When you love your kids, nothing hurts more than seeing them in pain. As a mom, I can hardly bear to see my kids in any kind of distress, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual. From skinned knees to serious medical issues, squabbles with friends to messy breakups, parents have to help their kids through plenty of painful times on the journey to adulthood…and beyond.
Naturally, parents want to help remove pain from their child’s life. But is that always the best thing? Perhaps not. I would like to offer you a piece of advice that sounds crazy but is rooted in decades of experience: sometimes, it’s okay to let your child hurt. Pain is a normal part of life. In order to grow and mature, people will encounter pain and must learn how to deal with it.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t care if our children are suffering, and it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be there to support them. But as a culture, we have created an environment that practically worships ease, comfort, and minimizing pain. There is a temptation to make a pain-free, stress-free, boredom-free, struggle-free existence the absolute goal of our lives. We constantly seek to medicate, entertain, and control everything around us. Mediocrity is fine, as long as it is comfortable.
Why are we so obsessed with comfort at the expense of more valuable things, like personal growth and the ability to deal with long-term problems?
Benjamin Franklin frequently quipped, in what has become clichéd and meme-worthy now, “There’s no gain without pain.” He was right. If we jump right in every time our kids find themselves in an uncomfortable—or even painful—situation, we stunt their emotional growth and make it that much more difficult for them to mature into healthy and competent adults.
In his book, 12 Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid, Tim Elmore listed 4 ways parents can take their natural inclination to remove their kids’ pain too far.
- We medicate…giving kids an aid to eliminate aches. We offer an external painkiller so they don’t feel badly.
- We initiate…stepping in to intervene on their behalf. Before they have a chance to solve their problem, we solve it for them.
- We alleviate…doing something that reduces discomfort. We provide an alternative that will diminish any harsh realities they face.
- We intoxicate…offering an artificial distraction to the pain. We lend artificial, even unhealthy means, to distract them from their hurt.
What happens when parents take these steps?
They create dependent, emotionally needy adults who are unable to cope with real-world realities. Elmore went on to explore current statistics that demonstrate all too well what a culture that values removing pain has done to the newest generation of young adults. More than half of young adults under 25 are unemployed or underemployed. Approximately 60 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 39 who aren’t students are still receiving financial assistance from their parents. (And we’re not talking about Christmas and birthday gifts here.)
These numbers are startling and sobering. Admittedly, our economy has struggled and continues to underperform. Yet we as parents can’t help but want more for our children. We want more for them to graduate but cannot keep a job because they have been crippled by an inability to survive in the real world! We should be doing everything we can to help them succeed. Sometimes that means allowing them to learn painful lessons as early as possible in their life so they can avoid tremendous consequences down the road.
Passionate, loving parenting means not medicating, initiating, alleviating, and intoxicating. It means not valuing the removal of all pain from our child’s life. It means helping them learn hard lessons now, so they will be better off in the future.