Teaching Kids: Life Isn’t That Good. Tips for teaching kids the reality of life so they can gain coping skills to become successful adults.
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Transcript for TEACHING KIDS THAT LIFE ISN'T THAT GOOD:
Life isn’t that good
Don’t’ believe the hype! Life isn’t that good. I used to believe the Leave It To Beaver and Andy Griffith reruns that I grew up on. Not anymore. Experience quickly taught me that life is not just black and white. As a tween, I was still confused because life was showing me more hardship, but TV kept showing me more great families like The Cosby’s and the Keatons from Family Ties. Then, the show Rosanne premiered. This was ground-breaking at the time because it represented a not-so-perfect TV sitcom family. America loved it. Rosanne was a highly rated show for a while, but it didn’t last. Before I knew it, TV was back to either representing family life as sweet and perfect as the Fresh Prince of Bel Aire or MTV was showing me the craziest of people on the new fad of reality TV. Needless to say, I learned to stop watching TV altogether. My life expectations were confused!
Today’s kids are in the same predicament! Social media shows everyone happy. Life is perfect in the pictures of Instagram and Facebook. These picture-perfect moments are making our kids feel inadequate. Everyone else is having more fun in the Snapchat videos. But this generation has it worse. The TV shows of my day weren’t personal. I was still several degrees away from knowing Michael J. Fox and Will Smith. Today, photos and videos are personal. They are posts of the kids at school. People they see walking in the halls. Social media makes life look perfect and creates an unrealistic expectation for our children. Life is not that great! We only post the good parts.
I am going to go one step further and suggest that you teach your kids that pain, failure, heart ache, and disappointment in their life is absolutely NORMAL. Some of the depression that exists in our young people today stems from unrealistic expectations of how their life should be. With social media only glorifying and portraying the “good” moments- our young people are being manipulated to think that their life should be that good. They should look that good, feel that good, be that happy… Social media influence is stupid and completely fake!
What do we do as parents? How can we combat unrealistic expectations? Well, unfortunately, most parents make it worse by sheltering their kids too much and putting them on teams where everyone gets a trophy. As parents, we are to prepare our kids for the real world. We want our kids to grow up, leave home, and be successful adults. If you’re not preparing your kids for real-world expectations and skills for combating real-world issues, then you are not preparing your kids to be successful. In fact, you are setting them up for failure. Of course, we all want our kids safe and happy, but life isn’t that good. We need to prepare our kids for the hard times too. Let me tell you another story….
My son runs cross county and is a good athlete. Having said that, he isn’t a runner. He runs cross country for his team, but it’s not his primary sport, nor is his body the made-to-run tall and thinly build. Last week, his small school competed against some big schools in the area, and my wonderful son ran across the finish line last. Yep dead last. As a parent, I had a few choices on how to react to this.
- Get mad at the coach for setting him up for failure
- Cry with him and soothe him. Tell him that he is a great runner, and the next time he will do better.
- Tell him the truth. Remind him that running is not his primary sport. He did a great job. Tell him that I was proud of him for never giving up and talk to him about the realities of coming in last.
Yes, I took path number 3. Sometimes in life, we come in last. Sometimes others deserve to win more. As parents, it is important to teach humility, effort, and grace as much as it is to teach them grit and drive. Learning these lessons are never easy, but learning them at a young age is much better. When children are young, they can rationalize better and process experiences better. Learning hard lessons young gives them time to learn coping skills. The younger you can teach your kids to lose, and congratulate others who out-perform you, the more drive they will have to win! Better yet, wining will become more meaningful and something they can be proud of.
So put your kids in sports, clubs, and competitions where they can win AND lose. Don’t shelter them from loss. Instead, take losing as an opportunity to teach them valuable lessons. The short-term may be hard, but in the long run, you will be giving them a much more beneficial experience.
One of my favorite examples of this is from Walt Disney’s Nemo. Dory is so wise in the movie when she is talking about Nemo to Marlen. Marlen is Nemo’s dad and a classic hover parent. She says to him,
“You can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him!”
You have to let your child experience life and part of that experience is emotional pain. When you think of it that way, you realize that protecting kids from pain is unrealistic. In fact, it is doing them a disservice! The best lessons in life are learned through pain. I am sure that you have had a painful experience in your life and when you recovered from it, you were wiser and better for it. Maybe it was a heart ache, maybe you got caught doing something… whatever it was- it was the EXPERIENCE that made you LEARN and then you grew from that experience. As a teacher, I can tell you with all certainty that we don’t learn best from books or theory or because our parents told us so, – we learn from experience.
I am not saying that you let them do Whatever they want- yes, boundaries are important, but there is a balance between protecting them and letting them live and make their own choices.
When they are having emotional pain, here are you dos and don’ts
Don’t: Don’t ask what happened… yet.
Do: Instead start with empathy. Say something like, I see you are upset. I am just going to sit right here and be with you for a bit. If you want to talk about why you’re upset, I am here to listen. Then just sit and be there. Listen. Validate their feelings.
Don’t: Don’t say ‘You SHOULD have done this…” You should have done that… This turns kids off- especially teenagers. You can process better choices later AFTER they have had time to process their feelings. Give them one thing to focus on at a time. They don’t want your advice at that moment. They want someone to hear them!
Do: Stay calm- no matter WHY they are upset.
Don’t: Don’t get upset yourself and make judgements about the situation. This is really bad. If you start saying stuff like, “I knew that friend was horrible” or getting emotionally charged yourself, they won’t be able to calm down AND you will be digging yourself a hole when they will be friends again with that person next week.
Much like when your child was a toddler and they fell- if you react like “OH NO…. and scream- then they will scream. But if you are calm, then they learn to fall and remain calm. Even teenagers are looking to you for guidance on how they should be controlling their emotions.
Bottom line is: impactful parents don’t save their kids from being hurt. Impactful parents don’t always have high achievers or outstanding athletes. No, instead impactful parents are just doing their best to grow proficient happy adults. They pick up and support their children in learning, growing, and being the child’s best unique self. Because life isn’t that good. You know that and I know that, so let your children learn that too- now when they have your love, support, and guidance when they are still living at home. Protect them from what you can, but let them live.
Because it’s the not-so-good moments in life that fertilizes the soul for growth.
You got this parents. I am just here to help.
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