The following comes from a book titled "Resilience" by former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens. I've shared parts of this book in some previous posts and stated it is quite possibly the best book I've read in the past 20 years.
The following passage comes from "Letter 8: Habits." It's an amazing chapter but takes a few paragraphs to talk about teaching children resilience. In an era where mothers and fathers have been tabbed "helicopter parents," it's an extremely relevant subject matter tackled by Greitens. While certainly opinions of this subject are varied, I believe strongly in what Greitens writes below. We are shielding them from temporary pain today and setting them up to be unable to handle more serious pain later.
Virtues that are not practiced die. Resilience that is not practiced weakens.
The only way to keep resilience alive — through success, through temporary comfort, and through the challenge of age — is to engage ourselves in purposeful learning at every step of life. Every matter must still have a master. Every good teacher must still be a student.
To learn resilience, children must be exposed to hardship. If they don’t meet hardship early, they’ll certainly find it later. And if they haven’t build a habit of resilience and earned some self-respect by then, the adult pain they meet probably won’t strengthen them. It will likely overwhelm them.
Protecting children from all suffering is, in fact, one of the only ways to ensure that they will be overwhelmed and badly hurt one day. They will have none of the resources, the experiences, the spiritual reserves of courage and fortitude necessary to make it through future difficulties. You wouldn’t want that for your kids, and I don’t want it for mine.
There’s one sure way to build self-respect: through achievement. A child who learns to tie her own shoes grows in confidence. So does a child who learns to spell his name. So does a student who learns to stand in front of class and read his poem.
Self-respect isn’t something a teacher or a coach or a government can hand you. Self-respect grows through self-created success: not because we’ve been told we’re good, but when we know we’re good.
Not everyone gets a trophy, because not every performance merits celebration. If we want our children to have a shot at resilience, they must learn what failure means. If they don’t learn that lesson from loving parents and coaches and teachers, life will teach it to to them in a far harsher way.
Children need to be loved. And part of loving is to comfort, hug, and hold them when they are hurting. Both you and I know that, especially as parents, it is our job to provide love at all times and in all circumstances. But as guys who want to protect other people, we have to realize that we can overdo this. As hard as it is to do, part of loving someone means letting her experience hurt in the right way.
In trying to protect too much, kind people can inflict great cruelty.
Extreme recklessness is dangerous. But extreme caution is dangerous in its own way. And I’ve seen our culture shift further and further toward extreme caution.
Now let’s not get carried away: challenging our children can also be overdone. Let’s be clear that challenging children works best when children are loved — and when they are challenged because they are loved.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the children who are most likely and most willing to take risks are those who know that they can return to loving parents and a secure home. We often venture most boldly when we understand that our ventures are not all or nothing — when we are confident that we have a safe and welcoming home to return to.
Resilience — the willingness and ability to endure hardship and become better by it — is a habit that sinks its roots in the soil of security.
The child who is always protected from hard will never be resilient.
At the same time, the child who is never loved will never be resilient.