September 9th, 2019

When thinking about life and your children at all ages, think long and hard about making life uncomfortable for them on and off. I do not say this lightly. The thought of this makes a lot of parents squirm. Many people equate loving a child with keeping them happy most of the time or sometimes at all costs. I think that this plan is fraught with peril.

Think about a crying child. There is the I am starving cry. There is the I want to be held cry. There is the I am over tired cry. And on and on. To stop the crying, a parent will have to meet the child's need. Food, holding, rocking to sleep, giving a toy, etc... will achieve the goal of stopping the crying, but at what cost if always done.

To feed a baby/infant at every crying event can lead to obesity. To rock a baby to sleep will create an inability to self soothe and fall asleep alone. To pick up a child every time he/she cries will produce an expecting child that can become whiney and spoiled. To do the opposite could lead to starvation, abandonment feelings and unloved loss.

Clearly there is a balance point. This understanding of balance in parenting is critical to a healthy sense of self. We have to be extremely careful not to let our past influence our parenting to a point of poor balance. I.e. you were neglected as a child therefore you choose to overcompensate by attending to every childhood whim.

Thus, the idea of randomly uncomfortable events to make sure that we keep them learning about self and growth. To deprive your child may feel uncomfortable for both parties but is really important to developing independence and self esteem.

When a child cries and you deem that he/she is upset and should be held, by all means hold your child. However, if your child cries every hour to be held or will not go to bed without being held, there is an opportunity to help the child self regulate and learn how to move on without direct parental intervention assuming there is no disease issue at hand. Self determination is a very important part of aging gracefully. It is a classic growth mindset that says to the child, "you got this" "I am here but you do not need me". How empowering this is versus the opposite.

The easy thing to do is to give in. Unfortunately, that is the wrong thing to do. You lose in the long run and so does the child. Easy is often the wrong answer for personal growth. Meditating every day is hard but pays monster dividends later. Staying active is harder than sitting on the couch. Eating home cooked and healthy is harder than eating prepared processed food. You get the picture.

I think that the uncomfortable events are not only reserved for the child. We need to be uncomfortable as well. Take for example, teaching a child how to bake. You set up the kitchen with all of the ingredients and you start to demonstrate the process of making bread. Your daughter or son protests and asks to do it themself with your guidance. The easy thing to do is to say no and just show. The right thing to do is to let her/him explore, make a mess and even mess up the final product. Then you have multiple teaching moments. You also have a mess to clean up. S/he can help with the clean up teaching many more life lessons in taking care of your mess, resilience and completing a project to the end.

Take the harder road more often than not and learn to be self assured, resilient and growing,

 

Dr. M