Is it good to let our kids struggle and fail sometimes, to give them 'practice' dealing with difficulties?(65 Posts)
I posted the following comment on another thread about happy memories, and then - when HmmmIwonder responded - thought that it might turn into a bit of a hijack.... So I'm re-posting it here in case anyone's interested in joining me in this bit of philosophising...
(And what I am about to say does not apply to all kids - not to ones who have been abused or neglected, I'd like to make clear - but it does, I think, apply to many or most...)
I wish I'd let DS1 struggle and even fail more often when he was little.
Our culture is so sold on 'positive parenting', I think, that we focus almost exclusively on making life as pleasant as possible for our DCs, and we forget that they also need to learn to deal with difficulty and unpleasantness. We provide fun and constant entertainment, avoid boredom, support and enable them, encourage and praise, help them achieve, negotiate their friendships and relationships at school, resolve conflicts for them, keep them out of trouble if we can, take them on picnics and holidays, make sure they get plenty of messy play and bouncing and splashing... and try generally to be the very best parents we can be.
But as kids turn into teens and then into adults, they run slap-bang into reality: life is full of difficulties and mummy and daddy can't fix them for you; you need to be able to fix them yourself.
Many teenage problems, it seems to me (and many adult ones, frankly) spring from the fact that our society doesn't give teenagers enough skills to deal with difficulties. Life isn't always rosy, and when they find it isn't perfect, and grown ups can't 'kiss everything better' any more, teenagers often seem to get a bit lost, depressed or angry.
The fact is, as adults, to be happy and functioning and resilient and mentally well, we need to be able to deal with difficulties. We need strategies. We need to know bad feelings pass, and even if we feel absolutely terrible, we will feel better again. We need to know that bad things happen, and that we can sort them out, and that even if we can't, we will survive.
Somehow, my DS - like millions of others, I reckon - reached his teenage years not knowing that he could deal with difficult situations positively. He couldn't deal well with conflict. He associated trying with failure, and hadn't learned that effort brings rewards. He got frustrated easily. He expected me to sort out all his problems.
So... sometimes I think... I wish I'd let him be bored more. I wish I'd let him struggle and strive a bit more. I wish I'd left him to resolve more of his own problems. When he complained, about boredom or fall-outs with friends or most other problems, if I had my time again, I'd tell him "Oh dear, ^what are you going to do about it?^"
I've come to think that kids need to practice these things before they reach their teens, or they can really struggle with the challenges that adolescence and young adulthood bring them.
Because one of the important things I've learned, as a parent of a teen rather than a small child, is that happy memories are lovely, but that making everything lovely for your child does not make them happy.
flow4, i found your post really interesting...dd was generally happy till turned 14 last year. up to then she'd had an overall happy life, with no major obstacles to overcome. Then after 3 bereavements last year, her life changed, somehow it was a whole new chapter to deal with. on top of the emotional issues, going into year 10 at school meant dealing with GCSE work, and she has become a different person. she gets very down and at times seems overwhelmed by life in general. Her friendships have suffered, and she feels she has nobody (except me) that she can really talk to. It doesn't seem to matter how many good things are going on in her life, she doesn't really FEEL them and they don't cheer her up. Her self esteem has dwindled. She is doing well at school, parents evening was a round of consistent praise from every teacher, she's getting her grades for the most part but she thinks she's a failure and doesn't know why her targets are so high. There seems to be a complete mismatch between reality (loving family, nice friends, doing well at school) and what's inside her head (lonely, friends dont care about her, high school targets are unrealistic).
For the last year i've been there for her 100% and tried everything i can to 'fix' as much as i can.i've spent countless nights sitting up with her, listening to her and given her nothing but support and love. We arrange stuff as a family that she likes to do, go to places and events that she enjoys (we do too, but a lot of the time , it is led by what she would like). i'm getting to the stage where I'm emotionally exhausted and no matter what we do she is unhappy and hates her life.
Sorry if i seem to have rambled off subject but i suppose what i mean is I wonder if should l leave her to suffer on her own a bit more, in the hope that she will 'fix' herself. Maybe i am loving her too much for her own good.
flow4 i think when you say "if I had my time again, I'd tell him "Oh dear, ^what are you going to do about it?^" says it all. But we can't resist solving their problems can we.
I'm learning to resist, daisysue!
I don't know, Hmmm. I'm sure there are a lot of unhappy, depressed and formerly-depressed young people out there who feel their families didn't pay enough attention to their lives, and I don't really know how a parent could tell whether/if they were 'loving too much'...
