Kids Need Unhappiness, Too
The last couple of weeks, when Roy was sick, I reminded myself that unhappiness is part of the deal. In the end, perhaps we’re better for weathering life’s difficulties. It makes sense, then, that unhappiness might be good for kids, too. This is exactly what therapist/mom Lori Gottlieb asserts in the July/August issue of The Atlantic.
In her article titled “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy,” Gottlieb talks about a new breed of patient she noticed turning up on her therapist’s couch—young adults with supportive upbringings suffering from anxiety, depression and a general sense of emptiness. At first she was stumped.
“They truly did seem to have caring and loving parents, parents who gave them the freedom to “find themselves” and the encouragement to do anything they wanted in life. Parents who had driven carpools, and helped with homework each night, and intervened when there was a bully at school or a birthday invitation not received, and had gotten them tutors when they struggled in math, and music lessons when they expressed an interest in guitar (but let them quit when they lost that interest), and talked through their feelings when they broke the rules, instead of punishing them (“logical consequences” always stood in for punishment).”
Gottlieb asserts that there may be such a thing as too much support. Of course we all want our kids to be happy. But when we adults fixate on constant and total happiness as a be-all, end-all goal—for us and for our children—it could end up backfiring. “Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness as children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults?” she muses.
What struck me as a parent to a toddler was how early this sanitizing can start. One example given was rushing to your child when he falls, rather than giving him a chance to assess the situation for himself. Letting him learn he can get through that little swell of unpleasantness solo is the building block for dealing with bigger difficulties, disappointments, discomforts and frustrations later in life.
We’ve instinctively already done this with Roy. When he falls, we wait. Usually, after a little, “Ophf!” he’s off and running again. If he does cry, we look for blood. I just hope we can continue to make choices that foster his independence as he grows, because to tell the truth, it really is hard to see my little boy hurt. A skinned knee is one thing. How might I deal with playground bullies, the disappointment of getting picked last or that inevitable broken heart? It chokes me up a little just imagining it.
What do you think? Can you, as a parent, resist the urge to make everything better? Do you want to?Add a Comment