Sunday, April 7, 2013

Your Child at Age 30!

I often invite parents to describe the adult they hope their child will be at age 30.  In response, they say things like kind, caring, humble, respectful, responsible, a good citizen and a good neighbor.

No one has ever said: rich, famous, a snob or self-important.

Yet many parenting approaches put the focus exactly there.  We put kids into every activity we can - dance lessons, music lessons and sports teams.  Then we find ways to give them repeated, over the top praise.   If they get a bad grade or in trouble at school, we tell them it is the teacher or another student’s fault.   If they complain about how hard their homework is, we sit at their side to help, believing that frustration will make them feel they are a failure.

In the name of “protecting their self-esteem” we take away the gift of accomplishing what they can on their own.  We tell them they are successful, even when they aren't.  They become self-centered kids who believe they are entitled to a life of ease, praise and instant success.

We rob them of the opportunity to develop confidence and real life skills.  Sadly, I have seen lots of kids who believed they were supremely talented, wonderful and rightfully at the center of everyone else’s universe.  When they went off to college or work, many fell flat on their face as they began to experience some of life’s harsh realities.   They simply had no experience in figuring things out for themselves or humbly understanding that life is not ever perfect.

A young lady I know recently went on a mission trip to Peru.  While it says a lot that she would give up spring break to go to an impoverished country to live in dirt and squalor, I was perhaps most impressed by her blog title:

“Little Jessica, Big World”

Great  statement! She knows she is a small cog on the great big wheel we live in.  She had the courage to go far from home, give up her comfort and fun in order to serve others.  She knows there is a larger picture than a self-absorbed life.

Don’t worry too much about your child’s self-esteem.  Give them lots of opportunities to explore their world, to learn how they can impact on it and to be successful in their own small ways.   Small successes breed self-confidence and give children the will to try harder things.  Self-confident people don’t need others to build their self-esteem – it comes from within them.

Give your children responsibilities in the home and in the community.  Expect them to fight most of their own battles – your belief in them will build far more confidence than solving problems for them!

Let your children know that they are simply small parts of a great big world that they share with millions of other equally important, equally talented and equally valuable people.  Give them the experiences they need in order to grow into the adult you hope they will be at age 30!

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