I do remember sitting in on a university lecture about child and adolescent mental health (a few years ago, in my mid-forties) and having a light-bulb moment, when the lecturer said that mental well-being is not about being happy, but about having strategies to deal with being unhappy.
I suddenly knew that I hadn't realised that myself, so presumably I hadn't (at least before that moment) brought my kids up to understand that either.
I think I put lots of energy into trying to make them happy, and of course, inevitably, failing - not because I'm 'not good enough' (I reckon I probably am!) but because it's impossible! I think my DS1, too, expects to feel happy, and is angry and upset and feels like a failure when he doesn't. I now believe it's wiser and more useful to put energy into helping them to learn ways of dealing with their negative emotions, unhappiness and other difficulties.
I agree with you flow Our desire to protect them from pain gets in the way of them learning how to cope with it on their own.
I think the answer is to find a way in which we can be empathic to their needs, problems etc. without feeling the need to fix things. That is something I struggle with as a mother, I just want to try to make it better.
My ds is so in need of empathy,but the tempatation to try and fix his constant mess ups is enormous. Partly because i don't want to see him in pain but also because i can see the unfolding consequences of his inaction and fear that if I don't pick up the pieces now, further on there will be an even bigger problem. So partly it's a selfish need for calm and a lack of confidence in my Ds.
So I do agree with the concept, but have pretty much failed to act on it with Ds 1. Ds 2 is however much more independant and I think I've cracked it with dd and am often empathic without rushing in to make it better. The first born suffers the consequences of us learning on the job
I was thinking it's a bit like how our over use of antibacteral cleaners/ antibiotics / vaccines etc. mean we never get a chance to toughen up our immune systems so that they are strong enough to defend us without intervention....
< chucks contentious bone into the fray>
I think it stems from the same desire to protect our young and keep them safe from harm which in the long run actually puts them at a disadvantage.
Two interesting posts, Brighter. I agree with you. And when you say "partly it's a selfish need for calm and a lack of confidence in my Ds", I think you are spot-on... And this lack of confidence perhaps explains why they get so affronted/angry with us. It can become a real vicious circle, because we don't trust them to sort out their own problems, that makes them angry, and their angry responses reinforce our lack of trust...
I totally agree with learning to fail and pick yourself up and do it again.
(not a stealth but reality) trouble is my 3 thrive on high targets and aceing them. If you set them an " impossible" target , especially DD2 would think about it, and do it anyway.
to DS failure has been traumatic in small ways- not being picked for the A team, not getting through an audition (due to physical issues that he tried to hide) . He did get a bit scrambled and very anxious as a result with " catastrophising "type behaviour ( ie 1 wrong note and it's all a disaster type thinking). However I think he's got over that and that was a great triumph ( more than getting through the audition it's self really). I think it's been really positive for him to use his brain power to get over this hurdle.
School work on " resilience" as part of PHSE which is fantastic. It is a selective school so "failure is not an option" is often the message from parents for whom "my child the doctor/lawyer/dentist" is the only goal in their parental life. Certainly having watched DD1s year through A2 and uni starts where they are coming up against hurdles they find difficult there has been quite a few "traumas" .
If your family view anything other than medicine/dentistry/law as failure though it must be awful... nothing else in your life carries value.
mental well-being is not about being happy, but about having strategies to deal with being unhappy
That really strikes a chord with me. I hold my hands up to being overprotective and over indulgent with my two. Both are wonderful boys who never put a foot wrong. DS2 is chilled and self sufficient but DS1 who is 17 is far from it. He is crushed by any disappointments in life and I have noticed this more rather than less recently. I wonder whether I fixed things too much when he was younger. He has a somewhat obsessive nature and is finding the challenges of being almost an adult quite tricky.
But he's still developing, surely? And clearly coming up against things he finds challenging and attempting to deal with them, more and more independently but still with the safety cushion of mum and dad, for now.
The challenges smaller children face are, so and so was mean to me, or I can't run as fast as x. Then they gradually get more challenging. As it should be, IMO- the vast majority of us are helping our children to become emotionally mature and independent. Only in a tiny minority of cases do parents get it totally wrong.
And we still grow and develop as we get older! Who doesn't struggle with challenges and failures and frustrations for their whole lives? Unless you are, in fact, Buddha himself.
Small children need to be protected from the rough edges of life. I really, truly believe this.
I think you're absolutely right.
I am only expecting my first so I am sure this will be VERY hard to do with my own child, but I work with young people in a voluntary capacity and I like to see them make mistakes and work out for themselves that they should have done something differently.
