We are seeing an epidemic of kids these days whose parents have not allowed them the experience of “letting them fail.” Parents are great at rescuing, enabling, and giving their kids too much without letting kids problem solve to figure things out on their own. In essence, they aren’t allowing them to “climb.”
Sure, we all want the best for our kids but it’s not helping them in the long run because it makes life too easy. We know as adults that we can’t win all the time. We know we have to pick ourselves up, shake it off, and move on. How did we learn that? We learn it by “falling” – dealing with disappointment, loss, and experiences of failure.
I see young adults who can’t figure out why they aren’t happy or why they aren’t enjoying healthy, satisfying marriages. They often had the “perfect childhood” with “perfect parents”; they may be educated with good jobs, yet they feel empty inside. As we probe to figure things out, we often learn that these young adults didn’t master the emotional intelligence strengths of stress tolerance, independence, or adaptability. That’s because they frequently were rescued from their problems, keeping them from learning how to deal with normal anxiety, which builds resilience.
Consider stress tolerance as the child’s ability to perform under pressure. In sports, it’s understood that a little anxiety increases performance but too much can overwhelm the athlete and he/she doesn’t compete to the best of their ability. The same goes for our emotional intelligence. A little stress helps us learn to cope. As we learn to cope with the “small things,” we develop the ability to cope more effectively with large problems.
Independence can be defined as the ability to be competent or the ability to do things without external support. Remember that old saying “When the going gets tough…”? Well, several of our young adults may finish that statement with “…call mom or dad.” They lack the motivation to problem-solve and become dependent on others for support, encouragement and ideas. What we want to create is a young adult who can look at a problem, recognize the work it will take, and who is willing to “climb” without needing to seek that external motivation and support. This doesn’t mean they can’t accept help from others; rather, it simply means they don’t depend on someone to fix it for them.
Adaptability is a person’s ability to be flexible; it’s their ability to adjust to different situations. Resilient people have high levels of adaptability. They can recognize barriers that life throws at them but they do not give up. They find ways to scale those “mountains.”
Our goal as parents is to raise kids who can successfully leave home someday. How best to do that? It includes such things as setting limits, letting them fail, not overindulging, not letting them think they are the center of the universe, and teaching empathy as well as social responsibility.