We can all agree that our world is a tough one to live in at times. It only takes a few minutes of watching the news to witness a fraction of all the atrocities occurring worldwide. It was always disheartening to see as a global citizen, but after becoming a mom all I could think about were my children. I switched my focus from the worldwide and country-wide news to circumstances right here in my own communities. I started talking to other parents about what concerned them. Of all the responses I received, one was on everyone’s list. We all wanted to know the secret to raising strong children. How could we ensure we were doing a good job of it? There are a few key places to start.
Don’t Fear the Unfair
When we have children, many of us fill our minds with all the precious moments we’re going to have with them. The thought of that new baby smell, those little chubby cheeks and even the first words and steps bring smiles to our faces. Rarely do we think of the harder, more complicated stages. Well, maybe we should. It’s inevitable, after all. Those cute little cherubs will grow into toddlers and adolescents, and we will have to explain to them why life isn’t always fun or fair. I often wonder if we have failed them by not preparing more for those conversations.
Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
We all want to protect our kids from the things that hurt and “go bump in the night.” But protection can only exist if we recognize it’s needed. Raising strong children begins with us. We have to start embracing the difficult conversations. My advice is to start with what you encounter. For example, my kids come from a multiracial family. They have white grandparents, a biracial mom, aunt and uncle, and the ethno-diversity doesn’t stop there!
They also spend time in places where there aren’t always a ton of other kids that look like them. This means that not only my boys, but also the kids around them are often confronted with a very innocent question: “Why do I look different?” Tackling this has been easy for me, but I’ve watched other parents scramble to find an answer that would be politically correct.
Listen, we have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. When a kid on the playground comments on my kid’s curly hair, I don’t make a big deal out of it. I say things like, “Yes Kingsley has really beautiful curly hair and you have really beautiful straight hair! Isn’t it cool that we are all so different because of our backgrounds? If my boys have additional questions, we discuss what it means to have different parents or genes. Once they have an understanding, my kids typically just move on to whatever it was they were doing before. Simple as that.
The questions will continue, and they will increase in difficulty, but parents can’t hide their heads in the sand when challenging topics arise. Let’s hold each other accountable for raising strong children, and not shy away from being strong parents.
Letting Our Kids Fail
We love our children fiercely, and the desire to protect our little cubs is one that almost automatically comes with being a parent. What I’m about to tell you will go completely against that instinct, so brace yourselves. Sometimes raising strong children means letting them fail.
Our kids are going to take part in a multitude of contests and competitive activities over the course of their childhood lives. There will be countless relay races, science fairs, book reading contests, birthday party games, etc. Whether educational or recreational, at the end every kid gets a trophy or reward. There is no more first, second and third place. Now, everyone’s a winner of some sort. We’re well-meaning. We assume we’re only guarding our children’s self esteem. But not allowing our children to fail only prevents them from understanding that sometimes in life failure WILL happen. It impedes their learning how to cope in a healthy way with situations that don’t feel so good.
“Failure” by itself sounds like a nasty word. Somewhere along the way we’ve decided that it’s something to be avoided at all costs. You’ll maybe remember that some of the greatest skills you now have came from the lessons you learned when you failed once or twice. No one is going to be perfect at everything, and even those who are experts had to fail a few times to get to that level. Giving children a trophy every time they attempt something only teaches them that failing is something that can be bypassed.
How do you get to the lesson and the learning if you’re always perfect at each thing you try? Let your children fail. A few alligator tears over not being the winner on field day won’t be the end of the world. It will often only make them work harder if it’s something they want badly. Your kid will be great at many activities, and awful at others. Allowing them to discover which is which is a valuable part of life. Trust me, you’ll only be proud when they discover that hard work and perseverance are must-do’s in order to become better and stronger.
Raising Strong Children
I wrote Carbie because I wanted children to have a book that would teach them what happens when they endure hard times and come out on the other side. Pressure is sometimes needed in order to make something beautiful. In a dreamworld my kids would have only happy moments, and life would be easy. In reality, I know they will have struggles. My goal is to ensure they have the tools to weather the storms life throws at them. It’s okay to fail. It’s actually more than okay; it is likely. Preparing our children for rough moments is how we build character and fortitude. I haven’t met a parent yet that doesn’t want that. Let’s think twice before handing out participation trophies. Our future generations will be better for it!