If You want your children to be successful & happy; let them struggle
nothing to struggle
they have nothing to struggle
~ Charles Bukowski
When I hear, “Mom, I need help to finish this work!” or “Mom, I don’t get this problem!”, my first instruct is to get into action and save my and my girl’s day.
But before we put up Parent’s Cape, we need to bring the choice of Parent leader’s Cape fore front and ask — what we are accomplishing? Does sparing children from struggle help them or hurt them?
Going by the dictionary meaning, Struggle is the strive to achieve or attain something in the face of difficulty or resistance — A determined effort under difficulties.
No one likes to struggle; it is unpleasant & uncomfortable. It is easy to fall into a stressful mode or negative state of mind during times of struggle.
But there is no growth without it. When we protect children from struggle, we prevent them from reaching the potential unexplored
Struggling is Essential
It is only through struggle that children learn to push past their comfort zone, develop persistence and problem-solving skills and build the capacity to reach goals & understand the true meaning of success & happiness.
It is not that Parent don’t get it, and need constant reminder. Parent allows child to fall 100 times when she learns how to walk, allows food to fall off 100 times & create mess when she learns how to eat.
My nudge here is to broaden the lens from survival skills to life skills. When Life skills are not limited to walking, talking & eating, why the allowance of struggle shall limit.
The temporary discomfort of struggle pays off with significant benefits. Here are five key reasons why struggle is important for children
(1) Struggle leads to growth
Struggle is the essential component of growth, if we engage in only activities that come easily to us, we are not stretching our self, and if we are not stretching our self, we will never reach potential unexplored.
If someone wants to run iron marathon, they will not stick to running one mile forever. Rather will push themselves to swim, run longer & longer, strength training, clean eating and much more. This would be tough, at first, but persisting through difficulty and discomfort would allow growth to happen.
Brain science backs this enough and one of key concept that supports this is neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is brain’s ability to change and grow over time in response to its environment. It offers real hope to everyone from stroke victims to dyslexics, as brain has ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.
And good news is growth never stops!
Science has evolved from the point when, until a decade or so ago, many scientists thought that while children’s brains are malleable or plastic, neuroplasticity stops after age 25, at which point the brain is fully wired and mature; you lose neurons as you age, and basically it’s all downhill after your mid-twenties.
When we consistently repeat a difficult activity, brain forms a pathway and activity become easy to perform.
(2) Struggle fosters growth mindset
Struggle not only fuels performance by stretching brain beyond normal, it also fuels character growth as well. Child develop inner strength, persistent, focus, determination.
With the realization that their brain can grow, children are not limited by IQ (Intelligent Quotient), personalities and entitlements. Instead of wanting to look smart or appear perfect, children learn to grow their abilities through practice & effort.
They embrace struggle, pick up hard things and see mistakes as simply learning opportunities.
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
(3) Struggle helps build problem solving skills
Where there is a will, there is a way. If one is motivated enough to do something, they will find a way to do it.
When there are problems and grit to solve, there emerges the thinking differently to solve for it.
If everything is easy, children will not learn the process of brainstorming, story boarding, testing the idea, analyzing why idea didn’t work. Repeating and mastering this process is needed to be successful in study, work & life.
(4) Struggle teaches to manage emotion
Struggle leads to emotions like frustration, sadness, disappointment and sometimes anger.
Struggle give children sense of observation and catch what they are feeling. Once we know what we feel, then only we can learn personalized strategies to work through difficult emotions.
While it is important to be mindful to behaviors, but it all starts from accepting feelings without judging.
(5) Struggle keeps us human
The struggle of my life created empathy — I could relate to pain, being abandoned, having people not love me ~ Oprah Winfrey
Struggle builds empathy. Struggle encourages humility.
When there is no room of intelligence quotient & fixed mindset, Challenges and struggles make children welcome diverse perspectives & develop observation capabilities.
In this space, children will experience the joy and satisfaction of success and accomplishment. They will find contentment. Thankfulness and gratefulness will blossom.
It’s tough for children to struggle, and even tougher for parent to let children struggle. Parent’s natural urge is rush, hold the child and help her to take a leap.
But Parent has a bigger role to play then to protect child from struggle. Role beyond food shelter survival, role so key in raising child to be independent and take life head-on!
Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother (parent). Oprah Winfrey
Good parental support & leadership helps child to be positive, healthy and lead successful & happy life. Here are three key areas where parent channelize children’s struggle to growth.
(1) Set family means for Self-regulation:
Yes, struggle hurts and might not be natural choice for the child, esp. when doing it second third time.
Children would need to learn the ability to cope with tough emotions, so they do not become crippling or overwhelming.
Self-regulation is ability to manage feelings, thoughts, and behaviors considering goal, and each child would have own way to regulate emotions. Parent help to
- Gamify & set rules: Play bubbles, Breathe, count 1–10, and come back to task in some time
- Give them break once a while: Children may self-control in one task, get tired, and may not do the same with the second task. This will help them learn self-control at a gradual pace until they become mature enough to practice it consistently without help.
- Be the role model: More than anything, children look up to their parents and often mimic what they do. An excellent way to teach your child self-control is to practice
(2) Speak of feelings as in relation to experience
Parent create the safe space for children, where they can share their feelings, fears, dreams, struggles in unmasked way. Parent help this by
- Sharing their experiences: Whatever they are going through is obvious, and even we as parents have gone through that
- In their communication label the act not the person: For example, there is difference in saying “my baby never gives up” and “Today is difficult day, I can understand you are feeling tired”
- Give adjectives to behaviors not the child: For example, there is difference in saying “Boys don’t cry” and “When I am hurt, I feel like crying too”
(3) Struggling enough vs. Struggling too much
There are and will be some tasks they are not yet ready to do independently, and it is counterproductive for a child to struggle with a task that is developmentally not appropriate.
Asking for help is a strength not “giving up,” it builds the muscle of working together. Instead that is another strategy that we can use to solve a tough problem or overcome a big obstacle.
- Set up the rules: E.g. try 3 times by yourself, then ask for help if you need it. Or try three different approaches, then ask for help if you need it.
- Ask guiding questions: like what next simple step you think you can take or where do you think you can find the information you need.
The struggle may not be fun, but it’s necessary for growth and development of deeply important skills like problem solving, persistence & self-regulation. It also fosters confidence and growth mindset.
Mollycoddling will not help children grow into independent, responsible individuals.
It is Parent’s supreme, sacred responsibility, that through safe and developmentally right struggle, they help children build the mindset and skills they need for happy & successful life.
We able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future — President Franklin D. Roosevelt