On any given day as you are going about in public you probably cross paths with several adults that would fall into one of three categories: worrier, whiner, or wimp. Have you ever stopped to consider why?
Worriers, whiners and wimps are not born; they are produced.
So if you have one, or are one, don’t blame it on genes. It has nothing to do with our physical make up, but everything to do with the way our fears, needs and hurts have been handled. We all tend towards worrying, whining or wimping out because we all have fears, needs and hurts. A worrier is someone who has had his fears nursed. A whiner is someone who has had his needs wastefully gratified. A wimp is someone who has had his hurts pacified.
So with all of these frailties of man’s human nature comes a response from somewhere. Either he will run to his own rescue and respond by his own devices or an outside source will do it for him. The later is what this blog is about.
Parents (especially us mamas) see it as our God given duty to come to the aid of our children in moments of fear, need, or hurt. And rightly so. Certainly, God has put our children in our care and we should be there for them when they need us.
The problem begins when our response to their neediness crosses the line between need and appetite.
Our children need the tender loving care of us parents, but when it is overdone, at some point it is no longer satisfying a need but rather an appetite. Like a child who has been given too much to eat; at some point the food is no longer providing a need but is feeding a glutton. When our response to our children’s needs is overdone we get ourselves and our children on a path of nurturing appetites that produce worriers, whiners, and wimps.
When responding to our children’s fears, needs and hurts most likely we are not one extreme or the other, extremely negligent or protective but we fall somewhere in between the two. The question is where? Not that we have to find the perfect balance but to be somewhat close to it would increase our chances for training up a tougher generation that can stand on their own two feet and fight against trends and norms that are creating a dependent and crippled society. Both extremes ultimately result in adults who are very needy and selfish. Finding a balance is key.
One very positive advantage to having multiple children is that it’s impossible for mama to be everywhere all the time and a child has opportunities to be fearful, needy, or hurt on their own and figure it out for themselves. They become survivors and problem solvers. They learn to suck it up, shake it off, and move on.
The more fixing, coddling, providing we do for our children the less they do for themselves and the more dependent they become on others to take care of them.
Just this week, Olivia (almost 3 yr. old granddaughter) began to show a fear of walking down the stairs by herself in my house. After trying to coax her down I realized how real her fear was. She stood at the top of the stairs in tears and obviously terrified of coming down on her own. I took time to comfort her with hugs and gentle words but ultimately insisted that she do it without holding on to me because I knew that she could. It took 35 minutes but in the end we were celebrating with hugs and high fives. =) What was accomplished in those 35 minutes? This little exercise gave Olivia the opportunity to discover some things she didn’t know or at least doubted about herself: “I can do this!”……… “I can face my fears and be brave!”
Finding balance in every aspect of training our children may be the hardest thing we do as parents and demands that we depend on God for the wisdom to find it. When it comes to handling and responding to our child’s fears, needs and hurts, balance will determine a whole lot about their future.
If we will stay attuned to the physical and emotional development of our children we will more quickly be able to recognize when their behaviors don’t measure up to their abilities and instead of over comforting, catering and coddling we can respond with encouragement and challenges to dig deeper and reach higher.
In doing this we put tools in their hands for the future. These tools will one day talk to them when they face life’s challenges.
So one day when you help your 18 year old pack up his things and move off to college those tools you gave him will be saying things like, “I can face my fears and be brave!”…”I can face my needs and figure it out!”….”I can face my hurts and move on!”