Don’t deprive your children of discomfort

I was recently browsing the duty free mall at Heathrow, when I heard a child shout emphatically ”Why should I buy something to remember Harrods”. I thought to myself, how profound! This was the parent’s need, the parent’s fantasy that gave being in Harrods some special significance. The child, at four or five years old who’s been there, done that and is saturated with tee-shirts does not share that fantasy.

Parents often make the mistake of trying to give children, what they did not have, or prevent children from experiencing frustrating or trying circumstances in childhood. This is meritorious if what happened in the parents childhood was damaging. However what causes discomfort is not necessarily damaging. Postponing gratification by waiting until you’re older, saving for something special or receiving your birthday presents in a staggered way over the year instead of all at once creates discomfort, but also inculcate life skills and build character.

Not all the discomfort that people experience children is bad for them; some of it in fact was what makes people into adults who are able to afford to give their own children what as children they may have lacked. By indiscriminately dismissing all childhood discomfort as bad , they throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater in terms of depriving their children of worthwhile and valuable resource developing discomfort.

The effects of this can be seen in children who could be in the most luxurious environment or in the most exotic place and prefer to play on their cell phone than take in the beauty and the magic, which to them is ordinary and common place because everything has come to them too easily and too soon to be special. When parents see this reaction, they feel let down and cannot understand why their children are not grateful and appreciative. They criticise the children and can’t understand why the child responds by saying that they would prefer to be with their grandparents or friends at the coast.

What instils in us the absolutely priceless qualities of gratitude and appreciation for life is being able to experience the contrast of going without, sacrificing or working for something and then finally achieving or acquiring that which we desired or lacked. With no lacking, with everything being easily available we tend to take what we have for granted. A taken for granted life is a boring, impoverished, stale, commonplace existence which leads to a sense of emptiness that results in a compulsive need to fill the sense of lacking. Erich your children’s lives, by withholding from tem what will one day make life special for having waited and acquired the experience for themselves the same way that you did.

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