Is Life Supposed to Go Your Way?

A clear contributor to our enlarged sense of entitlement and the respectful behavior lacking in many children's character appears to be the disturbing trend among parents to try to smooth life over for their children. These parents want to make everything go their child's way, to keep them happy regardless of what this may take and to avoid conflict at any cost. If a child wants chicken nuggets for dinner again, she gets them, even if this means three different meals for three different children. If a child does not want to go to bed at bedtime, he does not have to. Not only is this a form of overindulgence, which will be discussed shortly, it also teaches children a terribly misguided and inaccurate lesson. This teaches children to expect life to go their way. They begin to believe that not only is life going to go their way, it is supposed to. Nothing could be further from the truth. What a disabling falsehood this is. What we net is a child who becomes an obnoxious, dem! anding and spoiled prince or princess. We also end up with children who are handicapped, as in less able to function. Heaven forbid that any of these children ever fall seriously ill (they will spend their time bemoaning their illness not fighting it), ever find employment (bosses frequently do not do what you want), ever marry (need I say anything?), or worst of all, ever have children of their own!

We need to teach our children exactly the opposite. We need to teach them the truth: 1)Life is not going to go your way, 2)Get over it, and 3)Learn to handle life's disappointments with some grace. I spend a great deal of time in airports and believe me, there are many adults out there in the real world who don't get this yet. They yell and scream at the gate agents who are supposed to stop the thunder and lightning so their flight can leave on time. They are special; they have things to do! Don't we all? All lessons are easier to learn the younger one is, but this is one of the most difficult and costly to learn later in life, especially with regard to physical and emotional health.

Our most gifted, talented, and beautiful children are most at risk for missing this lesson early in their lives. Life does tend to go your way naturally when you have academic and physical gifts. A child with any disability or challenge gets hit early with this important lesson that life is not fair and will not always go your way. He tends to develop some character along with his disability. The first group, the most gifted, may not. A woman in a parenting group burst into tears once as I was suggesting this. She told us that she had been one of the "blessed." She had excelled in elementary and high school, had been chosen as a cheerleader, dated the quarterback, been on homecoming court, gone to the college of her choice, married the man of her dreams, and had three healthy, talented children. At age 37, her husband left her for a younger woman. It was a terrible blow. Anyone in these circumstances would feel betrayed and would suffer, whether they have been taught that ! life is going to go their way or not. The point here is that those who have recognized that life will not always go their way have a leg up on those who have not; they are less handicapped, if you will. Life will have shown them the ways to begin at the bottom and build again. They will persevere despite a setback. This woman did get through this trial, and she did learn the lesson, but it is a much easier and cheaper lesson at three years old to be told that dinner is going to be spaghetti not chicken nuggets. A temper tantrum is a much smaller price to pay. When our children are told no at a young age, they learn: 1)no means no, 2)grownups do need to be listened to, and 3)life will not always go your way. They begin to develop frustration tolerance and the ability to cope successfully with frustration, a very important life skill. Indeed, these children develop some character. There are numerous opportunities for us with our children to teach and model the handling of disapp! ointing, irritating or awkward situations with grace. Sadly for us, the more difficult modeling teaches more than our talking does.

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