Thursday 18 July 2019

Listen up, helicopter parents - your offspring can pick themselves up... and learn what resilience is

'If you teach kids there are no winners or losers, you’re setting them up for an almighty fall when they get older.' (Stock image)
'If you teach kids there are no winners or losers, you’re setting them up for an almighty fall when they get older.' (Stock image)
Sinead Moriarty

Sinead Moriarty

The Leaving Cert results come out today - parents around the country are down on their knees praying (I'm praying myself for my godson). Everyone wants their child to do well, to get into whatever course they applied for. But not every child is going to be happy. There will be disappointed faces walking around - both children's and parents'.

But it is important for parents and children alike to remember not to compare themselves to others. Everyone is different, everyone has tried hard and whatever the outcome, there are always other options. Lots of people fail to achieve their goals the first time around - having to repeat is not the end of the world.

Unfortunately, in a world of helicopter parenting, accepting failure is not always easy.

I recently met an old friend who is now headmaster at a large secondary school. I asked him what was the biggest change he'd seen in children in the last 20 years. Without hesitating he said, "lack of resilience".

He went on to say that kids nowadays have no ability to deal with difficult situations because their parents are constantly clearing the path in front of them. "They can't cope with any kind of failure, even the smallest thing" he said. "Helicopter parenting is not doing your child any favours," he added.

If you google 'helicopter parent', it is described as: a parent who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children.

While I agree with him that parents today mollycoddle their children, schools are guilty of it too. Who came up with the idea of a sports day where there are no winners? It's ridiculous. I remember having a conversation with my son about the sprint. Who won?" I asked. "No one", he said, "we all got medals". "But who actually won." "No one." "OK, who crossed the line first", "Oh, John did".

If you teach kids there are no winners or losers, you're setting them up for an almighty fall when they get older.

But to be fair, it is mainly parents who are 'ruining' this generation's children. Gone are the days when if you forgot your lunch you spent the day gnawing the end of your jumper or your mates shared theirs with you. Now, a quick call to mum and she will just leave the office at lunch time, drive six miles to school, drop in your lunch and then she will spend the rest of the day starving because she didn't have time to eat.

No one wants to watch their child go hungry or fail at something, but it's the failures that we learn most from. Failure is what gives a child backbone and a resilience to deal with the real word.

The truth is, kids are going to be mean, teachers are going to shout, you will be dropped from the team you are on, you will lose the race, you will fail an exam….it's life. No one can succeed at everything and one of the most important lessons in life is the ability to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and carry on. My GP told me that the majority of his patients are young people in their 20s suffering from anxiety. They can't cope with life. It all comes back to a complete lack of resilience.

Kids today are praised for just waking up. They get a parade if they actually get dressed by themselves and a standing ovation if they remember to pack their sports kit.

Over-inflated praising is something that parents are guilty of and according to research it leads to depressed young adults who have no coping skills.

Parents are damaging their children by not being able to say "no". God knows when your child rings you and says 'I forgot my sports kit and the coach is going to go mad', it is next to impossible not to rush down and hand them the kit. No one wants their child getting into trouble. But if we continue to do it, they'll never learn.

It's nerve racking for all parents sending their child into the world. We know how difficult school days can be, we've been there. But we survived and dealt with the challenges ourselves.

Children need to struggle to grow and learn. Saving your child from consequences and challenges now, only ensures he or she will face more challenges down the road.

When the Leaving Cert results come out, if you have allowed your child to fall and fail and they have got back up again, then no matter what happens with their results, they will be OK. They will have developed the all-important resilience and they will get through the disappointment and not fall apart. They will have the ability and the strength to pick themselves back up and try again.

To all of you - children and parents, I wish you luck!

Irish Independent

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