate acts. Researchers believe that showing compassion in times of adversity is a natural coping-mechanism we, as humans, have. It helps us build social connections, which help us become more resilient. By protecting children from difficulties, we take away opportunities to develop empathy and recognize the pain of others. In turn, this makes them less able to recover after their own hardships.
Adversity Builds Mental-Toughness
Often, adversity comes as a natural consequence of behavior. Sometimes that is one’s own behavior, or it can be caused by the selfishness or bad decisions of another person. When kids see and experience consequences that come from people’s actions, they learn to make wise choices and be responsible for themselves.
Sometimes, adversity comes through no one’s fault, such as with natural disasters or catastrophic illnesses. In these cases, experiencing hardships helps them see and except reality. They learn that sometimes life is just hard or people don’t get what they want. They learn that it isn’t realistic to have a Pinterest-Perfect life all the time.
Either way, adversity allows kids to become adaptable. They learn that they have choices in any situation, even if that choice is just to have a good attitude about their troubles. By learning to make changes, they can have some control in their own life, no matter what may come.
Adversity Strengthens Self-Esteem
Without knowing it, a Lawnmower parent can send the wrong message to their child. While they may think they’re keeping their child happy, what the child might subconsciously hear is, “I have to protect you, because you are not capable of handling problems.” On the other hand, it can make a big boost to their confidence when a child meets a challenge successfully. Parents can help them do this by offering advice, a positive example, and unconditional love while they are dealing with issues.
Adversity Brings Gratitude
According to the Posttraumatic Growth Research Group, which studies how people grow stronger after traumatic experiences, all survivors they studied have had one thing in common: gratitude. Having seen life at its worst helps one recognize and appreciate good things in life. Kids can learn to see the silver lining in every situation, especially if this is modeled by parents who are going through trials. And an additional bonus is that being grateful for what one has cuts down on the “I wants”!
While it’s true that a good parent protects their child from harm, there are many times that we go overboard. Think of it like caring for your body. You don’t want it to get injured, so you protect it from danger. But if you took away everything difficult, like eating healthy or physical activity, your body would be weak. We gain strength in our trials, physically and mentally. If we use good judgement, we can keep our kids from danger while still allowing them to grow by experiencing hard things.