Let’s face it. We live in a scary world with possible danger at every turn. We worry about safety and often have thoughts that are frightful and reinforced by stories on the news or from others. How do we protect our kids from such a scary world without crippling them and sheltering them too much?
We’ve been given a job, but that job isn’t to insulate our children from every risk and every pain that is bound to happen because of it. Our job is to ultimately help our children become the best version of themselves as adults. The truth is that most pain brings growth and we must develop a mentality that helps us to allow our children to grow and become the best adults they can become.
I once expressed my fear of losing my children to a scary world, whether it was physically or spiritually. Another mother quickly shared with me a moment in her life in which her child was playing on a playground. Her daughter climbed to the top of the equipment to go down a big slide and fell. Her daughter was at what seemed to be a point of no return when being tended to by a medical team. However, miraculously her child survived the fall. It was in that moment the mother realized that what happened to her child was out of her control. She was simply having fun on the same playground with so many other children. Her child could have died! She realized how little she really controlled whether or not something bad would happen to her daughter. It could have been anything. Yet, she couldn’t live her life in fear and never allow her child to experience anything ever again.
I realized the stories I had heard in the past of children being hurt in different ways and realized, yes for the most part it is out of my control unless I am to sit and watch my children like a hawk and protect them from every harm I think may happen. (In that case, no sharp objects, no heights, no tools, no stoves, no foods that may have bacteria, no food that isn’t prepared by myself only, and the list goes on and on.) I am reminded of the lady in the story “A Series of Unfortunate Events” telling my children not to hold a sharp pencil or touch a stove or this or that because of the risk of something bad happening. What a horrible life to lead. A life in fear.
Psychologists in Europe have found that if a child never goes outside and is never allowed to experience pain, such as the dreaded skinned knee we have all most likely experienced at some point in our lives, they will be more prone to experiencing phobias as adults. How will a child ever know the levels of pain if they never get bit by an ant or step on a sticker.
One example I can offer is when we lived at a house which was riddled with goat heads. I hated our backyard and it was a big endeavor to try to rid it of goat heads. Our children would often time track them in when they would step outside. We all had our share of hopping around on one foot while pulling one out of our feet. Now, like most people we all hate getting shots. My son was due for one and I spoke to him about the pain of stepping on a goat head and was able to have him think about goat heads while the nurse administered the shot. He didn’t cry, he didn’t even budge. I asked him, “Which hurt worse?” He immediately responded, “The goat heads hurt worse! Definitely!” Wow, what a teaching moment for both of us.
Kids need to fall a few time to learn that it’s normal. They need to experience difficult friendships or relationships as teens to recognize the difference between true friendship and false ones and even how to BE a good friend to someone else. If we as parents completely remove risk from our child’s life, we may in the long run harm our child, causing them to be fearful, have low self-esteem, never learn to be a good friend, and never learn to lead by example and teach from their own experiences.
Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4
Just as trials bring patience, many other things we experience bring growth in many other aspects of our lives. We may not wish pain on our children and we should never purposely put them in harms way, but we should allow them to take risks and experience life without fear.