I have noticed that other volunteers who are mothers will always tell them the best place to set up their tent, that they haven't enough firewood before they begin etc.. whereas I like to let them learn through experiencing that sleeping on a hill is rubbish as is running out of wood halfway through cooking dinner...
Now I just need to remember to keep that approach with my own child.
And how much can you really "fix" it for your kids anyway?
Eg if a child wants to be good at a sport but just isn't- there's literally nothing you can do to change this.
How do you fix everything? I'd love to know.
One example is a girl (of about 12) who refused to take a packed lunch for a day out when we were giving them out as she said she didn't want it.
I tried and tried to persuade her to just take it in her bag anyway and when she refused I eventually left it behind.
At lunchtime, she was hungry and wanted it and expected that I'd have brought it in my bag (like the other adults in her life usually did) but I didn't. She was hungry and had to mooch off her friends... she survived.. and I hope learned a lesson.
I do agree that they need to meet things that don't "go right" for them from early on, but I think I must have been a bit of a benign parent, as I think mine have always done so. I am flabbergasted by some of the threads on here about "My
pfb dc hasn't been invited to x's party, shall I speak to the Mum?" type of thing, I've always said along the lines of "Well, not everyone can be invited everywhere" then distracted. Same with not being picked for teams or whatever - I've pointed out the things they are good at, and that we all have things we are good at and things we have to work harder at. Mine can all take a bit of "stick" from friends and family when they've been a bit of a plonker, and I think learning to deal with some 'banter' or some friend;y teasing is really important in a developing child. (Once again, am amazed at some of the - to me - 'childish' questions on here about relationships with friends.... she said this so I did that...etc.)
er - not sure where I'm going with this
French - "And how much can you really "fix" it for your kids anyway? Eg if a child wants to be good at a sport but just isn't - there's literally nothing you can do to change this. How do you fix everything? I'd love to know." - I think in this kind of situation, as parents we often try to 'fix' things emotionally for our children by minimising and soothing any sense of inadequacy, by saying things like "Ah well, who cares about silly old football?! Sport doesn't matter anyway. Cleverness/music is much more important, isn't it darling?"
The message is "You don't need to be upset or feel inadequate; this is not important", rather than "Of course you feel upset, let's work out how you are going to deal with it". I think we try to protect kids' feelings, but instead perhaps encourage them to dismiss or bury their hurt and upset.
I think perhaps your question connects with BFG's point... I certainly do this kind of 'distracting' and dismissing disappointments. But is it better to say things like "Well, not everyone can be invited everywhere", or to acknowledge their upset and/or anger and help them deal with these difficult feelings? Of course you can do both...
And French - "Small children need to be protected from the rough edges of life. I really, truly believe this." - I don't disagree, in principle. But there are a couple of practical problems. Firstly, how small is small? Do you protect them up to 2 or 3? Or 5? Or 7 or 8? Or 11? Or what...? But secondly, and far more importantly, it's impossible. You simply can't guarantee to protect small children from life's 'rough edges'. Life is full of unexpected, difficult things - the hamster dies, or grandma does, or mum. I believe it's better to help even very small children to get 'practice' with small upsets and unhappiness, and that practice helps them deal better with the big ones, when they come along...
I don't know where I'm going with this either! It sounds like I'm being terribly angst-y and guilt-ridden here, and I'm really not. (Guilt sticks people like rabbits in headlights and dis-empowers them; at best, it's a useless emotion, and I try to avoid it!) I'm just pondering...
After reading these I've tried to step back from dd a bit. i find myself doing so much 'mothering' that it comes as second nature and i dont even notice half of it: have you got enough money for going out? will you be warm enough in that jacket? are you washing your hair tonight? are you revising on Sunday? Etc etc etc. I'm trying to stop doing these little things as a step towards backing off from the bigger stuff. It's very hard though!
What's even harder is the sadness. If she's sad and upset at bedtime can i really walk out and leave her upset, in the hope that she'll get over it on her own??
I think it's perfectly fine to offer comfort and support if she's sad... just not solutions.
Ah badguider it's so much easier to know what to do with other people's kids. I don't mean that as a criticism by the way. I can be much more hands off and tough with other DCs. When mine were little I knew exactly what they would or wouldn't be allowed to do when they were older. All over these boards there are oceans of sensible solutions for parenting problems. We should take our own advice more often.
When I said I had a tendency to fix things I meant that I would try to give DS techniques for dealing with social situations which has always been tricky for him. If he lost at sports day or was not invited to a party I would feel his pain but not show it, instead I would brush it off.
The trouble is it doesn't get any easier. Life is not fair. I've been saying that to him for years but he is still floored by disappointments or failures.
