Life lessons are far more effective when gained from experience than they are from instruction. If our first encounter with hardship doesn’t happen when we are children, we may well crumble as adults.
Do We Want to Shield Children from Pain?
Many well-meaning parents imagine that we can, and should, shield our children from all forms of pain. Scraped knees, disappointments, and broken hearts are inevitable. With a father’s powerful love, the inclination is to intervene and protect. Meanwhile, despite our best intentions, isn’t it bizarre to imagine we can shield them forever?
When children feel angst, do we solve their problems or divert attention? If yes, we inadvertently stunt the growth of their emotional intelligence. Shielding children from pain conveys that we don’t believe they can handle discomfort while delaying the development of self-regulation and stress response systems. Instead, support their growth by encouraging them as they learn to manage stress.
Respectfully Tell the Truth
Do we avoid telling children the truth? Do we put added effort into making sure their feelings don’t get hurt? Do we think they are unable to handle rejection or hardship? Do we shield them from the real world to keep them from feeling sadness or disappointment? Especially as they get older, it’s best to put away the censored version of life and tell them the truth.
While shielding kids from pain is unhealthy—it’s just as important to not deliberately inflict it. Be tactful. In our paternal transparency, try to find a silver lining to soften the blow while maintaining intellectual honesty.
What to Do
A father’s role is not problem solver, but coach. American author, Wendy Mogel, wrote, “Real protection means teaching children to manage risks on their own, not shielding them from every hazard.” It’s perfectly normal to allow children to experience the standard emotions of anger, sadness, and disappointment. These feelings encourage kids to develop healthy coping skills such as accountability, adaptability, and resilience.
Exposure to Higher Levels of Pain
Once our children are mature enough, they can volunteer at homeless shelters and visit sick people in the hospital. Through these hands-on experiences, we open up opportunities for heartfelt conversations about the importance of empathy. Our mission is not to scare them, but to show them the reality that is our world. Teach kids that rather than turning away from pain—we can lean in—and make a difference.
By helping children adopt a growth mindset, they’ll be better equipped to manage adversity and work through difficulties. Let them witness our growth mindset, seeing both our successes and failures. Compliment and praise them when they dedicate concerted effort and work toward something, even and especially if they fail. With self-confidence and willingness to learn, we can repurpose pain towards victory.
Pain from Relationships
Relationships can be wonderful, but they aren’t always perfect. People are fallible. Sometimes, friends and family disregard our wants and needs to selfishly serve themselves. Sometimes, our loved ones pass away. No matter how beautiful, relationships eventually lead to some pain, ranging from minimal to profound. We might shield ourselves from the pain inherent in relationships by avoiding them, but empty is the path of isolation and loneliness.
As children grow, unfamiliarity with adversity not only stunts their growth but also tends to make them increasingly vulnerable to stress, depression, and anxiety. Rather than shielding them from pain, shield them from the belief that the obstacles they face in life will break them. Teach them that they are more resilient than they imagine. If kids are sad or hurt, provide not solutions, but encouragement and guidance. While building them up in their tender emotions may be painful, it is a healthy and beautiful process that will equip them greatly—during childhood—and for the rest of their lives.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” —Psalms 23:1-4 KJV
Parents want so badly to raise self-disciplined, appreciative, and resourceful children who are not spoiled. But how to accomplish this feat? The teachings in The Blessing of a Skinned Knee are relevant for any era, and any household of any faith—both inspiring and effective in the day-to-day challenge of raising self-reliant children.
Beloved by men and women around the world who apply its wisdom, if you’re feeling frustrated, demoralized, or stuck in a rut, you can turn your problems into your biggest advantages.
Today’s children face an unprecedented level of overprotectiveness: parents who rush to school to deliver forgotten homework, challenge teachers on report card disappointments, mastermind children’s friendships, and interfere on the playing field. Hard-hitting yet warm and wise, The Gift of Failure is essential reading for parents who want to help children succeed.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.