One thing that characterizes all of us parents is our protective instincts. Let alone humans, animals have protective instincts towards their babies. The difference though between us humans and other animals is that this instinct does not wave off as our children grow. Babies or not, our children remain children to us, and we feel the need to keep protecting them from the world. Children need care and protection from their parents. That is for sure. This is true because children are not experienced as we are as adults and have limited knowledge on how to deal with the intricacies of this world.
What I believe parents should avoid, though, is over protection. As an adult, I have come to learn that the best thing that the parents can offer to their children, aside the protection of their basic needs such as food, health, shelter and education, is to prepare them for this world. As we grow, there is so much we learn about how we should deal with the complexities of the world. Some of us are prepared for the complexities and are armed with the tools needed to successfully navigate through these complexities, and some of us are simply not. The latter type are those who grow physically, with basic needs satisfied, get a career and start a family, but deep down, their inner self remains immature, childish, and unprepared for this world.
As we know it, life is not glossy as we would like it to be. This both represents the beauty of life and its challenges. We face numerous types of challenges in life. It can be related to our health, our social interactions with friends, families, work colleagues and the society at large, our education, our finances, and our families. We all do our best to address these challenges, but sometimes we may fail miserably. I believe our failure comes from our limited preparedness for such types of challenges as we grow up as children.
Take social interactions for instance. The way we have been brought up, I believe, greatly determines how we interact socially with others during adulthood. One of the things I have observed in Ethiopian society is that we have limited tolerance for differences of opinion. Having a debate on subjects often leads to mislabeling, bad feelings, grudges and resentments. We have not been taught that one of the things that we will be facing as adults is difference of opinions and that it is ok to think differently. We have not been trained to tolerate and accept those who are different from us. We have not been taught on the strategies to handle differences of opinions, to come together on aspects that assimilate us and to agree to disagree on items which we have completely different opinions on. We have not been taught that when someone disagrees with your opinion, it is not because they hate you or want to undermine you, but it is rather because they came from a completely different background than you that made that they think differently than you. We have not been taught to accept each other. So, in the real world, we find it difficult to live in harmony. Alternatively, in order not to disturb the harmony, we choose to either keep silent or agree with the one perceived as “more powerful” or agree with what most agree with. On the other extreme, we decide to force our opinions on others, regardless of the damages that such act may entail on others. As children, we have not been taught to handle our differences.
Take also failure in life. Failure can happen at any point in time, in your career, in running a family, etc. A society that has not been taught that failure is ok never learns. A person who does not like to admit their failure often finds it difficult to change the situation that led to the failure. So they keep making the same mistakes over and over again, even after seeing that doing so is causing a lot of damage. For such a person, the damages from repeating their mistakes are felt less than the damage that accepting their mistakes would cause to their egos.
The best thing we can do for our children as parents is to equip them with personality tools that can conquer the complexities of this world!