Oh I know it's easier with other people's children (as I said) but when you see the consequences every day of children entering their teens unable to cope without mummy fixing everything it acts as a reminder to check your own parenting of younger children... our role is to enable our children to function as healthy independent adults one day... and that's the hardest thing imo.
DD is travelling to London regularly now; I used to get phone calls 'I'm lost' to which I helped but didn't fix.
Last week I got a call 'Northern line is down, which is the next closest station to where I want to go' I googled found and and started to explain how to get there - DD said 'hang on mum I have the name of the station & I have a map, I can work it out; I'll ring you when I get there' & she did
I was really proud as although I 'helped', I didn't 'fix' & without be she said she would have bought a map or asked to borrow one or asked a man at the tube station.
But it hard balancing between 'help' & 'fix' & 'organise everything to within an inch of her life'
It's a never ending learning curve.
I had never even held a baby before my first was born. True. Every stage of parenting has been new to me, I have never worked with children so no outside experience to draw from. MN didn't exist when mine were babies but now they are teens it's a godsend.
This last year I have made a concious effort to enable him to spread his wings. He hasn't always liked it but he has learned a lot. This week he's made a 5 hour journey alone involving trains tubes and buses. I suppose I might be accused of helping too much because I bought the tickets and told him exactly what the journey plan was, but he couldn't have done it a few months ago.
I think failing sometimes is a great learning experience.
Failing always is a learning experience in its own way, but the lesson it teaches is not a good one: that way you learn that there is no way you can succeed.
As almost always in life, it's about the balance.
My dd claims I should have let her fail her gcses rather than pushing her to do well and then leaving her to her own devices at AS which she failed in spectacular fashion....
I do agree with you though op
My dad taught me how to play chess when I was a child. He beat me every single time and after a while I just got sick of losing and never really played it again. I always thought that was really mean of him and he should have let me win occasionally. I brought it up recently and he defended himself, saying that to have let me win would have been silly because I'd never have learned. He was never so obstinate about anything else, he wasn't like this big competitive dad, just with chess.
I can really see his point now and I agree in principle, I think people need to be challenged. But the fact that I haven't had a game of chess since I was a child shows that the tactic pretty much backfired. I guess I just wasn't cut out to be a grand master.
Sometimes I wish my mum had suggested solutions and not distractions though iyswim.
She was not the kind of parent who would ever have rushed into school and sorted things out; that was very far from her style. But was perhaps a little inclined to consolation of the type "well, who cares about that silly subject/party/game anyway". In retrospect, a more helpful approach would have been "I see you do care about having failed/not having been picked- what do you think you could do about it?"
I am not a great sorter-out, either. But I do try to suggest to dd that often things can be sorted, and I might even offer a couple of suggestions to try.
A bit like having your own personal Mumsnet, in fact: I don't really expect AnyFucker to turn up on my doorstep and sort the nasty people out, but sometimes a helpful suggestion/YABU can just help you to gain a perspective.
"Many teenage problems, it seems to me (and many adult ones, frankly) spring from the fact that our society doesn't give teenagers enough skills to deal with difficulties. Life isn't always rosy, and when they find it isn't perfect, and grown ups can't 'kiss everything better' any more, teenagers often seem to get a bit lost, depressed or angry." and "I've come to think that kids need to practice these things before they reach their teens, or they can really struggle with the challenges that adolescence and young adulthood bring them."
So agree with this.
All these golden childhoods with no experience of failure seem very far from dd's life.
I am not sure that her early experience of pain and disability and failure has always made her a stronger, more confident person though. Tbh I am not sure suffering does that.
I guess we all have different places where we draw the line of letting them 'get what they will get on their own' and helping. There's a long thread running at the moment about how a 16yr old dd chose not to go to her prom, then, at the last minute, (as in, on the day) decided she would, and the lengths both her Mum and Dad went to to make it a perfect situation for her. I'm honestly amazed how few people think it was fine that the Mum had secretly bought her a ticket anyway on the off chance she'd change her mind, and then the lengths both parents went to with the preparations on the day - I'm in a small minority on that thread! The Mum then goes on to say she's booked her something else that the dd said she doesn't want to go to. I don't understand why you wouldn't have the conversations with your dc at the time they said they didn't want to go, pointing out how much of a chance it was, etc.etc, but, if they won't be persuaded at the time, then let them feel a bit sad if they do change their minds on the day, but let them learn the lesson.
