Professional mom seeking clarity, balance and a well deserved glass of wine.
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“Those kids were wrong to be mean to you; they don’t know how great you are.”
In times of disappointment and strife, we’ve all said these kinds of things to our kids. We have a natural parental instinct to keep them safe, protect their feelings and ensure blissful happiness until they move away at 35 and we turn their bedroom into a “naked room.” At that point, they can brave the big bad world on their own and hopefully come out of each life experience smelling like a rose.
This starts when they’re babies. I believe we’re the generation who are afraid to let their kids cry or be upset. We try and make everything easy for them. Soothing. Comforting. If we don’t, they may not like us. Oh the horror!
Why is it bad for kids to cry or experience discomfort? What is it we’re all so afraid of? What are the long term affects of this behavior? Are we helping or actually hurting them?
I came across a recent interview by one of my favorite professional moms, Brené Brown (yes, I’ve been a devout fan since before she was Oprah famous) http://ti.me/1Nqb586 who has spent almost her entire career studying shame and courage and the effects of owning your feelings. Her advice for helping our kids navigate disappointment and failure: don’t try and fix it.
She suggests as we increasingly navigate our kids’ lives, so that they avoid failure, they lose an important life skill, and one one they will inevitably need: how to find the courage and motivation to get back up. So how do you help kids fail, or rather, how do you help kids deal with failure? (TIME) “Brené wants parents to let kids feel the sting of failure and learn to overcome it.”
Now, if your kids are already off at college and you’re thinking, “Shit, I’ve already created a non-feeling-owning cry baby whose incapable of navigating failure,” don’t be alarmed. There is still hope. You can rewire their neural pathways with one small change. (at least this is my humble opinion, based on my own personal experience) Ready? Here’s the secret sauce: when your child tells you they didn’t make the team or they were snubbed at lunch, instead of responding with a comforting response, ask them this simple question: “How do you feel about that?”
I know, it sounds like Psych 101, but it really works. Heck, it even works when they deliver positive news. For example, your daughter comes home and says, “Mom, I got an A on my chemistry test.” My pat response used to be, “That’s great honey; you worked really hard and I’m so proud of you.” Now, I ask the question also: “That’s fantastic honey, how does that feel?” This way, the focal point is on her feelings, not mine. She owns the feeling of pride or accomplishment.
We live in a day and age where kids are handed a trophy for breathing, practically. Doesn’t it make more sense to train them to own their feelings from a young age? Brené suggests that getting kids to cast themselves in their own narrative helps them recall what they consider success and reminds them what their aims are. “We don’t want to be victims in the story. We don’t even want to be heroes in a story,” says Brown. “We want to be the author of the story. And you can’t do that unless you own the story and dig into it.”
Here’s to helping our kids (and ourselves, let’s be honest) navigate the good, the bad and the ugly with truth, courage and resilience. Fail on!
Stay sane, my friends.
P.S. Thoughts? Feeling? Epiphany’s? Are we raising a generation of award-winning breathers who wouldn’t know what to do with failure if it hit them in the face? Or, should we try and “fix it,” because we can? Chime in, in the comments below. Sharing is caring, so please pass this on to someone you know who wants to fail better and raise strong kids.
P.S. If you haven’t already snagged a copy of her new book, Rising Strong, I highly recommend it. (this is not a paid endorsement…unless, of course, she feels compelled)
I enjoyed reading this post. I feel that in order for my children to achieve a sense of balance in their lives, there needs to be the ability to process disappointment and experience failure and then use it as both the motivation and the catalyst to push on. I wrote a whole piece called “the participation trophy” and how I feel it negatively impacts my children by creating a sense of entitlement. There are some similarities to your post and I welcome you to check it out and tell me what you think.