OK, before everyone goes off on me about how we are raising a society of undisciplined, disrespectful brats, hear me out.
I think that we can all agree that parents today are, hmmm...how can I put this delicately shall we say, CRAZY overprotective! Kids have to wear a helmet to ride a bike or they risk falling, hitting their head and having to eat through a tube for the rest of their lives. Seriously, I heard a mother say that to her kid.
If a class is tough, clearly it is the teacher's fault. The material should be easier or the parent will demand the child be transferred to a different class, where the teacher isn't "picking on him." Oh, and let's not forget that EVERYONE has to get a trophy so that no one gets their feelings hurt. You were born? Here's a trophy. You're 7 and wiped your own ass? Here's a trophy. Your team came in last place? Trophies all around! I mean GOD FORBID your child is made to believe they aren't good at something. Why risk the blow to their self esteem and years of therapy when a simple "Participation" ribbon lets everyone know, "Hey you! You are average! Just like everyone else"? You know, because that's the way life works. You get a job, don't work as hard as the person next to you, your mommy calls your superior to say if you don't get the promotion you'll be sad and your feelings will be hurt, so naturally, your boss gives you the promotion. No wonder our country is in the toilet.
With that said you're probably wondering, in a world where parents are afraid to (but should) tell their children "No," why the hell am I saying not to do it? Because some parents are protecting their children right out of success. Recently, I have been present when various parents have made the following remarks or some other equally detrimental ones to their children, and it absolutely infuriates me:
"I don't know why you want to try out for the [insert sport here] team. There are kids that have been playing since they were 5. You're not going to make it."
"You need to know your place in this world."
I have three words: SHAME ON YOU!
How dare you tell your child what they can and cannot accomplish! Whether you are doing it because you think you are protecting them from failure or simply because if you were in their position, you wouldn't have the guts to go for it, you need to stop and realize the negative impact you are making on your child's life.
Life is all about failure, overcoming obstacles, and striving to be our best self. A parent should never discourage their child from having goals and trying to be the best person they can.
Let me give you some examples:
When I wanted to try out for cheerleading in high school, my mom all but forbade me. She was so afraid I would be disappointed when I didn't make it, that it never even dawned on her that I might actually make it. ( I did).
Years later, I was in an accident. After several surgeries, while trying to find meaning in tragedy, I decided to write a book to help people living with chronic pain. There was one catch...my head injury left me with the inability to look at a computer screen. That could have stopped me in my tracks, but I refused to let it. Not only did I write my novel, I got it published.
Too small scale? How about these examples:
On January 29th, 1954, a little black girl was born in rural Kosciusko, Mississippi. She survived a troubled adolescence in which she was sexually abused by relatives and male friends of her mother. As a teen, she moved to Tennessee to live with her father. She attended school, went to college and grew up to have her own talk show, and eventually her own network. Today she is one of the most powerful, well-respected women in the world. I am of course talking about Oprah Winfrey.
Sophomore year, Laney High School, N.C. Mike Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player to ever play, failed to make the Varsity team. Did that stop him? No. He busted his butt to become the best all-around player and became the superstar we know today as the great #23, Michael Jordan.
And perhaps one of the most inspiring stories, March 24th, 1986, a mother gave birth to a child born with congenital amputation. Kyle Maynard had no arms below the elbow and no legs below the knee. Instead of his parents sheltering him and allowing him to use that as an excuse to do nothing with his life, they encouraged him to be as independent as possible. Kyle grew up wanting to wrestle. He joined the school wrestling team. At first, he lost every match... then one day something happened. He won. And then it happened again. In fact, it happened 34 more times. He eventually went on to be inducted into The National Wrestling Hall of Fame. But Kyle didn't stop there. He trained hard and went on to compete as an amateur mixed martial arts fighter, and as if those feats weren't impressive enough, he decided he wanted to climb Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro...and did.
In any of these instances, it would have been very easy for the parents of these children to say, "It's too hard" or "You can't do it."
"Oprah, you want to be a millionaire. You're crazy. Remember where you are from. Little black girls from Mississippi do not become millionaires."
"Michael, you couldn't even make the Varsity team. You think you are going to play professional ball someday? There are a million kids that have that dream and were good enough to make Varsity their first time out. You need to think more practically."
"Kyle, how is a kid with no arms and legs going to climb a mountain? You have to be realistic son. There are some things you are going to have to accept that you just can't do."
So the next time you're speaking with your child and they tell you they want to find the cure for cancer or invent the flying car or be a ballerina, I'm begging you, please be mindful of your words. Don't be that voice of doubt in your child's head that says, "You can't do it." The one that causes a bundle of nerves and makes them too afraid to try out for the team, ask for that raise they deserve or dare to change the world. Instead, be the one that teaches them how to accomplish their dreams.
If your 5'7 son tells you he wants to make the basketball team, encourage him to try out and if he doesn't make it, instead of letting him give up, help him put together a game plan to improve his skills so he can make the team next time. Encourage him to practice and train with him whenever possible. Teach him the only failure in life is not trying and if you want something bad enough, you work for it, whether that be studying, hours of practice, interning, or daring to think outside the box. After all, it worked for Spud Webb. He went on to not only play in the NBA but to win the Slam Dunk contest.
Remember kids tend to share their dreams with the ones they are closest to in the hopes of receiving support and encouragement. Imagine the look on Neil Armstrong's mother's face when he said," Hey Mom, you see that moon up there? I'm going to be the first person to walk on it someday." She had to think, "Sure you are son! And how do you plan on getting there? Walking?" But you know what, he did it.
So if your child has a dream, no matter how ludicrous it may sound, don't crush it. Don't point out all the reasons why it can't happen. Don't say,"No." Instead, let them dream. Sit down with your kid and together, come up with a list of steps they can take to achieve their goals, whatever they may be. Let them know you believe in them so that one day when other people are trying to hold them back and telling them it's too hard! That's impossible! You can't do it! You can be the voice inside their head that says, "I believe in you. Yes, you can."
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**Don't forget to check out my books Pain, Pain, Go Away and Why Am I Still Single? A Tough Love Guide for Single Women available on Amazon.com and at Barnes&Noble.com **
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