I just read that thread, BFG, and found it fascinating. As the mother of a child with anxiety issues I am used to having all manners of psychologists and therapists telling me that I am must be over-protective and helicoptering (because we all know that any issues in children are caused by their mothers), but it genuinely hadn't occurred to me to sort out the details around dd's prom: she does that.
I did pay for the ticket and contributed towards the dress, but it genuinely didn't occur to me that I should be running around organising things when there is an almost adult young woman in the house who is much better placed to do that.
As for booking a camp experience that the dd had specifically told her she didn't want to go to- that seemed bizarre to me. This girl is soon going to be applying to university- what's the mother going to do then, if she is so convinced she knows better than the girl what she wants: write her UCAS forms for her?
The prom thread freaked me out too - i'd have said 'well, if you can get a ticket at this point i'll give you the money' and 'you can borrow a dress of mine or wear something you've got already...'
just maybe there would be really quick dress shopping if it could be fitted inbetween school and the dance but that is it. No running around organising anything else that's for sure.
Some people are going to think i'm the meanest parent ever when my ds is older...
cory, I'm concerned I've made you a bit sad, and I absolutely don't want to do that...
You say "I am not sure that her early experience of pain and disability and failure has always made her a stronger, more confident person though. Tbh I am not sure suffering does that" ... I agree. Like you say, I think it's about balance. I don't think suffering is good for children at all; and I agree that repeated failure is not good either.
But what I do think is good for children - or at least it would have been very good for my own son much earlier on in his life - was experience of trying, or 'feeling the fear and doing it anyway'.
I was (I think, with the 20:20 vision of hindsight ) too concerned to protect him from failure and other sorts of 'emotional nastiness', so I 'fixed' things... And he he didn't learn until really very recently that it wouldn't kill him if he didn't succeed. I actually think he believed deep-down that he would never recover from failure, so he stopped trying/making an effort pretty much altogether. And that meant he also never learned the pleasures/rewards of trying and succeeding.
That's really different from a child suffering, constantly struggling and trying but finding she can't do things. That would really knock a child's confidence, I imagine, even if she was quite an amazingly strong person.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I think it's good for kids to learn to achieve things through their own efforts - and that by trying to 'make things perfect' for our kids, some of us kind of deprive them of the practice they need at trying. Kids who have trying/effort 'built in' to their lives through disability or other circumstances don't need that 'practice', because they already get it. But kids who have it generally 'easy' need to learn to deal with difficulties, and if they don't before their teenage years, I think they (and we!) can find those years quite challenging.
Well put Flow.
Oh if only we could do all our parenting with the benefit of hindsight.
Very well put, Flow, and don't worry, you didn't make me sad. Or at least, it's a mixed sadness: I wish dd's confidence hadn't been knocked so badly, but sometimes I do see that there is a strength in it too. If she survives, if she doesn't take the desperate way out, then I think maybe one day she will be a better and stronger adult for her experience.
But then it seems to me from your other threads that one day your ds may also be a better and stronger adult from what he has been through (and sadly, what he has put you through).
Newcastle uni open day. Interestingly clear they WILL expect evidence of resillence to come up at interview. I did wonder how a lot of the kids in the room, who should be at least academically , the one who always succeed (they wouldn't be there if they didn't ) would discuss/evidence this.
It is good to be allowed to fail in a secure environment as failure helps teens learn for themselves.
We went to a day event fro dd's sport and she forgot an item that was important, she couldn't borrow one and she had to work without the item all day. dd was gutted that she had forgotten it. Through the day the organisers/coaches teased her about this.
When we got home dd made a list of items she needs to take with her to such an event, she laminated it and now uses that list to pack her bags.
I know that a lot of parents pack their teens bags and make their lunch, which is fine but the teens will not learn to be self sufficient if they are not allowed to do stuff for themselves and fail at it and then work out how to put things right.
I was one of 4 DC and being the only DD pretty much did the lions share of household chores. As DM worked full time, I was cooking dinner for 6 at an early age, had a saturday job at 13 and stood every Sunday afternoon ironing for 6 people! (a job I now absolutely detest!). Our family was run on a very tight budget and so there was no spare money for treats. We were fed, watered, clothed and kept warm and comfortable. I cannot really recall happy/amazing childhood memories and don't remember hugs and the feeling of much love When I was at school leaving age I would have liked to have gone on to further education but was told by DF 'get yourself a job, I've kept you for 16 years and now it's time for you to pay us a bit back' Despite this I am always the one that is there now to help my parents when they need it.
