HOW TO RAISE COURAGEOUS KIDS
PREPARING FOR GETTING HURT
As parents, though we set out to raise courageous kids, our default setting from the moment we learn we’re going to be a mom or dad is to ensure our children experience no pain. I remember our pediatrician telling me soon after my first child was born that my job was not to avoid any and all crying at all costs (or something to that effect). But it’s in our DNA, and it sticks with us even after we have to allow our kids to fly from the nest. They will hurt. They will cry. They will experience all the hardest stuff of life.
When Brené Brown’s first TED talk went viral, she experienced something few of us have to endure: the comments section, aka the wild wild west of the internet. As she watched the trolls pile on, her sadness and hurt and shame gave way to this realization: if you're brave with your life, if you're brave with your work, you're deciding that what you’re doing is worth getting hurt over. And being brave can happen in small ways. Investing in another person in any way means opening yourself up to disappointment, to heartbreak, and again to deciding that what you’re doing is worth getting hurt over. Who hasn’t seen their child crumple in tears because she was left out at lunch or his friend didn’t want to play on the playground that day?
So life, in and of itself, means being vulnerable, leaving ourselves open to experiencing failure. And experiencing failure requires mastering resilience. The question then is: How do we parent our children – and ourselves – with this in mind?
VULNERABILITY IS NOT WEAKNESS.
Most of us are raised to go out into the world and get stuff done and not let people see, as Brené remarked to us. Not let them see that we have feelings, and that sometimes those feelings are hurt. And many of us, in turn, raise our children to do the same.
These remarks put my life and my parenting into a whole new focus. And when she asked us whether we’re raising our kids to get curious about their emotions and talk about them, or to suck it up and soldier on, I felt the breath go right out of me. I am absolutely in the “do not let people see” camp, and have worked hard as a parent, as a manager, as a friend, to reverse this. Because when we let people see, we see ourselves, and people let us see them. Doesn’t that sound better than a whole world full of people running around pretending they’re ironclad superheroes and everyone feeling terrible inside that they can’t possibly ever really be ironclad superheroes themselves?
I think so, too.
Because, Brené says, vulnerability is not weakness. She says, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.”