How much should we try to protect our children from life’s vicissitudes? Some parents feel that if they don’t protect their children from teasing, bullying, and fighting, they will develop poor self esteem that will undermine their success in life. Other parents feel just the opposite and believe that their children learn independence, resiliency, and strength from dealing with adversity. There are negatives to both positions, particularly at the extremes. Neither extreme overprotection nor unnecessary exposure to hardship will be of benefit to the majority of children.
More significantly, both positions leave out an all-important variable, namely, the child. The same boiling water that hardens the egg softens the carrot. The same overprotection, or adversity, that strengthens one child may be devastating to another. And this is true even if both children are from the same family. Children are different and there is simply no one parenting style that fits all. The simplest and most obvious example is, of course, the difference between the rearing of boys and the rearing of girls.
If there is no one best style of parenting, there is one basic rule of childrearing. It is a very fundamental rule that holds for other areas of life as well. In business, the rule is to keep your eyes on the store. In sports, the rule is to keep your eyes on the ball. In childrearing, the rule is to keep your eye on the child. We all know our children better than anyone else. Most of us can estimate our children’s IQ’s within ten points. Reflecting upon, and using, what we know about our children is the surest and best guide to parenting them effectively and appropriately.
By Professor David Elkind