I was adamant that my DD (18 - and an only DC) would not have my kind of childhood but would have lot's of hugs and feel well and truly loved and thanks also to my DH's amazing parents, she has. I have felt her pain when she has been hurt, felt her disappointment when things have not worked out for her and have helped her as much as I can when she has needed it. That said, she is not a spoiled only child by any stretch of the imagination, which is quite an achievement considering! She is clever, sensible, compasionate, hard working, well mannered and loving . I guess I got lucky and haven't had to impose the 'tough love' line.
amumthatcares I think some of my parenting stems from the emotional neglect I was brought up with. My mother was always either at work or out. She went out somewhere every night (churchy stuff, drama clubs etc). I was left to my own devices as long as did did all the cleaning and cooking. I don't ever remember them getting involved in anything I did. They wouldn't know whether I had school work or exams. I made bad decisions and choices ... because I could. I left school at 16, they didn't seem to mind. I don't ever remember having fun with my family.
I think my DCs feel loved and supported and cherish family life. I hope I haven't gone too far the other way.
Wow, interesting post and food for thought. I'm struggling atm to help my DS as he cannot take my advice and put it into practice even when I offer it. He has supected AS. I'm certainly going to try the "what are you going to do about it?" line. Maybe if the initial ideas are his, once I've helped him them refine them
to socially acceptable! he may find it easier to put them into practice. The thinking I already have is he' going to grow up into an adult so will need these skills despite the fact they are hard and confusing for him.
Watching this thread with interest.
I have found this thread really interesting. I am in my 50s and my children are in their 30s, so my parenting experience is obviously different.
I tried to teach my 'children' to be resilient, to be resourceful, if they forgot their gym kit, instrument etc. I would never take it in to school for them. It was their responsibility and only forgotten a couple of times.
I used to say to my children when you find a boulder in your path, do you see it as an obstacle or a stepping stone to something else? and tell them there is always another path.
One thing that has surprised me on MN is the number of parents taking their DC to and staying to attend Uni Open Days. My children did their own research and went off by train or coach with their school friends. It was not that I did not care and this approach was not unusual.
chottie I totally agree! I'm only here with ds because I think to send a 17 yr old on a trek that involves 2 nights away from home would be a tad mean and possibly neglectful. he's done the others I his own.
( and actually it's lovely spending time one to one with my nearly grown up boy, opportunities are scarce fro that)
Theas18 I thought I might get flamed.
I love spending time with my grown up DS too, he is such good company and I love hearing all about his life. I hope your DS finds the right uni and course and all goes well for him
That is so sad, amumthatcares.
But if your parents had been different, it would have been possible to combine the tight budget and the need to help out with hugs and appreciation. Hugs and love don't cost anything and they don't have to get in the way of children learning to find their own solutions.
if they forgot their gym kit, instrument etc. I would never take it in to school for them.
This I agree with wholeheartedly - but schools in my experiance don't seem to agree with and I have been telephoned and asked if I can take this and that in as it has not been remembered by dd - no I am at work and can't but...if i was at home would I feel the pressure from school to do so and then allow my dc to not have to remember as they on't need to?
'Many teenage problems, it seems to me (and many adult ones, frankly) spring from the fact that our society doesn't give teenagers enough skills to deal with difficulties....
kids need to learn this way before the teenage years, imo parents cosset their children from such a young and protect them from the real world until it it too late, they need to 'let go' from a younger age.
on the other hand some kids are so streetwise at the age of 5 it's frightening. we need to strike a middle somewhere and look out for these vulunerable children.
to me the middle classes are so set on making their own kids succeed they forget that their kids will eventually have to meet others in the real world
(sorry am waffling i know!)
secrets, 'emotional neglect' - yes, that's what it was. My parents wouldn't know about lessons, exams, etc. either. Can't remember them going to a parents evening or a sports day. From as far back as I can remember I did everything for myself (and my siblings too). I am sure, as you say, this has made me into the mum I am.
I am the mum that has taken stuff to school if she forgot it so she didn't get in trouble, try to get her to the prom so she didn't miss out (though not in advance if she'd said she didn't want to go), fought an appeal to get her into the secondary school all her (15) friends had gotten into and she hadn't. I suppose although we didn't spoil her materially, I have possibly shielded & protected her more to make up for the lack I felt in my childhood.
There is a reason that uni have a tour for the students and a segregated tour for the parents that come along on open days - they want the students to get a look around with out the parents.
DC all had their chance to do things wrong without me picking up the pieces. I was there to support them, but they had to think for themselves or take the 'failure'. This was relative though, for things like forgetting PE kit, forgetting homework, getting into sticky situations with friends or messing up arrangements/double booking themselves as teenagers.
