Helping children avoid adversity – Is it a great parenting?

We generally think that if we are helping our children avoid adversity (even mild discomfort, anxiety or disappointment), we have done our job as a good parent. But is it really helping the child or is it making her life more difficult? To understand this, we need to first learn what adversities are and how we perceive them in our life.

During one of our recent coaching sessions with parents of a child who seems to be suffering from tremendous performance pressure, one of the parents said that he has done everything possible to ensure that his child doesn’t face any challenge in whatever he is doing. Interestingly, after probing further on application of the same in his and his spouse’ lives, he said not everything is in my control hence many times we end up with situations that are unwarranted. There are two underlying assumptions he has taken

  • For the child he has everything under control
  • Something that is not in control in life, will end up in adversity.

Adversities shouldn’t be linked to our ability to control the situation. They are there because of the way we perceive a situation and how we think the situation should be. If we think situation fits in as per our conditionings, it is perceived as a situation under control. If we think that it is not fitting into them, it becomes an adversity. Since conditionings are different for different people, the same situation becomes in-control for some and adversity for others.

In fact, adversity becomes a great opportunity to understand our own biases and conditioning than being worried about them and aiming to avoid them. Same applies to the child. In many of those cases where you thought you have helped the child by avoiding adversity, actually it was a great opportunity for the child to learn about herself. But in our quest to be the best parent, we have made her lose this opportunity.

While today’s parents are more involved in their children’s lives than previous generations, it can go overboard. What we may justify as “good parenting” can hurt our children later. Unless we’re conscious of that, it’s easy to handicap them by making their lives too easy.

One of the hardest tasks of being a parent is having to watch our children struggle. Too often, we want to get in and save the day. We don’t want our children to fall, so instead of letting them experience adversity, we clear the path. We remove obstacles to make their life easy. The struggle is an important life lesson that our children can only learn by going through it. When we rescue them, we deprive them of the opportunity to see what they could have achieved.