Most parents will tell you that they are preparing their children for life. Most people would agree that this is part of the parental job description. My question is, what kind of life are we preparing them for?
Parents justify all kinds of parenting decisions by saying, "That's just the way life is." When a child has a teacher who is harsh and negative, or one they just don't get along with, a parent will say, "She needs to learn how to deal with people like that because some day she will have to work for a boss who is like this teacher." When a child doesn't like the food that the parent prepared for dinner the parent may say, "This is what's for dinner, you need to learn to eat what you are given. There will be times in life where you don't have a choice about what you eat." When a child is teased by another child the parent may say it is a normal part of childhood and that their child needs to toughen up. When a child tries a new sport or activity, and finds out that they really don't enjoy it, their parent will say that they can't quit. They need to learn how to stick with what they have started. The parent will tell you the child needs to learn how to deal with things they don't enjoy doing because they will have a job in the future they don't like. Parents tell their kids that that is just the way life is.
Parents tell their children that they must do what they are told, be respectful of adults, go to bed at a specific time, go to school, complete their homework and do chores. Parents tell their children how much time they can spend on the computer, who they should be friends with, and what and when to eat. Parents try to prepare children for life by controlling them, teaching them lessons, and making them do the things that adults have decided are important. Parents do this because they want to be good parents. They do these things because this is how it was done by their parents before them. Parents often say that they do these things to prepare their children for life. They do these things because they want their children to be prepared for how life is.
How often do we as parents stop and ask why life is the way it is? Do we stop and ask ourselves if we want our child to live in a world were life is set up so that people have bosses they don't get along with and jobs they don't enjoy? Do we consider what life would be like if everyone ate food they liked when they were hungry and participated in activities because the activities brought them joy? Have we considered that not only does life not have to be the way it is, but that life is rapidly changing and it isn't how it was 20 years ago and it won't be the same 20 years from now. We really have no idea what life in the future will be like, we have no idea what the world we are preparing our children to live in as adults will be like.
When we prepare our children for life by teaching them lessons based on the "That's just how life is and you need learn to deal with that" philosophy we are helping to perpetuate life like it is. If we teach our children to accept a life with bosses they don't get along with and jobs they don't enjoy, what life are we preparing them for? Is that the life you would wish for your children?
The next time you say to your kids, "That's just how life is..." or something similar, ask yourself if that is true. Parents tell their children that they have to go to school, that's just how life is. But that's not true. My children don't go to school. Their life isn't like that.
Instead of perpetuating how life is, ask yourself, "What kind of life do I want for my family?" "What do I want my children to know about how life is?"
I want my children to know what foods they enjoy and when they are hungry. I want my children to know how to recognize if a situation, job, relationship, or activity brings them joy. I want them to know how to remove themselves from situations that are not healthy. I want my children to know how to use the resources around them to learn whatever they want to learn. I want my children to know that there are all different kinds of ways to live life and I will be right here with them as they explore the options. I want my children to know that they do not have to accept someone else's definition of how life is.