They had their fair share of harder struggles due to family trauma while they were children, and all, sadly, learnt at an early age things in life don't go smoothly and you just have to pick up the pieces as best you can.
DD had a car crash, a very small one, it was one of the first times she went out alone after passing- before she went I always debated going with her but knew I had to let go of her- (inside I was terrified and wanted to ban her from driving ever again) but on the outside I remained calm, told her I knew it was an accident and she would learn from it and she mustn't let her knock her confidence.
All these times, when I have supported as necessary but not prevented failure if it is, in the end, all down to them. Or worse, as some parents do, not allowed even the chance of failure to be possible.
DC have all grown up into resilient young people who are very good at dealing with failure or when things go wrong so I hope I got the balance right when they were younger
ivykate44 I've just read your comment about schools telephoning parents and asking them to bring in missing gym kit etc.
Goodness, things have certainly changed! for my children the consequences were not being able to take part, looking foolish in front of their friends and having to do something extremely boring instead. They would have been embarrassed if their mother had turned up at school with missing equipment.
Not intending to hijack this post, but just a few more thoughts......
I think it is important to ensure that DC have a Plan B in life. DS from a very early age had set his heart on a particular career, but despite his best efforts it did not happen. It was a hard lesson for him, but fast forward a couple of years and he is working in his chosen career, but in a different capacity.
I've always insisted that my children do some type of part time work, babysitting, shop work or temping to ensure they have a good work ethic, the satisfaction of a job well done, experience of team working, managing money etc. Being out in the real world, mixing with others and having to do stuff they would prefer not to do, focused their mind really well.
Thea do you really believe that your ds spending two nights on his one visiting a university would be neglectful? That just seems a completely alien concept to me. My parents view was that if I chose to look at universities that were a long way away then it was up to me to figure out the logistics of visiting and if a nights stay was involved (which it was with several) then that's just how it was. They were very focused on independence, but I don't recall that being out of the norm - dh's family expected him to stay at a B&B in a strange town without it being an issue at all, and they were much much more supportive. Perhaps they were less apron strings because everyone else in his family had left school and got a job at 16, so 17 seemed more adult to them.
I have a 12 and 14 year old and I've been interested watching dd overcome serious friendship issues over the past year or two and seeing how much more resilient and wise she has become, so whilst I would totally wish away the pain she's been through (and have at times felt like seriously yelling at the children who have been very unkind to her) I think it has been a good learning experience. I've always been more of a shoulder to cry on / ear to listen I think (not much you can do about friendship fall out in any case) for her. ds gets very demanding about us fixing his problems, so it's much easier to say "no, sort it out yourself" to him!
Totally agree on Plan B's. I had a friend at school who had totally set his heart on being a vet and was just gutted when he didn't get the grades (not that it was ever likely) I wish his parents /school had helped him to understand that there were other options which might have led to him working with animals in a different capacity.
A big problem with visiting unis/colleges that involve an overnight stay is that hotels won't accept under 18's by themselves.
DD is 15 & has 11 open days/auditions coming up; unless they can be visited in a day DH or I will have to come.
DD wanted to do a course in London; the college seemed surprised I wasn't accompanying DD while she attended - we have managed to find accommodation with family but despite me knowing she was safe to be by herself no one would let her stay (unless lodging in a family home & DH/I worried about that - but that is a different argument)
On the course she won't be allowed to go for lunch by herself - despite her travelling nearly 200 miles to get to the course; so sometimes the limits are placed by external agencies
Yup, our mainstream culture often seems set to ensure that kids are 'protected' from any and all difficulties and challenges, not just dangers...
I think neglectful/not neglectful is a very individual thing, depending on all sorts of factors, including the capacity of the child, the wishes of the child, the general family dynamic, any past baggage etc etc.
My parents were anything but neglectful: they were always around to listen, they treated me with respect, they showed me that they enjoyed having me around and that they would do anything to help me out if I really needed it.
So when they decided, on my suggestion, that I might be allowed, aged 16, to spend a halfterm holiday alone in a hotel in a foreign city (instead of being farmed onto some strange family who probably didn't want me), this was an expression of their thoughtfulness, their (correct) assessment of my abilities and their willingness to listen to my pov. It made me feel more cared for, not less.
But in a different kind of family, with parents who always showed that they couldn't be bothered and that I would have to sort myself out because it was no concern of theirs, the same decision might have been the final straw that made me know I was uncared for.
And of course that basic security of knowing they cared also informs my decisions about my own children. I don't have to run around after dc and bring in their PE bags or sort out their prom because I have no underlying going-back-to-childhood fear that they won't know that I care. Ds can take his detention if he doesn't sort himself out in the morning because he knows and I know that I would sit up all night if he was really unhappy and needed me.
