Creative Child

Why I'm Not Toughening Up My Children

by Rebecca Eanes


Will I always come to the rescue?

Not always. I have to be discerning with each situation and allow my child to handle what he is developmentally, mentally, emotionally, and physically capable of handling. I will not save my children from all disappointments or from failure. I also will not create unnecessary hardships for them to endure in the name of toughening up. I will allow them space to learn and grow without hovering, but I will be close enough for them to run to. I will teach them how to deal with things as they come, but I will not leave them alone to deal with things on their own.


I will not unnecessarily enable dependence (do for them what they are able to do for themselves) or push them to independence (make them do things they aren't ready for). Each situation is as unique as the individual, and I must always seek the wisdom to do what is best for each situation. Sometimes I will fix it. Sometimes I will stand back and watch them fix it on their own. Sometimes I will hold them through the tears as they realize it's not fixable. The point is that there is no single right answer, and it isn't helpful to lead parents to believe that there is. 

How does this prepare them for the world?

I'm not sure I'm yet prepared for each day in this sometimes hateful world. I don't know that there is truly a preparation for pain or loss, rejection or isolation, depression or betrayal, or any of the harsh realities that life throws at us. I do know that having close and connected relationships – people we can depend on - is what helps us to survive these realities, and so I will be that person for my children.


Connectedness lowers anxiety and depression, fosters higher self-esteem and empathy, and improves mental, emotional, and physical health. Therefore, I will prepare my children for this world not by toughening them up, but by being someone they are close to. I will prepare them for adulthood by giving them a childhood of goodness. I will send them out into the world not tough, but strong and gentle.

I'm making it my goal to preserve their gentle spirits. Tough children may grow into tough adults who don't feel as much pain in the face of the world's cruelty because they've been desensitized along the way. I wish I could lessen the pain my children will feel from this world, too. But the truth is that, while the world may hurt us gentle spirits more, that hurt spurs us to bring forth change and healing. The gentle spirits make the world a softer and better place for us all.


Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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