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August 5, 2014

Good for Nothing

Image: Flickr/Aikawa Ke

Image: Flickr/Aikawa Ke

“You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy again.” (Jean Jacques Rousseau)

As odd and counter-intuitive as it sounds, doing nothing is often far more valuable than doing something. It is in those moments when children learn to entertain themselves, to find joy in simplicity, to solve problems, to be content. And yet parents often feel compelled to either push children towards the level of responsibility they’ll encounter as adults, or to present them with a life of no responsibility at all.

Those are two very dangerous extremes, and the worst part is, many parents fluctuate from one to the other!

On one hand, we push our kids by structuring their every waking moment. Then we shake our heads when they lack joy and have trouble maintaining relationships. On the other hand, we overprotect them, intervening for them and solving all their problems on their behalf. Then we complain when they’re immature and don’t have any initiative or drive. In either case, we over-manage our kids, and it’s almost always because of our own anxiety.

If you truly want to prepare your child for a successful adulthood, avoid the twin impulses to overprotect or overprepare. Relax. Teach your child to live in the moment. That’s a skill very few of their peers will possess, and you might be surprised at how they will flourish because of it.

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