Creative Child

Why I'm Not Toughening Up My Children

by Rebecca Eanes

A common theme I've noticed in the parenting community in my 5 years of running a popular Facebook parenting page and blog is that many parents are very concerned about “preparing children for the real world.” I get that. We are living in a harsh and oftentimes cruel world that does not revolve around my child or yours. So, it seems to some that the best way to prepare them for the harsh realities of the world is to let them face harshness in childhood. This will toughen them up and make them ready. It sounds like a reasonable plan, but don't count me in.

The truth is, I don't have a one-size-fits-all plan. I can't make blanket statements like, “I will never bring my child his forgotten lunch” or “I won't save him from disappointments in life.” My children are unique individuals at developmentally different stages, and I think that's the missing equation in most parenting “formulas” or “methods.”

All of our children are unique individuals, and we have to treat them according to their needs, personality, and stage of development, not by hasty generalizations about what makes children prepared for adulthood.

Let's look at how development and personality come into play:

Because I understand that executive functions are not fully developed in a young child, I would certainly take a forgotten lunch to school for my 8 year old, if I was able to do so, and not fear that he would need me to bring him lunches forever. My frontal lobe is fully developed, and yet I forget things sometimes. I hope that my family is courteous enough to be there for me when I need them, and so I will be there for them. Allowing him to go hungry or be forced to eat food he dislikes might make him remember his lunch, but he's going to also remember the lack of courtesy and kindness shown to him. If it's the fourth time this week my 8 year old forgot his lunch, then we need to assess what the problem is and find a solution.

I don't allow problems to go unsolved, but the solution doesn't have to leave anyone feeling helpless, alone, unheard, or unloved. Because I understand that one of my sons is a highly sensitive child, I will not let rude words said to him go unchecked, and I will not let him go undefended. Words hurt him more than they hurt the average child. He soaks them in, deep down into his being, and sitting idly by while another child on the playground says hurtful words isn't going to teach him to “deal with it.”

I will practice with him over and over again how to deal with playground bullies and even rude adults who show no respect to children, and if a situation arises where I see he is having trouble, he can count on me to come to his aid. I would hope someone would come to mine.

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