Why Kids Need to Suffer

Happiness = Reality – Expectations

What do you think of this? I saw it in an article about the unhappiness of Generation Y in the Huffington Post. One of the points that I’m chewing on relates to how resistant parents can be to allow anything negative to happen to their children. We are living in an era of teaching our children how special they are and shielding them from experiences of failure. We may be seeing some very different trends with Generation Z, but now we have young adults with big expectations for their lives intersecting with huge doses of reality. The result? A good deal of unhappiness.

I can relate with the challenge of parenting! When my kids have been hurt and disappointed, I have distracted, minimized, and softened with the rest of them. But in my more grounded moments, I have held on to myself and allowed my children to hurt and cry while knowing this is exactly what they need to be ready for life as adults. My kids and your kids all need to understand reality. They aren’t all gifted in every way and they can’t do anything they set their mind to do. Think about it, no matter how diligently I set my mind to it, no matter how hard I worked, I could not have been an Olympic Gymnast. I just don’t have the right body or aptitude for it.

I client introduced me to a book I’ve been reading called Gist: The Essence of Raising Life-Ready Kids. In it, authors Anderson and Johanson have a list of essential experiences kids need to have in order to have a properly shaped view of reality. Here are some of the experiences on their list:

  • Not being invited to a birthday party
  • Working hard on a paper and still getting a bad grade
  • Having a car break down far from home
  • Being told that a class or a camp is full
  • Getting detention
  • Having an event be cancelled because someone misbehaved
  • Being fired from a job
  • Not making the varsity team
  • Being hit by another kid

If Anderson and Johanson are right, when we fight our kids’ painful experiences, we sometimes unwittingly thwart their maturing process! And then our kids grow up with a distorted sense of reality, which ultimately hurts our kids’ chances at happiness. What is required for parents then is growing our tolerance for our children’s suffering. I have seen in parenting that trusting God through my own trials feels different than trusting God through my kids’ trials. And yet, isn’t the personal work the same?

For the Huffington Post article, click here. For the book, Gist, click here.

I’ll be recharging my batteries for a while. I’ll be blogging again in the fall.

2 Responses

  1. Janice,
    The fact that parents have shielded their children from disappointment can become a big entitlement problem in high school.
    If a child has not learned to deal with not being accepted on a team, forgetting a paper at home, leaving their backpack at a friends house and even something a minor as leaving their lunch at home, high school and college can be a major challenge.
    Parents need to resist rescuing their children after grade school. In middle school or junior high, mistakes are not going to effect their life as they will in high school. Forgot a paper? Talk to the teacher; if they won’t accept late work it is a good lesson. Leave their lunch at home? Always take lunch money as an emergency; no lunch money? Ask a friend to share their lunch.
    These things teach kids to think about alternate solutions in difficult situations, which is a great life skill.
    Working in a high school, I have had parents waiting in line to pay for their PE uniform because their student ‘doesn’t like waiting in lines’. Parents come in to pay fines for their students even as seniors; fines issued for lost sports uniforms, lost library books and lost textbooks.
    This does not teach a child to take responsibility for their errors, it just shows them that mom and dad will take care of all of their issues.
    Just a little input on your excellent subject, Janice. See you soon!

  2. Thanks for giving these great examples of what you see in real life every day. And for being a model of a mom who allows her kids to learn about reality.

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