A desire I often hear from parents and caregivers is “I want for my child’s life to be easier than my own." I get it. As adults we know that life is hard. Equally hard is thinking about the child experiencing some of those same hardships we have experienced.
The question we must ask ourselves, is life easier if we shield the child from all stress, frustration, hardships and boundaries? In my opinion, absolutely not. In fact, this kind of protection mindset will make life much more difficult for them in the long run.
For the young child (under 3yo) it can be especially difficult for us to imagine them enduring hardships. They are so sweet, squishy, small, innocent and unaware of the difficulties of life. Or are they?
By two years old your child has surely struggled already:
To adapt to their environment (especially after that warm hot tub-like floating magical experience in the womb).
To learn to communicate needs.
To explore and move, sit up, crawl, walk, run and fall down a million times.
To accept and trust new adults.
To begin to learn how to be in community and share space.
When we look at the young child from that angle, we see how capable they are, how much they have already struggled and succeeded at overcoming so many of life's demands.
The idea to let the child struggle can at first feel like abandonment. I want you to look at it more as collaboration or support. We can and must support the child in their experiences, not shield them from these important life lessons.
Maria reminds us to "wait, and be always ready to share in both the joys and the difficulties which the child experiences.” We must commit to sharing in both.
This can be small, like letting them work hard to put on their shoes by themselves without intervening immediately.
This can be big, like letting them cry and scream when an appropriate, fair and just limit is set. When we refuse to accept the invitation to the tantrum.
To struggle is to live. Lucky for us, the young child is quite competent and quick to adapt and accept, so long as we are there to support them along the way. No matter what we do, life is and will be hard for them. Life is hard for everyone. In fact, the struggle is essential in learning how to navigate our time here on this planet.
To be confident enough to do, yet trusting enough to ask for help is one of the greatest gifts we can give the young child.
Let them struggle.
Let them learn to overcome hardships.
Let them know you will always be rooting for them.
Let their battle cry be that of:
I did it.
We did it.
I am confident.
I am trusting.
I am supported.
(not, you did it all for me to make the situation less uncomfortable)
“Loving a child does not mean giving into all their whims. To love them is to bring out the best in them, to teach them to love what is difficult.”