If I could build a bomb shelter to protect my kids from getting hurt in this big, bad world – I want to say that I would throw them in there and not let anyone in near them.
But even if I had that option I think I would still throw them to the wolves.
Because by protecting them, or should I say vastly overprotecting them, as a lot of us tend to do – we are providing them with less and less opportunities for independence, less opportunities to problem solve, less opportunities for learning.
In life there are consequences to actions and you get a real sense of achievement in tackling a huge problem and getting to the other side.
We worry too much about their education and bullies and too little about providing them with growth opportunities and time on their own to figure stuff out.
I had a conversation with a Mum yesterday who was annoyed the teacher gave too little homework. I said I was thrilled, and she gave me a look until I explained.
Our children should have free time for things other than education. They need to learn so much, if academics takes up too much of their time they are going to miss out on learning how to socialise, strike up conversations, use their imagination, get creative, learn what things make them “lose time”or really get in the flow of life.
Successful adults need to do all of this.
Plus the brain needs time to digest and understand what they have learned during the day. If there is just more learning, eating and bed then there will be no time for the brain to do that.
If you don’t believe me look up Finland’s education system, which is number 1 in the world, they have NO homework. None. Ever.
There are perspectives for everything and different children need different things but this is mine. Maybe I changed her mind and maybe I didn’t but I know I gave her food for thought and the knowledge that there are other ways of looking at a situation.
I want to give you an example of building resilience in my kids.
I used the wolves analogy before but I truly think I might be bringing up a pack of animals. Or it just might be a boy thing, I don’t know.
Last night my oldest dared my youngest to pee on the rug. Like really, go to the toilet on the rug. I’m not sure how much cajoling it took (not much I bet) but the deed was done, hysterical laughter ensued and then Julian came running to tell me what Leo did.
Seemingly innocent Julian is like some kind of evil genius I’ve discovered. He works out how to get Leo into trouble and Leo goes along with it.
After interrogation Leo admitted to peeing because of Julian’s plan.
In the last two days the boys had cleaned up the playroom four times and their bedrooms twice in hopes of some good pocket money this week. Sunday is the day.
But I’m no fool. Kids around all day equals continued mess so I either give it our Monday before school or bedtime on Sunday night depending on how spotless the house is.
So they thought they got off pretty lightly last night with some light telling off from Mum and Dad.
This morning I told them they would be paying for the carpet cleaner to come and clean it up.
I say this practically with my arm over my face to shield me from the inevitable whining but it doesn’t come.
Evil genius’s mind ticks over.
I go for a shower.
In comes Leo to tell me he’d “äccidentally peed” and it wasn’t Julian’s plan after all, just an accident.
Julian had figured this was the best way to get them out of having to pay for it and obviously was listening in his bedroom hoping for the best.
Shot down Leo goes back to report to Julian. Julian has done the math and knows that it is going to take over six weeks of both their pocket money to pay for it.
He is heartbroken.
I let him take it all in. Rejoicing that his problem skills are working as are his maths skills.
We don’t get strong by always winning. We don’t get smarter by constantly being told we are great and never disappointing anyone.
We don’t build resilience by always making our kids happy.
We should be rejoicing in their failures because this is a learning opportunity (I will rejoice when my carpet is cleaned and the room no longer smells like pee)
How do they move forward?
What skills will they use to pick themselves up?
We are right to show them that there are consequences for everything, because for every action there is a reaction.
Even if it’s hard to see them disappointed. Even if you just want to scoop them up and make it all better.
When I get too tired and can’t deal with their whining I give in.
In this moment I know that I am failing them by not putting the right structures in place.
I know that to truly parent them I need to be firm in my boundaries.
Lovingly strict for the important stuff but letting unimportant things go.
Knowing when to admonish and when to cuddle.
Because we can’t always protect our kids, they won’t stay in that bomb shelter forever, even if we tell them its for their own good.
It’s our job as parents to give them the skills to get out of that bomb shelter and into the world and know that they don’t need protection.
Because if they fall, they know how to get up.