I am not going to lie to you, it’s hard. But it is probably the single most important thing to building mighty mini me’s. Let’s be honest, you are reasonably soft, or at least you think you are. It’s a twisted reality we live in. We tend to discount ourselves whether we are Bambi or Thor. If we know we are strong, we believe we could be stronger. If we do not feel we are strong, we want to make ourselves stronger. It all translates into wanting to make our offspring stronger than us, and we should, it’s all very natural and human. But, we also want to be nurturing at the same time. Thus we find it hard to say no. We can see the pain in our children when we tell them no. They scream, cry, kick, whale, it’s painful to watch. So what do we do? We say, OK! When we should be saying NO! Saying no to our children early and frequently creates an appreciation for the YES. They don’t like it at first, and we have to endure some kicking and screaming, but it pays off in the end. Every parent dreads telling their child no, and that’s because we say yes too much. They are not conditioned for it. It will take time, a few months at least, so don’t get frustrated. The best part, there is only one step. Say it with me, NOOOOOO!
Nothing will harden your children like the natural environment. Hot weather, cold weather, rain, snow, and of course bugs. Kids that don’t go outside hate to be, you guessed it, outside. They can not deal with it. They want a temperature controlled environment, and video games and they want it now. We can only endure what we are exposed to. Like never saying no, if we never experience it, we can’t handle it. That is why one of the best ways to make our kids stronger is to expose them to increasingly more difficult situations or conditions to build their tolerance. It is easy for adults to think about performance increases and how they apply to us, but we tend to shy away from those same principals in our children. It is even more effective in children, and they gain a lot of self-confidence at the same time. I used to hate bugs, still don’t love them, but I can tolerate them. I had to, because I love horticulture, and you can’t be around plants and not be around bugs. But I noticed over the years, and I saw this in my own children as well, the more I was exposed to the insects, the less they bother me. We are never going to be in love, but we can learn to respect each other. The same goes for my kids, they don’t have to love bugs, or cold weather, or homework, or chores, or whatever else kids complain about. They just have to be exposed to the elements enough that they are nurturing a resilience.
Is it your kids that don’t want to grow up, or is it you that doesn’t want them to grow up. Kids want to have their cake and eat it too but are us parents any different. We want our children to display many of the cute characteristics of younger children, while also showing great maturity in other areas. We can’t have both, we have to choose. Either we want to stunt our children’s growth by allowing them to continue with childlike behaviors, or we want them to mature. Often the behaviors that we reinforce, however, are not giving us the results that we want, because we want both. When my 4-year-old son requests something that he needs with a clear voice and a complete sentence I give it to him. I would be doing both of us a disservice however it I gave him what he wanted when he threw himself on the floor, half whining and babbling, demanding something. I decline until he can pull it together. We have moved beyond the babbling I no longer respond to it. He is a stronger more effective communicator, and I am less annoyed by him being 2 years old one minute, and 4 years old another.
It could be that I am just too hard of a parent, but I push. Nothing ever grew without being a little uncomfortable, and maybe even a little pain. I don’t want my children to be in pain, but I don’t want them to be vulnerable either. Kids are going to experience cold and hot weather. It is better if they have been exposed to it, rather than not. Being conditioned to something slowly, and on your own terms is far better than being thrown into the fire. If it is the weather outside, or reading in front of people, or dealing with conflict, or sharing, any exposure to these things is going to make you stronger and more confident when you are in those situations. That is why we should push our children. The pain of growth is something that they will undoubtedly feel when they step outside our home. They will feel it in Kindergarten, and they will feel it in High School. We are doing our children no service by shielding them from the pain of growth. It is hard, it is rewarding, and it is empowering. Learning to write their name, learning to read, or even learning to ask a girl out on a date. These are hard things for kids to do, it requires that they push themselves, but they have to know how to push.
I have no shame in shaming my kids. How dare you balk at your dinner? One time my son asked me if the water was fresh? I let a sermon off on that one. But in all seriousness, how do you know light if you don’t know dark. How do you understand empty, if you do not know full? Understanding requires that we know both sides. Regardless of how one family lives, some others are living far differently. Some are living with vast amounts more, while others have less, less than you can fathom. Our culture teaches children to be either pride-filled or shame-filled. We should teach them neither. Too much pride does not allow us to see those in need. And with too much shame we never gain the confidence to rise up to help others in need. If we want strong, capable children, we have to teach them what is. What is the reality of your life as compared to many others in the world? Shame on you if you believe you are better than others, or any worse off either.
Raising bulletproof kids is impossible. The world is an emotionally and physically violent environment for our youth today. For a child to grow up without the proper nurturing or hardening off is a crime. Without question, this lack of nurturing will grow into a monster that will feed the beast that is our society. But a child that grows up in an artificial environment is akin to an animal in a zoo. They can never truly be released into the wild. Though they may resemble the wild animal that they are, their instincts have been muted, how could they ever thrive in the jungle. We must prepare our youth to be properly guided predators and not prey.
Photo by Frank McKenna