We are all guilty, to varying degrees, of over-protecting our children, aren’t we? We are a society that has become consumed by being safe, not just physically but emotionally. We fight our children’s battles for them, we look at ways of blaming others when things don’t go well and we soothe their fears about not being as good as their peers. We remove them from situations that may be awkward for them and we promote the tasks that they feel competent in. We do this in the name of good parenting but it’s not good parenting, is it? All that we actually achieve is to develop a group of youngsters who have high expectations of instant and constant success. The result is that we have created a culture for the next generation to have zero resilience, to crumble when things don’t go to plan.
I spoke last May to a high-achieving student who was suffering from anxiety and who looked at me in utter disbelief when I said to him, ‘My hope for you is that you fail one of your upcoming exams.’
The mere thought of failure had turned him into a wreck, into someone who had placed such importance on never getting it wrong that he had become a shadow of who he could be. I had to explain that failure is not always a negative.
Failure often provides us with balance and also, much more importantly, perspective. The key to future wellbeing is not succeeding at everything but rather being able to accept everything and anything that life throws at us. Because, let’s face it, life’s not fair.
There are going to be good days and there are going to be bad days and children need to ‘prepare’ for that fundamental truth. Always being monitored for ‘happiness’ does not serve their futures well. I think it’s time for us to back off, to stop being ‘helicopter’ parents, to say to our children, as my father used to say to me, ‘Just do your best and if it doesn’t work out it won’t be the end of the world’. And, my goodness, it is only now that I truly see the wisdom in those words.