Yesterday, I blogged about the changes adults have made in the way we lead, teach and parent kids over the last thirty years. Kids are definitely growing up in a more controlled environment than I did.
Social scientists agree that kids today are highly confident, and believe they can change the world. Unfortunately, there have been some unintended consequences to our new leadership style. Over a four-day period I will suggest four of them, and what we must do to balance the negative impact of the following:
- Adults often won’t let kids fail.
- Adults often won’t let kids fall.
- Adults often won’t let kids fear.
- Adults often won’t let kids fight.
Yesterday, I blogged about number one on this list. Let’s examine number two today.
2. Adults won’t let kids fall.
In many ways we’ve refused to allow our kids to be harmed, emotionally or physically. Helmets. Kneepads. Safety belts. More kids play inside in structured virtual games than outside where they can get hurt. This makes sense, but consider the potential damage in the long run. I know parents who’ve demanded that jungle gyms or monkey bars be removed from playgrounds. They’re too dangerous.
Psychologists in Europe have discovered, however, that if a child doesn’t play outside and is never allowed to experience a skinned knee or a broken bone, they may have phobias when they are adults. The truth is, kids need to fall a few times to learn it is normal; teens likely need to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend to appreciate the emotional maturity that lasting relationships require. Pain is actually a necessary teacher. Consider your body for a moment. If your body didn’t feel pain, you could burn yourself or step on a nail and never do something about the damage and infection until it was too late. Pain is a part of health and maturity.
What can we do? First of all, don’t rescue kids from harm. Guide them, coach them and advise them on how to handle difficult times—but allow them the struggle of working their way through the process. Give them some freedom. Just like a butterfly must fight their way out of the cocoon in order to be strong enough to fly—young people must build emotional strength through hardship. No pain, no gain. Recently, our friends were outside with their eight-year old son. As we talked, their boy fell off the swing and began to cry. Instead of panicking, his mother calmed him and nursed his small wound, then told him he would be OK. Then, she shared how she had skinned her knee as a little girl…and everything turned out OK. Instantly, his tears dried up, he smiled and went back to his play.