Every year I have a neighbor who plants pansies in his front yard.
The only problem – our area is teeming with rabbits who LOVE eating pansies. My neighbors’ solution to this incessant bunny infestation is to cover the pansies with plastic crates and make his front yard look like he forgot to pick up after himself.
The result, if I can be so bold, is kinda – well – how do I say this - ugly.
I mean, I admire his problem-solving creativity, in the same way I admire Bill Murray’s dedication to gopher eradication in Caddyshack, but the cure to the disease seems worse than the disease itself.
The real issue is not merely the unattractive cages covering the pansies, but how the flowers are dwarfed by the source of their protection. Some years the neighbor never removes the casing because the flowers are so stunted, they aren’t large enough to do more than peak out of the plastic.
As I watch this annual homeowner vs. critter fight, I consider how this battle illustrates the dilemma of parenting. Every day I think about how to protect my children from the parts of the world that would eat them alive and how, at the same time, to prepare them to persevere in a broken, difficult world.
We all have to realize not only is it impossible to raise perfectly protected children, it’s not healthy. Kids need to understand how to deal with life’s disappointments. We’ve found three indispensable tools that help us segue from protector to preparer.
When someone spends time with our kids without us, we always ask about their behavior. Sometimes we get feedback that isn’t easy to hear. I don’t enjoy episodes of bratty behavior, tantrums, or arguments any more than anyone else. Although it’s tempting to make excuses for our kids, we try to avoid pushing back. It doesn’t matter if the teacher/babysitter/friend is “overly strict” – there are professors/bosses/colleagues who will be equally demanding later. Don’t argue. Don’t try to make things “fair.”
Just get the feedback and deal with the issue,
even especially if it’s negative.
Every kid forgets a class project or drops the ball on one of their responsibilities. That’s o.k. Let them fail. Our job as parents isn’t about cleaning up after our kids’ mistakes. Allow them to own their failings early and often. Hopefully they’ll be so uncomfortable with the experience, they’ll work harder next time.
They will survive.
We tell our kids they are in charge of their responses regardless of how others act. If they decide to break rules, they have to deal with the consequences. When they make a promise they don’t honor, they lose something. When they lie, trouble follows. We customize the consequences based on their age and development stage, but they know “bad decisions lead to bad consequences.”
This isn’t just a Team Phenix reality, this is Life.
I don’t want to build an emotional cage around my kids. I want them to understand how to take a few nibbles from the critters in the world.
How do you prepare your kids for the world?