I seldom read the news. And yet somehow the news of yet another child killing himself or herself reaches my ears. It saddens me, but I am barely surprised.
And again today I came across another article where a worried parent compassionately writes to others how to ensure we minimize the risk of our children killing themselves as a result of bullying. And somehow, no one else seems to see anything wrong with any of this.
Face It, We’re Screwing Up
One of the most scariest trends I see today is the desire to be perfect. And far worse than this is the desire to be a perfect parent. Seldom are we willing to admit that we’re failing at parenting. And children learn not from what you say, but from what you do. When children watch parents deny their own imperfections, they deny their own. And this is very, very dangerous.
Was it Always Like This?
Now let us take a step back and see how our predecessors survived. If you know anyone from your parents’ generation that stayed in a hostel through college, ask them about their stories of getting ragged. They’re quite terrifying. But what took me many years to digest is that they’re very good friends with many of those who tormented them, friendships often spanning decades.
Ask your mothers and grandmothers about how their relationship with their in-laws were. I even heard about a woman recently whose husband used to physically abuse her for decades, still emotionally abuses her, and yet she’s happy, healthy and cheerful at 85. No diseases, no signs of trauma. How did a generation like that raise youngsters who need antidepressants because they failed an exam or ended a 2-month long relationship?
Our parents and grandparents grew up with minimal parenting. They learned hands on that the world is a harsh place, getting bullied is common, people have good AND bad sides, and all of this has to be dealt with by oneself – support is seldom there. And they grew a spine.
Children Need Us Less, not More
We have so few kids now a days, and out of such a feeling of lack, that we hold on to them with our dear lives. Every scary piece of news makes us hold on to them harder, thinking that if we’re around enough, they’ll be safe.
In the comments below the article I mentioned, I was so disappointed to find parents saying things like ‘yes, we need to stand up for our children’. Why? Because you forgot to teach them how to stand up for themselves, right? Right. Because you were always there. Because you never let them handle things on their own. Because they always had support, they never felt the need to walk, let alone stand by themselves.
Incidentally, almost all the people I’ve met so far who tried to kill themselves before they turned 25 had parents that were around too much.
The Biggest Curse: ‘My Child Shouldn’t Suffer’
Parents today interfere and do their very best to ensure that their child does not experience any discomfort. Now, we learn best as children. Children that experience a moderate amount of difficulty learn that the world offers both joys and sorrows, and that that is OK. Children who never experience problems until they hit their teens have their bubble suddenly shatter and they have absolutely no idea how to cope. I’ve even seen clients who developed serious mental disorders because they couldn’t digest how harsh the world was.
Is it really a wonder they want to kill themselves? What would you do if you believed for 15 years that the world is a beautiful place, only to suddenly realise that it was more like hell, and that people enjoy hatred more than love. Would you want to continue living?
When we domesticate animals, they become incapable of surviving in the wild. We’re domesticating our children. How will they survive?