I’m convinced one of the best things a parent can do is let their kids suffer. It’s also one of the hardest.
I don’t mean suffer from imposed deprivations, scolding, withholding of affection, or physical illness. I mean suffering from the things that are inevitable parts of life and without which no happiness can come.
Mastering a skill. Learning social dynamics. Resolving conflict. Choosing between two good (or two bad) options. Discovering who you really are and how you fit in with the world around you. These all involve some level of suffering, sometimes a great deal. Yet none of them can successfully happen if a parent swoops in to circumvent the hardship inherent in the process.
When your kids are fighting with other kids, or getting hurt feelings over misunderstandings, or in agony over inability to achieve a digital or physical feat it can be brutal to observe. Every fiber of your parental being wants to intervene and stop the struggle. Maybe at least offer to buy them a food they really like to ease the pain a bit. But such interventions rob kids of the growth that comes from learning to adapt and discover their own unique method of achieving their goals and finding happiness.
Even boredom can be hard to watch a child suffer through. But if we rush in to entertain them and ease their boredom with reams of suggestions and exhortations we short-circuit their process of learning to be interested and interesting.
One of the best parenting tips I have stumbled on, and one I remind myself daily, is simply to do less parenting and let my kids do more living. Even when it’s not all rainbows for them.