Parenting

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Many of us grew up with lives that we feel were difficult and challenging. Perhaps it was a negative parent or a divorce, or even alcohol in the home. Yet, we find a way to create an extraordinary life. We somehow have turned those early struggles into personal strengths that serve us well.
Now fast forward to raising a child and a compensatory blindness seems to emerge within us. With the rationale that "I never want my child to go through that," we set a parenting path away from our remembered pain and struggles. We determine that we want life to be easier for our children.
Seems like a good idea, doesn’t it?  Well, let’s see.
The making it easy approach
Let’s say your child has been given a homework assignment, and you believe it is too hard for them or you just don’t want them to be struggling through it.  So instead of allowing the struggle, you help them solve the problems. Next week, you find yourself in a similar situation and you help them through it again. This habit seems to grow somewhat quietly and insidiously over time, with you eventually discovering that you are the one really working hard on those problems.
Or perhaps you learn that your daughter has a project due next week, and she has done nothing to prepare for this. Believing that it’s all just too much, you begin the research and collect the necessary pieces for the project. You guide her through every step and you feel relieved. She (or rather you) succeeds in pulling it off and gets her a 95. It’s an apparent victory, but who worked harder here?
Or perhaps you continue to make excuses for why your son keeps forgetting his work or his practice equipment, explaining to yourself that his life is so busy that he can’t really handle it all. And so you continue to jump through hurdles to return home to bring in his forgotten stuff.
Or maybe you have convinced yourself that having the kids do chores is just too much. So you stay up late, are constantly sleep-deprived and exhausted, and find yourself shoveling the snow while two teenagers are inside playing video games. Yet in ten minutes, they will be screaming to get over to their friends house for a sleep-over and wonder how soon that driveway will be done.
In each of these examples, we can see who is working harder at his/her success and happiness. 
Making it easy now
makes it hard later
Do you find reality to be easy, and that every day someone steps up to make things easy for you? Is some magical guardian always there to ensure that you get the easy path through it all? Have you found that you need not be personally responsible for your actions, as there will be a protector who prevents you from dealing with the consequences of your poor choices?
Honestly, I don’t know any adult who lives that life. It’s a misfit for reality, as the world does not work that way. In fact, it’s a false and delusional expectation about how the world works.
Yet, I find lots of children are being raised with expectations that match such a delusional world. These children are not hard to spot because they develop the false expectation that others will work harder at their success and happiness than they do. They expect remarkable results and benefits with the little effort. If more effort is required, then they give up. Or turn to the nearest adult and demand that you do it. Later in life, this approach leaves them angry, frustrated and incompetent to handle the demands of reality.  They will likely fail, and they will also likely blame you. Life will become a true struggle as they emerge into the real world.
The antidote:  Four pointers to make life reflect reality
1. Whenever you feel yourself working harder than your children at their lives, hit yourself up beside the head. And do it so it hurts! Remember that this is not a reflection of reality. Don’t fix every struggle or upset. If they are struggling, offer pointers but only if they take the pointers and use them. If they want you to solve it or fix it for them, pull back.
2. When poor choices by your children have left them with a painful or difficult moment to get through, don’t protect them from this. Allow them to get through it, and let the emotions come and go without you fixing it. This is where the real learning comes from.
3. Prepare your kids for a responsible life by giving them responsibilities. It’s a simple formula, but it works. Make sure they participate in the chores and responsibilities that keep the home functioning. This will create the habits of personal responsibility.
4. And finally, make certain that they constantly have “skin in the game” for all those remarkable goodies available to them. What do I mean?  I mean that reality doesn’t just give us stuff when we ask. We have to earn it. So make sure that your children learn to save and work toward those expensive goodies with some extra effort.
The goal here is to reflect the way reality works. We don’t want to make it harder than it really is. We just want to prepare them for the way the world works, and then they will move through the challenges with ease and confidence.
Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit www.TerrificParenting.com.

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