Niamh Greene: Life lessons worth the anxiety for parents
Published 29/08/2014 | 11:31
As parents, it's part of the job description to think our kids are special. We celebrate every small milestone and victory in their lives, utterly convinced of their abounding talent and brilliance.
We also do everything in our power to make sure that they achieve the excellence we know they're capable of.
Yes, that can mean certain sacrifices, such as ferrying them to a mind-boggling array of extra-curricular activities, but we don't mind because we want to make life easier for them.
OK, so occasionally we may have to drag them kicking and screaming to the violin lessons, but that's all part and parcel of parenting in the 21st century.
They'll thank us when they have a brilliant CV and then a dazzling career. Then they'll realise that we were right to push them out that door when they would have preferred to stay inside and play the X box.
That's the theory at least. But what if we're wrong? What if, despite our best intentions, we're doing them no favours, all in pursuit of some elusive idea of excellence and high achievement?
Worse still, what if our efforts to effectively 'snow plough' their path to success by removing every obstacle in their way is doing them a grave disservice?
Teacher and author David McCullough believes just this.
In his new book, You Are Not Special: And Other Encouragements, he describes how our kids might in fact be simply average - and why that's OK. He says that, instead of endlessly sheltering of our children, we should allow them to fail more regularly.
This isn't to discourage them, but rather to help them learn how to handle that failure and ultimately to grow from it.
It makes perfect sense, doesn't it? The truth is, no matter how much we try, we can never really protect our children from the hardships that life will inevitably lob at them.
They have to become their own person. If we make every single choice for them, they will never learn to make one for themselves.
What happens when they're out in the big bad world without us to hold their hand? Will they crumble into a quivering mess of anxiety and indecision? Probably. And it'll be all our fault for fighting every single battle for them. Go figure.
Deep down, we know we should encourage our offspring to paddle their own canoes a bit more.
Making mistakes is the very best way to learn. Isn't that how we learned ourselves?
Yes, it's painful to watch your kids struggle and yes, they will quite possibly make a total mess of things, but they'll also learn invaluable life lessons.
Now if only I'd realised this before I'd paid for all those damn violin lessons.