It was a Thursday morning and we were all in the usual morning rush to get the boys ready for school and off on the bus. As my older son (now 9 years) is usually the one who is first to get ready with his breakie, washing up and getting dressed, he found his way out the door first, with his dad in tow.
My younger son (now 6 years) scurried to put on his jacket and shoes so that we could catch up with the rest at the lift (we live in an apartment). When we heard the ‘ding’, which indicated that the lift has arrived, I quickly grabbed my younger son’s school bag and we ran off to catch the lift with the rest with his shoes half done.
As soon as we got into the lift, my hubby noticed that I was carrying my younger son’s bag and immediately asked him “what happened to your hands?” indicating that he should really be carrying his own bag so long as he is fully able.
This statement faintly reminded me of my mom who was often very snarky and sarcastic with me when I was growing up. However, this was how I was taught not to have a sense of entitlement. I was not even entitled to my mother’s niceness and had to earn it.
Some will say that this is leaning dangerously close to the concept of ‘conditional love’ but then again, ‘love’ is defined and expressed in so many different ways that in my mom’s case, it was all about teaching me how to not expect any handouts from others, not even niceness.
I’m not taking sides with any parent here, not my hubby nor my mom. However, I do know that there are two teenagers at my estate who refuse to carry their own school bags and their grandmother has to carry two very heavy bags for them from their home to the bus stop and she does the same for them when she picks them up from the bus stop after school as well.
I know for sure that I don’t want my children to be like that and feel that we need to take a more proactive, intentional role to help our children understand that dedication, determination and being appreciative are all important life skills that they will need to develop at different times in their lives. They need to know that among other things, hard work pays off, and they need to see their parents hard at work and enjoying the rewards afterwards.
To do this effectively, it would mean that we need to think twice when handing things out to our children on silver platters. We need to allow them opportunities to face their own struggles so that they will learn to be appreciative when they have earned something on their own.
To let them experience the full spectrum of their different emotions so that they can learn to understand, express and appreciate it, and by ‘full spectrum’, I also mean the good, the bad and the ugly feelings of hurt, jealousy, anger, frustration, happiness, affection, joy etc.
‘Shielding’ our children from hard work or from feeling less-than-pleasant emotions will only do them more harm than good. This is simply because extreme sensations are important to help us flex our sensitivity and find balance to what we experience.
In many ways, it’s like my yoga instructor who teaches us how to relax by getting us to tense up our muscles and letting them go repeatedly so that we can learn to gain mastery and control over our muscle movements by experiencing two extreme sensations. Likewise, a balance between working and playing, stress and relaxation, happiness and sadness is important for young children to gain mastery and control over their own actions, feelings and lives.
Can you think of any other ways that we tend to ‘shield’ our children (e.g. from hardship, discomfort, pain, suffering etc)? Please share on the comments section of this blog and I’ll read each and every one of them:)