Words can hurt and they can heal. Sometimes, the most healing words are the ones that are the most painful to hear.
Every parent wants their kids to be happy. Some parents, focused only on the short term, give their kids anything they want and finance any dream those kids may have, all in the pursuit of happiness. So instead of parenting, these moms and dads act more like banks, motivational speakers and buddies.
Other parents, realizing that true, long-term joy and instant happiness are different things, have their vision set on the future. In order to give their kids what’s best for them, they’re willing to say what their kids don’t want to hear.
These are the parents who are saying what most parents aren’t. And make no mistake, the words and phrases you are about to read can be very painful for a child. In the moment. But in the future, when your babies are trying to navigate their way through adulthood, words like these will be their compass.
“We can’t afford it.”
When you give your kid everything he wants, whenever he wants it, you are doing more than spoiling your kid. You are setting him up for a life of disappointment. And, most likely, debt.
Nothing is free. That’s one of the first lessons of economics and it should be one of the first lessons every kid learns about money. Sadly, many kids know that they are just one request, or fit of rage, away from their latest desire. The parent who gives in to this manipulation is teaching his child that desire rules the day, regardless of how much that desire costs.
Your kid will probably go nuts when she hears this. Good. Treat that as a golden opportunity to train her how to handle defeat. If she grows up to be a Georgia Tech fan, it’s a lesson that will come in handy every November.
Everyone loses. It’s best to come to grips with that when you’re six and playing your dad in a game of Battleship than when you’re 17 and you just found out that the admissions committee at Harvard doesn’t like you as much as your parents do.
“This isn’t your thing.”
A successful high school baseball coach was telling me about one of his newest players. The new player wanted to play a position that was already filled by a veteran who happened to be all-region. Before the first practice the new player informed his coach that he deserved to play this position more than the all-region veteran.
I asked my friend, the head coach, why this new kid felt this way.
“His dad made him think that he was better than he really is.”
This isn’t just a sports problem. Our refusal to give any negative critiques to our children is producing a generation of teens and young adults with self-esteem through the roof and ability that’s still somewhere down in the basement.
Every kid needs to be told, “This just isn’t your thing.” He’ll either get mad and find something else to pursue or get mad and try harder. Either way, he’ll get mad. But either way, he’ll be better off in the long run.
This goes against the grain in a society that teaches kids to follow their dreams, no matter how unrealistic those dreams may be. But remember the words of Bob Dylan. “In order to dream, you’ve got to be asleep.” Kids need parents who care enough to wake them up and lovingly tell them, “Maybe this just isn’t your thing. Let’s try this instead.”
“Do it anyway.”
I noticed something when I became a new father. People love to hold babies. More than that, people love to be the one who gets the credit for rocking a fussy child to sleep.
For some parents, this never ends. Every scraped knee is an opportunity for parental care, comfort, an ER visit, a piece of candy and a grassroots campaign against the concrete company that had the audacity to put a sidewalk that close to a playground.
Care and comfort are vital but kids also need to be told to get up and try again. Even when they’re scared or hurt.
When we cater to their every fear and worry, we are leaving our children dangerously ill-equipped to handle a world that doesn’t get any less scary as they age.
Hug your kid and pray with her when she’s scared. Tell her you love her. Remind her that Jesus is in control. But then, as quickly as possible, send her back to her bed, her bike, the diving board or whatever particular fear is trying to get the best of her. Rest assured, if you don’t do something to stop it, that’s just what her fear will do. Get the best of her.
Words are powerful. They can hurt and they can heal. Some of the most hurtful words are those which were never spoken.