Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What Children Really Need

Should we chain our children to the bedpost until they reach adulthood? Should we shield them from all negative influences until they can make mature decisions? 

When Dr. Willis Tate was at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, he told of a mother who gallantly tried to protect her son. She wrote a long letter to Dr. Tate about her son who was coming to enroll as a freshman. She wanted the president to make sure that the boy had a “good” roommate who would encourage him to go to church and not use bad language. She did not want the roommate to smoke or otherwise negatively influence her son. 

But the mother’s closing remarks make the letter unforgettable: “The reason all of this is so important is that it is the first time my boy has been away from home, except for the three years he spent in the Marines.”

Parents want to protect their children. But perhaps more importantly, most parents want their children to develop sufficient inner resources to protect themselves in potentially destructive situations. They want to equip them to be independent, to make responsible decisions on their own. 

Educator Leo Buscaglia said, “Don't smother each other. No one can grow in the shade.” Which means that, as their children grow into adulthood, parents must gradually learn to give up thinking that they can protect them and learn better ways to be helpful. Maybe their most important job is just to love them. And isn’t love really what children of any age truly need from their parents?

-- Steve Goodier