Get My Child Ready for the World

by John Reilly, MSW LCSW, Executive Director

One of the most important jobs we have as parents is to get our children ready to go out into the world.  However, have you noticed how many parents have shifted from the expectation that they must prepare their children for the world to an expectation that the world must get prepared for their children? As a result, some children now expect the trophy and success without understanding that hard work is the foundation for achievement. 

Educators have been confronted in the past about things being too easy, “not challenging enough.”  Now students, and some parents on their behalf, complain about being held to deadlines, papers being too long, not receiving the grade they “deserve,” the walk being too long, having to play soccer in the rain, book bags being too heavy . . .  the list goes on.  The emerging mind set is that students needn’t worry about how to navigate these challenges.  Instead, the belief is that these challenges should be taken away; that the playing field should always be even; and that no one should have to find a way to work through a situation that feels unfair. This false belief of a trouble-free life can lead children—or worse yet, emerging young adults—to disappointment and despair when they discover that the things they want will not always come so easily.  

Our influence as parents and educators is strong.  Therefore, it is vital that we use our influence to help our children learn to tolerate life’s inevitable frustrations and obstacles. Instead of protecting our children from disappointment, we need to expect and accept that they will experience frustration, failures, second place, last place, a loss, poor grades and inequality.  We also need to prepare them for these experiences and help them navigate through those times without feeling that all is going wrong. Without those negative experiences and the tools to work through them, children do not learn how to deal with frustration, how to stand up for themselves, or understand life’s downside in a healthy fashion. 

The perception that avoiding loss, frustration and struggle is good for kids is ill-conceived. We don’t want to overwhelm our children with experiences fraught with unending frustration but we don’t need to make everything easy either. It’s simply not realistic. Providing youngsters with the tools to work through challenges today helps them avoid unnecessary feelings of futility later when they confront future difficulties.  It is better they have these experiences now with the support of parents, teachers or others, and are not first confronted with tough realities when off on their own, as in the first year of college. 

Among the many things we are proud of at Sage Day is when former students come back and thank us for giving them a reality check and holding them accountable during their time at Sage Day.  While Sage Day is a unique and special place for many students and their families, it are also a place that underscores the importance of readying oneself for what lies ahead.  We are so touched when our alumni return and let us know that the lessons they learned while with us prepared them to handle not just the good times but the challenging times as well. 

6 thoughts on “Get My Child Ready for the World

  1. Joseph Paladino says:

    Mr. Reily/Sage Day staff,

    BRAVO!!! There was a great article in Atlantic Monthly this past summer titled “The Cult of Self-Esteem” which went in-depth on this subject and how making sure children are “always happy” by constantly removing obstacles/ all risk of rejection (‘no cutting’ in competitive sports, etc.)/ all adversity and discomfort contributes to depression and dysthmic disorder in adulthood, including strong feeling of emptiness, lack of accomplishment, a sense of entitlement (the dreaded ‘e-word’), and difficulty feeling contentment with actual commendable accomplishments because *everything* they ever did was always lauded as a major achievement. It’s a shame that healthy standards seem to have been ‘villainized’ in well-intended but often misguided attempts to help children realize their potential.

    Joseph F. Paladino, LCSW
    Elmwood Park CST

    • John says:

      Joe,

      Thank you for your thoughtful response. I am going to look up that Atlantic Monthly article, it sounds like a good one. I meet more and more parents who are understanding that resiliency is the result of setting healthy standards and are refreshed by the idea that we hold our students accountable for their behavior. Another important lesson is that life is not always fair, but it is more fair than not, and that is OK.

  2. Dr. James F. Roche says:

    Hi John
    A very excellent discription of the many entitled adolescents we all work with
    and the behavioral precription that will help the kids develop.
    Best Wishes
    Jim Roche

    • John says:

      Jim,

      I think parents have been sent mixed messages about self esteem and how self esteem is promoted. When things are made easy so children can feel good, the child does not have the opportunity to feel the self esteem that is associated with persevering.

    • John says:

      Mrs. Carliner,

      i’m glad this is reassuring. Sometimes doing the right thing is difficult especially when we have to watch our children struggle through the growth process. We are all in this together.

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