Chapter Review “The Fruits of Frustration”
Ever since the middle of the 20th century experts have been suggesting that frustration is bad for kids. But in The New Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children Johh Rosemond correctly observes that:
- Frustration is a normal and accepted reality of adult life.
- Frustration forces the growth of qualities such as resourcefulness.
- Frustration is managed best by perseverance, the most appealing, endearing and inspiring element of every success story.
Because frustration is the gateway, not the barrier, to these great qualities and cannot be avoided anyway, John says
Parents are “obligated” to frustrate their children.
And that frustration is best provoked through the use of what he calls “vitamin N,” the “no” word!
A good definition of frustration might be:
Wanting things you cannot easily or readily obtain, things that require patience to reach and knowledge you don’t already have. It is frustrating to wait for something you would like to have now. It is also frustrating to work toward a goal but finding yourself moving in a completely different direction or making progress so slowly it feels like you are going nowhere. But this is common to us all.
To illustrate his point, John encourages adults to unabashedly write out a list of everything they would like to have or experience in the next five years, leaving nothing out. Not just things you can afford or have the ability to obtain but things that appeal to your fancy whether you could afford them or not, qualified or not.
Reflecting on the list afterwards reveals that only 10 to 20 percent would be realistically reachable, unless a participant doesn’t want much.
That, however, is exactly how children make their list of “wants” but in their case 75% of the list is probably going to be realized due to the generosity of parents, grandparents, other extended family members and friends.
The point? A child’s desire is not frustrated often and that leaves them very unprepared for real life as adults.
- As adults we learn to say “no” or at least “not now” to the items we know we can’t afford or handle yet.
- As adults we learn to select only those goals we can realistically achieve in the near future and focus our attention and energy accordingly.
- As adults we also develop the ability to work patiently and strategically toward those goals, otherwise known as delaying gratification with a plan.
The question? When are these skills developed?
And the answer? In childhood.
Children aren’t naturally wise enough to know how to build a life from the ground up and they don’t supply their own wants anyway. Therefore, as parents we must allow frustration to run its course in their lives. According to John we should encourage it.
John says children need…
protection, affection and direction. Beyond that they need to hear us say ‘no’ far more often than ‘yes‘ when it comes to their whimsical yearnings.
And why are we so compelled to say “yes” most of the time? Because parents want their children to have a better life than they had.
The problem is you can’t give a quality life to anyone. You can help them develop the skills to achieve it and point out the opportunities to reach it but giving them more “yes’s” than “no’s” predisposes them to expect it as a gift rather than achieve it on their own.
Happiness, John correctly points out, is a pursuit not an inheritance. It is not a right. The pursuit of happiness is a right, happiness is not.
John’s prescription for frustrating children is:
- One, Give children everything they really need and only 25% of what they want. He calls this benign deprivation.
- Two, Don’t do anything for your children they can do for themselves.
Children become creative, resourceful and self-sufficient when they know that “they” must do it for themselves.
- Three, Don’t rescue them from failure or disappointment. Let them grow through the experience. Be sensitive and available should they ask but don’t intrude with your adult solutions.
- Four, Don’t do anything just to relieve their discomfort.
Kids not only want “material things” they want “service” and “convenience” also.
If parents were running a business and children were their primary patrons, serving them well would be the thing to do. But children are projects not patrons.
They need molding not massaging. We should never intentionally make them uncomfortable but we should never relieve them of the discomforts that naturally occur in life.
If you mollycoddle your children throughout their youth, you better hope they marry a slave.
Your children will never appreciate the sacrifices you make in doing your part to support the home if they are not allowed to experience a similar sacrifice in doing their part.
- Five, Don’t worry about being fair. John says, “Fair” for a child is “me first.”
And if you have more than one child never treat them exactly the same. Everyone is different and you must construct your responses to each child according to their particular needs.
- Six, Remember that your style of living can only be theirs if they earn it.
If you have earned a particularly high standard of living you must realize that the only way your child can reach it is the same way you did. No one gave it to you so no one can give it to them, not even you.
- Seven, Never give your children the impression that they are your life.
That places too much responsibility on the child. It makes them responsible for you. You may enjoy and take pleasure from their accomplishments but they are no more responsible for what you get out of life than you are for what they get out of life.
Loving your kids doesn’t mean you will intentionally cause their pain but, if you really love them, you will allow them to experience life’s naturally painful moments rather than prevent them from happening.
If you allow your child to be frustrated, you will be doing them, yourself and society a great service.
There is more to the chapter. Get the book inexpensively at Amazon. You’ll be glad you did.