THE BLOG

Three Simple Ways to Prepare Your Child For the Complications of Life

08/26/2014 02:35 pm ET | Updated Oct 26, 2014
  • Debra Fine Bestselling author, keynote speaker and trainer
PhotoAlto/Sandro Di Carlo Darsa via Getty Images

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Our goal as parents, besides surviving the sheer exhaustion and joy and agony that goes along with the most important non-paying job in the world, is fostering well-rounded, happy, successful, responsible, healthy, honest, interesting confident children.

So... sort of a big job.

We are on the far side of the pendulum swing when it comes to the "Everyone is a winner!" world and it appears to be causing more damage than not. Isn't that always the way? You think you're doing something fabulous (cutting out carbs! wearing sunscreen! encouraging my child!) and then wham!

The baby boomers are getting the blame for the introduction of helicopter parenting; probably because the baby boomers were raised in a different time -- a time when they were not only allowed to ride their bike all over town, but were basically forbidden to show their face inside the house before dinner. And then God help you if you're late.

Now there are helmets for everything. Trophies for everyone. Ice cream for good grades. Money for chores.

I refuse to jump on the bandwagon of "in my day..." because it is just so cliché. And nothing, besides the smell of Bengay, screams I AM OLD more than a cliché.

After all, helmets are a good thing. And I, too, am a fan of ice cream. But time is ticking and those little tykes out on the baseball field are going to the be the same adults walking the halls of a hospital, running for office, overseeing the Fortune 500 companies and raising the next set of children. Are they ready? Are they ready to be leaders in business? In their future family? In life?

In a word, maybe. Why? Well, in an effort to keep the under-20 crowd feeling loved and valued, we've devalued them. We've loved them the wrong way.

How can we mend our ways before it is too late? We need to back off - just a bit:

Raise a Risk-Taker:
Instead of chirping "be careful!" at every turn, allow your child to try something new. So what if he scrapes an elbow or spills the milk. How is a child every going to learn anything without trying it first? It's amazing how many teens arrive at college without knowing how to do laundry, scramble an egg, introduce themselves to a stranger or pay a bill.

Stop Cheering:
Of course there is a time for "great job!" It's just not all the time. Kids are smart; and pretty soon they realize that mom and dad are the only people out there who are showering them with accolades. That can lead to a level of distrust between parents and children -- the last thing any parent wants (especially when entering the teen years).

Stay Strong:
Making harder decisions now will pay off in the long run. Because of guilt or time constraints or fatigue, parents often patch things up for their children. Writing a note to excuse your child from an assignment or rushing home to gather up the missing soccer shin-guards will do more damage than good. While it might be easier in the moment to smooth things over (who wants to deal with a sobbing 6 year-old who forgot her math homework when the bus is coming and the baby is crying and you have a meeting downtown in 28 minutes!?), not rescuing from the situation teaches a child responsibility and accountability.

In the big world of adulthood, life happens for real. Allowing children to hone the skills needed to become productive members of society may cause a few bumps in the road now, but by doing so, they will be able to successfully navigate the twists and turns of the future so they, too, can enjoy the ride.