Why Being Less Protective Is Better for Your Kids
Call off the rescue! You can't protect your kid from every hard knock life hands out and here's why you shouldn't.
Photo Credit: Patrisha Thomson/Getty Images
What mom doesn't recognize this impulse to swoop in and make it all better? There are so many things that people forget to tell you about being a mother, and this is one of them: When our children suffer, so do we. And we suffer on a variety of levels. We remember our own bruised knees and skinned heart, and want to spare our children the same pain. And while part of us knows that sometimes, being a good mother means allowing them to fall off their bikes and to make friends with children who we suspect in our hearts will hurt them one day, the protective Mama Bear in us objects. And so we struggle within ourselves: Do we barge in and save our kids, or do we stand back and allow them to experience life's hard knocks?
Why We Rescue
It's been oft-noted that mothers today are busier and more accomplished than ever. We not only bring home the bacon, but we also comparison-shop for the best price on it, cook it up in a pan we then scrub out ourselves, and use it in a potato salad for the PTA potluck we hold in our spotless home. We're sensitive companions to our husbands, tireless cheerleaders for our children, 5 a.m. power walkers. We are determined that our kids experience lives that are interesting, fulfilling, and high in fiber.
It's ironic that many of our mothers who lived more circumscribed lives and were viewed by both men and society as soft and in need of protection were tougher chicks than we are when it comes to raising children. A generation or two ago, mothers were expected to keep a clean house, put dinner on the table, and give birth. They weren't expected to run alongside their son's bike holding the handlebars, as one mother I know does, afraid that her sixth-grader might fall and knock out a tooth. They didn't call the mothers of girls who hosted slumber parties to which their daughters weren't invited, trying to wrangle a last-minute invitation. Our mothers knew something that we seem to be in the act of forgetting: Life can be tough, and the sooner children learn this, the better off they may be.
Leaping in to solve our children's predicaments or to make them feel better, rather than allowing them the time it takes to work through the issue and the full sweep of their emotions, deprives them of the opportunity to figure out how to manage their feelings during tough times. Just as learning a sport demands years of practice, so does learning to handle life's setbacks.
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