When you first set eyes on your newborn, along with the rush of love, was a surge of protectiveness. A part of you swore to shield your child from all hurt, all pain. And you went on from there – bandaging hurt limbs, massaging aching bodies, hugging away fears, kissing away tears…
You were sure that if you loved your child enough, you’d be able to keep him safe from the hurts, barbs and cruelties of the world.
You have too much love for your child. You love him so much that you can’t bear to see him suffer; whether the suffering is due to an unfriendly playmate, not being able to watch his favourite TV show, or her not being the captain of the sports team. So you step in to manage the situation. You speak with the unfriendly playmate (or his/her parents). You offer your son a treat to make up for missing the TV show. You get your daughter extra coaching and speak with the coach to do whatever it takes to ensure she can be the captain of the team.
As the years go by, you realize that something has gone wrong. It has gone so radically wrong, that you can’t begin to think what happened, or figure out how it happened. If you try to work it out, your mind goes fuzzy. You can’t think beyond the fact that something about your child is not right.
Suddenly, you find he is not willing to put in his best. You find that he throws a tantrum every time he doesn’t get his way. And if he does get his way, he is not appreciative of the fact. Instead, he takes it as his due, as if he were royalty, and that is the way things should be.
This is a classic instance of when too much love is not enough.
The real world is tough. You keep saying this to yourself and maybe to your kids too. You know it. The point is: Why don’t you want them to know it? Why do you want to shock them with this knowledge later in their lives?
Maybe you feel they are too young, too delicate, too weak to handle the pressures and the pain of the real world. Alright. Suppose that’s true. When do you think they’ll be strong enough? When he is two and can walk on his own? When she is five and starts going to school? When he can read and write? When she starts driving? Gets a job? Starts a family? At what point will he be old enough to face the real world?
Whatever time you decide to introduce your child to the real world, they will find it tough. In fact, the more you delay, the harder it will be for them, because it will come as a shock. No Mom to play referee! No Dad to say, “Sure! I’ll get you the latest toy.”
I will say it again. Too much love is not enough. It is not enough love.
Enough love is when you let your child face small problems, little difficulties every day. He learns that there will always be challenges. And he will learn to overcome them. He will feel the glow of accomplishment that comes with ‘growing up’.
She’s hungry, but has to wait quietly for 10 minutes before dinner is served. She does this just like hungry grown-ups do. That’s growing up. And won’t she feel on top of the world for behaving like an adult!
He wants to go and play, but needs to finish his homework first. No, he can’t come back and then finish it because he’ll be too tired to do a good job. So first he finishes his work, and then he goes to play. Just like Mom works all day at the office, gets paid at the end of the month, and then enjoys the money. First work, then enjoyment. That’s how adults do it, and if he can do it, he’s practising becoming an adult.
Try it. I promise it will work. Because the one thing children want to do – all children, without exception – is to grow up. They want to be big and strong and powerful, just like their parents. This, of course, is when they are very little. When they are slightly older, they want to be big and strong and powerful, and much better than their parents (who are old fuddy-duddies who just don’t get it!). 🙂
And the truth is, that is exactly what parenting is about: helping children to become grown-ups.
My definition is slightly different – Parenting, I believe, is about helping children become worthwhile adults. And the best time to start is the moment you are a parent. Indulge your protectiveness, but think before you do so, lest your child becomes a victim of too much love.
Not all children are friendly. Not all people are kind. The world is too random to make each day predictable. And various issues, large and small, crop up all the time. I’m not saying share the details with your kids. But let them know that these are real-life situations. And let them get practice on living a real life from day one.
It is a carefree style of parenting, and the one guaranteed way to make you a carefree parent.
But what if your kids have had too much love? How do you get them back on track? Read on tomorrow.