Good post cory.
I think my own parenting was shaped not just by past baggage, but by 'current baggage', if there is such a thing. When DS1 was little, I was very aware that I was all he had: his df b*ggered off, and I did not have much family support (all relatives distant, disinterested or dead)... I think I tried to compensate for the fact that DS had no other (useful) family by being 'super mum'. I felt bad that he didn't have much family support, so tried to make mine the best.
I suspect in families where there is a wider network of support, individual parents may be a bit more relaxed, and feel less like they need to 'make things perfect'.
That's interesting, flow (and sad, because you've had so much to cope with).
I suppose dd's situation is a bit different: her physical and MH issues don't really affect whether she feels loved or not. We have been fortunate in having a large supportive extended family (even if geographically distant) and a happy marriage.
Life has been a bit shit, but it's not really to do with people.
And in a sense we have known for a long time that we can't compensate: if you are unhappy because you are in pain or you can't dance when that's all you care for, then all the loving in the world won't undo that. You have to bear it because nobody else can bear it for you. It's a strange helpless feeling for a parent, but in a way it does perhaps make life easier because it is impersonal.
Nokia no I don't think it's neglectful, but I don't believe a 17yr old can book/stay in a hotel alone - at least not with many complications ( eldest at 17 at the end of year 13 couldn't book even a campsite to go away with her mates- she found it, but they had to officially book).
And don't get me started on the daft limits placed by other agencies...starting with school requiring year 13 kids to be met by an adult in the theatre after a performance when they were all capable of getting themselves home safely even ay 9.30pm (they were less than a term off uni after all) , or choir not letting 14yr old dd2 to go to the shops to buy some TA between rehearsal and concert (at 5pm) when she's normally in town at 5pm on her own on the way to choir on a week day anyway!
We just put up and smile ruefully as we appreciate " rules is rules" and child protection policies have to be stupidly tight but still.
Wow Thea, that's crazy. I can understand wanting an adult guarantee perhaps, but blanket refusing to allow a young person to stay overnight is nuts. I wonder when that changed. I can totally see that would complicate things.
Sad, I had a couple of holidays with friends before I turned 18. I think we used youth hostels / camped in fields (by pubs). I book hotels quite a bit (travel with work) and can't recall giving my date of birth, although they are very keen on credit cards here, which is a bit of a proxy I guess.
so at 17 a girl can get married, have a baby, drive herself to a hotel in a car but needs her mother to book the hotel room for the honeymoon
I seem to remember having to be the parent that booked for my 17 year old DD and friends to stay (sans adults) abroad on a package holiday. ANd then my DD had to arrange for one of the group to come home after a day as she was homesick without her mummy.
See, there's a very good example...
A girl gets homesick. All her kind, well-meaning friends and relatives arrange for her to come home. She is comforted and feels better. But psychologically and emotionally, she learns that if she feels bad (a) something must be done to stop bad feelings as soon SS possible; (b) she can't 'fix' it herself; she needs someone else to 'fix' problems for her; and (c) (because everyone rushed to help) bad feelings are dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. Next time she feels bad she also panics and needs help to make the bad feelings go away.
On the other hand... A girl gets homesick... Her kind friends reassure her but do nothing more. The girl stays. Then, psychologically and emotionally, she learns that if she feels bad (a) this is natural and will pass; (b) she can survive bad feelings. Next time she feels bad, she does not panic, and knows she can deal with it.
Even if she leaves when she feels homesick, if noone 'fixes' it for her and she arranges this herself, she learns she can deal with
Oops... deal with bad feelings by herself, and will be more in control and less likely to panic next time.
It's incredible how things have changed in a generation. I used to go youth hosteling with my friends for a week when I was 15. We booked and stayed in different hostels over a week and walked between them. My parents took me to the nearest station and off we went. We travelled about 350 miles away from home and did not contact our parents until we phoned from the station to say we were back.
I was very used to traveling around from a young age, I used to take my sister to school on the bus from the age of about 8. It was not uncommon. I used to go to the shops for my mum with my sister too. I rarely see young children out and about by themselves now.
Re. homesickness I can remember being away from home in France staying with a French family when I was about 14 and being very homesick. Did my parents come and get me early, no they didn't! What did I learn? that you have to get on with life and get through it. It has stood me in good stead.
Absolutely agree with flow4 and Chottie and I do my best to bring my dcs up the way I was brought up. Teaching your dc a bit of resiliance is invaluable IMO.
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