The Danger of Coddling Your Kids
The Danger of Coddling Your Kids
Our children are precious treasures. We hate to see them uncomfortable. And our instinct is to help them as much as we can and decrease their stress and discomfort. But there’s a price to be paid for overprotection, and the compound costs over time can be high.
Children who are raised to avoid challenges and failure usually later find life too challenging and they ultimately become failures. On the other hand, children who are continually challenged and learn that adversity is part of growth are in a much better position to thrive long-term.
Not only is it difficult as a parent to expose your children to risk, but it’s difficult for children to embrace it. Children are little humans. And humans like safety and security. We don’t like change and discomfort. When faced with the option of doing something risky and difficult versus something that’s easy and safe choice, our instinct is to move toward wherever there’s less friction..
Children should be taught that failure is a part of growth. If you’re constantly keeping your children away from failure, you’re depriving them of the opportunity to develop grit, which is the key ingredient for success—even trumping talent. Talent’s important, but the world’s full of talented people who accomplish nothing. Many of them were taught to avoid adversity. “Grit” by Angela Duckworth is a great book on this topic and should be read by all parents.
Fear serves a purpose. When we were hunting and gathering, we had to be on the lookout for big cats that were looking for food. So we’re trained to err on the side of protection, safety, and preservation. But that’s not the world we live in anymore—we’re safer than ever. Nonetheless we still have the same part of the brain that’s always hitting the panic button.
We have to be aware of that heightened—and often exaggerated—fear of danger, and teach our kids to become comfortable facing it.
Children should be raised with a growth mindset. In the great book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck, she explains the dangers of labeling your kids “smart” or “good at math” or other similar titles. Instead we should praise the process. “Great work, great effort, good job working through that problem, etc.” And while we’re doing that, we should constantly be drilling that loss and adversity is part of the process.
One of the problems with participation trophies is that it discourages adversity and grit. It teaches children that everyone wins regardless of effort and willingness to face fear. The real world doesn’t work like that. If Jane chooses to work harder than Sarah and Jane performs better, Jane deserves the trophy, not Sarah. That's not a judgment against Sarah. Maybe she values relaxation more, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But she shouldn’t expect to be rewarded for failure when she didn’t put forth the effort. When she enters her first real competition, she’s entering it with the training that extra effort isn’t necessary for results, that facing fear isn’t necessary for growth.
No one’s suggesting you shouldn’t help your children or that you intentionally expose them to real danger. But if providing that extra layer of supervision or guidance is preventing your child from taking on risk or suffering loss and learning from it, you could be stunting their growth on one of the key factors in long term success: working through adversity and developing grit.
Teach your children to dance with fear. Let them fall, let them fail. They’re becoming stronger, and will ultimately become better and more successful people.