I have been noticing a trend for the past few years that I find disturbing: Parents who literally do not allow their children to:
- feel any pain
- deal with consequences of their choices
- feel sad or disappointed
Dealing with the Sad
Truth is, none of us like to see our child in pain or sad or disappointed. But life is full of feelings, and they're not always happy ones. In their lives, children will feel pain and childhood is the time to learn how to get through experiences that are hard and develop the thinking patterns that will help them later in life.
For example, maybe your child comes home from school and says that he was not invited to a birthday party. How do you handle it? Call the other child's parent and complain? Tell your child that the other child is just mean? Go buy your child that expensive toy he's been asking for to make him feel better? No, I don't think so.
Far better, I think, to talk with your child and let him tell you about what he's feeling. Love and comfort him, and tell him you feel sad about it too. Remind him that other people were not invited too, they probably feel sad too, and he can work to be a good friend to those people. Those things are much better options.
If he goes through life experiencing the sad and weathers through it, he learns much from that. 1) He learns that those sad feelings don't last forever. 2) He learns (over time) how to manage those sad feelings. 3) He learns that those experiences don't have to define him, and he can find still find joy.
Dealing with Failure or Disappointment
Failure is also part of life. Your child is not always going to win. She's not always going to get the lead in the class play. She's not always going to get the highest grade. She's not always going to get to be a starter on her soccer team.
Let it be! It's not a good idea to spend your time negotiating with teachers and coaches, but rather helping your child deal with the failure. Remind her that the important thing is to do her best and be happy that she tried. Remind her that you are proud of her and love her, and she'll have other opportunities to do the things she loves.
That does a couple of things. It helps her to feel secure at home, and it helps her to learn to cope with things that don't go as planned. She will not be the girl that has no ability to handle a disappointment or failure and as a college student or adult finds herself needing to self-medicate.
Of course, if the failure is because of lack of effort, then the conversation needs to happen about what happened, what they did well, what they could do differently, and what they will do in the future.
Remember that you are not always going to be around to stand up for, rescue, or comfort your child. Help them to develop those internal coping skills that will help them maneuver through the trials of life that they surely will face!