When thinking about child development it’s important to apply the rule of balance in comfort and adversity to develop inner strength.
When things are too easy the child is unable to tolerate adversity.
When things are too challenging the child develops a learned helplessness.
I remember when I was in college and I learned this I was determined to be the Mom who put the toy just a little too far away, thinking I would be able to encourage mastery through one’s own efforts. Over time what I observed is that there is enough adversity in the world, enough that gets in the way of being there for your child that you don’t have to go out of your way to create it artificially.
What’s important is to maintain a balance of response and inner strength development.
My friend likened this to the idea of hardening-off with seedlings. When starting plants from seeds the first thing to do is create the most supportive and nourishing environment to get them to sprout and grow into seedlings. In time they need to be hardened-off by creating a slightly less nourishing environment so that they can develop a degree of hardiness – a capacity to tolerate adversity. If they don’t go through this hardening-off process the seedlings are unable to tolerate the change from perfect conditions to life in the garden – more little plants don’t survive.
The issue is when and how. When to develop the hardiness and How to create the balance of comfort and adversity. You aren’t always in control of this element. However, creating pathways to earning rewards, challenges to the development of skills, and teachings about how things work helps. Significantly, it is a matter of reading your child and offering opportunities for challenge while simultaneously creating a space to retreat to for comfort.
Humans need a dose of adversity to develop resilience and inner strength.
The children who always have things their way and are pampered have difficulty identifying within themselves the strengths required to be resilient, persevere, and try again. They don’t have the inner mechanism to figure out how to get through the maze. Often they fail by not trying.
Conversely, the children that have big challenges through which they continually fail to succeed learn to NOT try – it’s a type of learned helplessness. These children may be extremely gifted in their intelligence but they do not have the mechanism to push through to succeed because they do not believe they can succeed. Often they fail through not trying.
A balance of adversity and comfort is the key.
Get to know your children. They will be different from each other even though they will have similarities. Observe to what they are attracted and repelled. Note their temperament: do they have a natural perseverance and stick-to-it-ive-ness or a natural desire for ease and easily give-up. This will give you clues about how to structure the balance of the comfort and adversity equation for each.
The goal is to focus on how your child learns and notice when your child is showing signs of overwhelm. In those circumstances you can break up the problem into smaller more graspable parts or offer opportunities to review ways in which he or she has previously succeeded in a similar endeavor.
The temperament that seems to be most complicated is the child who has a strong internal will and is willful but has an internal sense of insecurity due to trauma or significant adversity. This child will look over-powering and create many power struggles. The mistake on the part of the parent or teacher is to try to squash the willfulness and power struggles. This is a mistake because often it squashes the inner sense of strength in the child. The more useful action is to separate the inner strength and the power struggling behavior through verbal discussion and also creating a tiered response to power issues. This allows for the guidance to use the power in a productive way.
What guides a child to learn, grow and develop is significantly different among children, even among siblings raised close together – because it is a unique function of nature and nurture – or genetics/temperament and experiences. Inner strength and resilience are developed through a balance of comfort and adversity. These tools assist you in developing a strategy for guiding your child from the perfect nourishing environment to the garden of life.
See you tomorrow.