The Dance Between Challenge and Support
Do any of these sound familiar?
There is no strength without adversity. No growth without challenge. Or if you’re a gym goer, the classic “No Pain No Gain.”
There is no question that challenges and struggles are necessary for our growth. But what happens when a child is given too much adversity and challenge without support and guidance?
Think of an unfit person who has just joined the gym. They don’t even know how to use the equipment let alone have much strength or stamina. They could try to figure it out on their own but they run the risk of serious injury if they do too much, too fast. Likewise, if they don’t push at all or choose not to go, they won’t accomplish their fitness goals. That’s why many people choose to use the services of a personal trainer. Someone to motivate and inspire them, who is also experienced to provide practical knowledge and support. A good personal trainer knows when to stretch and push their clients just enough to help them become stronger, but not enough to get them hurt. They support them physically and emotionally to help them be their best. We can be that personal trainer for our child, helping them become stronger and achieve their goals whilst also making sure they feel safe and supported.
I’ve never met a parent who didn’t want their child to be both resilient and kind. We all want to see our kids getting back up when they fall and trying their best in all they do. We want to see them trying new and hard things without giving up easily. We want them to be a good friend, get along with others and know that it’s ok to say yes to themselves and others and that’s it’s also ok to say no. We want to see our children live fulfilling lives where they embrace challenge and have rich and rewarding relationships.
But the approaches we take to help our children achieve these goals can look quite different. We’ll have a look at a few of these common approaches now.
- The “tough love” approach. The theory that we have to be cruel to be kind and that the only way to create resilient kids is to force them to “toughen up.” and do things against their wishes. These parents worry that their kids will be soft and unable to cope in the World once on their own.
- The “wrap you in cotton wool” approach where you don’t ever make your child face what challenges or scares them. You so badly want to protect them and keep them from getting hurt that you help them avoid everything and don’t encourage them to keep trying if something is hard.
- The “It’s your life you do whatever you want” approach. We understand the importance of autonomy and choice and might feel that any kind of input from us means we’re trying to take control and that our guidance will hinder them from learning things for themselves. We feel that our kids need to learn their own lessons and make their own mistakes so we take a completely hands-off stance and let them figure it all out for themselves.
While these approaches may in fact be appropriate in some situations and for some people, there is another approach which may be more helpful, especially if the person is experiencing anxiety or needs support building their resilience and facing fears.
Dr Dan Siegel, an expert in the field of brain development and author of several books including “The Whole Brain Child”, talks about how we can use our relationships to shape our children’s brains. He emphasizes the importance of the parent-child connection and how pivotal it is to how our kid’s brains get wired. He encourages us to mindfully stretch and guide our kids, helping them conquer fears and face challenges with our loving support.
So how do we build a strong connection with our kids? I know we all have our own ways but sometimes it’s easy to forget just how important it is to connect before we do anything else. Connection is so vital that it’s like the foundation of a house. Without a strong foundation, you can’t build the rest of the house.
There are many ways to connect and I will also be sharing some of my favourite ones in the coming weeks so that you can continue to grow or start to build that strong connection.
I really want to emphasize how important this is so I urge you to spend a few minutes exploring the links below. The videos are of Dr Siegel explaining how the brain works and the immense power of the parent-child connection. The article is from one of my favourite parenting websites “Hand in Hand Parenting” and gives a wonderful breakdown of why connection is so important.
We are not affiliated with these people in any way. I have personally used Dr Siegels books and Hand in Hand Parenting courses and articles in my own life and highly recommend them both.
Thanks for reading and please do let us know what your favourite ways to connect are. We would love to hear yours!
The collection of short videos from Dr Siegel can be found here. I recommend watching them all as they are only short and link together. Many other videos and resources from him can also be found online.