Many of the troubles that the rising generation has been facing is that of Competence or lack of it. Let me explain what I mean.
Before the advent of cell phones, the nanny state, and knowing 24/7 where your children were, there was true freedom. Being a child of the 1970s and for that matter anyone born before the age of surveillance there was true freedom that could have been had. As I remember, my parents couldn’t be with me all day every day, nor did they want to be. This left a lot of time that I had to figure out for myself what I wanted to do, who to do it with, and how to accomplish the things that caught my imagination. I was left to my own wiles to figure things out. I had to, with little to no help find and come to a solution to what faced me in my young life.
This allowed me to build not only confidence (which we will detail in the next ‘How to Be Resilient’ Part III) but also develop competence that I could figure out things before I made too many mistakes and got through what was causing me friction. So as I grew, I knew that come what may, although I was afraid of the unknown, I could get through it if I was just patient and prepared enough.
I don’t know if it was Dr. Spock’s dribble or the prevailing Child Rearing psychology drivel of the last 30 years, but the development of “Helicopter Parenting” – of having to arrange EVERYTHING for the children, playdates, making friends, getting to school among many, many other tasks that we had in the past relied on the child to do by themselves – reared its ugly head. Stranger Danger, and keeping tabs, and knowing where the kids are at all times have disintegrated the realm of that once-had freedom to gain the Competence that our rising generation needs to have.
Instead, they got safe spaces, trigger warnings, trophies for everyone, and woke-ness that has rightly earned them the moniker ‘snowflakes’. That when the road gets harder to travel, they stop and wander about rather than move through the obstacles. Hard questions, difficult situations, and not so happy results turn this generation into a bunch of wandering Wilma’s not able to get past the challenges they face.
And don’t we all face those challenges?
Here’s what we need to do, as a caregiver in the stages of our children’s lives to help them in their pursuit of Competence:
Let Them Struggle – I know this is the hardest thing for a helicopter parent to do. But we must refrain from doing it for them. When I was a baby, I had two older siblings. Tales are told that all I had to do before I learned to walk, is get the attention of one of those siblings point to a place or object and they would pick me up and bring me to it. My mother finally had to put a stop to my toddler manipulations because I wasn’t learning to walk because I didn’t need to.
The principle is the same here. You have to let them do it for themselves, even as young as 2 or 3. Let their brains and problem-solving skills develop so that as the obstacles get bigger and more complicated, they have the base or foundation to tackle them outright.
Give Them A Hard Task or Two – One of the things that don’t do any service for those rising generations is only giving them a simple or easy road to travel. Of course, don’t give them impossible tasks either. But the best part of Competence is actually stretching oneself to the point where they didn’t think they could reach, and they get it done. Do this as opportunity arises and as the age of the child permits. Give them the chance to grow beyond the confines of their own mind and see where they can go.
Give Them the Freedom – Competence happens when you are free to accomplish the task on your own. Your successes and failures are your own. We cannot shelter those that come after us from that fact. To do so gives us the results we are now seeing from our college-aged young people and younger. We have to be Free to experience all that life is about, without outside constraints (only those we choose to place upon ourselves) to experience the results of our decisions and actions be they good consequences AND bad outcomes. We must be free to fall flat on our faces so that we can see if we can soar with the eagles. This is a Universal principle since the beginning of time.
Assist Them Without Them Knowing – This is the fine line that we often cross and perhaps crossed too much in the last 30 years or so. When faced with a hard decision, or a path to go down, or tasks to accomplish there are times where, if we can go unnoticed, can assist them in their development. A nudge here, a spotlight there, or a word of advice for them to consider. But we always need to remember the very first item on this list, we have to let them work it out for themselves. We destroy their chance of Competence in the thing that they face and call an obstacle when we push them aside and get it done for them.
Help When Asked Only So Much – If you have raised them right, they may ask you for help. And it is quite alright that they do so. That word of advice could turn into a recommendation rather than a “consider this” proposition. But as you look to help them, don’t cheat them out from the experience, help them along in that which they want to accomplish. Again doing the ‘rest of it’ you are curtailing their own chances for wisdom.
I have often been guilty of this Helicopter Parenting myself. I want to blow past those obstacles for them and make their way clear, but by doing so, I weaken their resolve to do for themselves what they are not only capable of doing but need to do for their own skill and talent development. By doing so, you don’t love them any less, you just value their experiences more. They have to have things that they can tell their children that helped them build their character, and be the person they are today.
Being Competent is an essential component of Resiliency. Having the skills to face what comes your way, is a phenomenal feeling to have. We always need to be giving ourselves and others opportunities to build those “Competency Chops”
If we are the ones that are feeling things are too difficult and don’t feel that Competence to overcome?
The bottom line is that life is life. And no matter how easy we want it, or others have made it for us, we are going to face some speed bumps along our way, in fact, we should be seeing them on a daily basis. It is for us, then, to ready ourselves for what needs to be done. We will have these moments of self-doubt (all of us have those from time to time) You just have to face the direction you need to go and get the job done. Think it over, visualize how you want to resolve/accomplish/achieve it, then methodically get to it until you have completed it. Nothing is beyond your grasp when you have the knowledge and the will to get it the way you want to have it.