Is ‘suffering’ essential to learning?

We all aspire to raising perfect well adjusted children ! right? (I know some people seem more interested in raising little devils! – bless them, but we’ll focus on the majority for the moment!)

So we’d do whatever it takes – right? We all know that the best way to learn something is to learn the lesson yourself – true?

Then why do we prevent our children from learning the hard way! Why do we make their lives so easy!

You don’t think so? Do you tell your children not to do things ’cause it will hurt?? No?

Have you ever noticed that telling a child not to do something has little or no effect. It’s not until they get hurt that they hopefully stop doing something! Like “Don’t run inside” – it’s not until they fall down a couple of times that they slow down…

But as parents we find it hard to “stand by and watch”, knowing what will happen – because we are older and wiser! Or because we prefer to have easy lives ourselves? I mean really, why do we cajole children into getting out of bed because they will make “us” late? Shouldn’t we be letting them understand first hand what happens when they are late?

Too often our world lets people off with easy outs. An extreme example is a question my 12 year old asked me this morning…. “why don’t police help people recover their stolen goods when they have a lead to follow up?” Hmmm, well because a) they only have so much time, and we only pay so much tax, and there only so many police, and they have more important things to chase, and b) besides, the insurance we pay gives us new belongings to replace the old ones. So where is the incentive to punish the people who do wrong!

But i digress. The point – without the legitimate suffering we all must “experience” first hand – we do not learn nor grow, and until we do go through this we do not become immune to the hurt these things cause.

I’ve heard of adolescents who simply never move out of home, or if they do they return home – why – becuase it’s so good (easy) at home – broadband, washing, cleaning food! then i wondered, why did my wife an i leave our respective homes “on time” – in short – it was shall we say challenging to remain there! (To our parents, we now thank you for this even though you might be hurt by it if you didn’t understand what a good job you were doing.)

So i implore you to – as a parent (or manager) to be sadistic and take pride in that! What! No! Ok, perhaps you need to be clear about the definition of this, as i don’t want you to misunderstand!

1)adj. someone who takes pleasure in the pain of others
2) not to be confused with cruel, some one who is cruel is mean for the sake of being mean a sadist (sadistic person) is someone who is mean for the sake of enjoyment

So, I mean – take pleasure in the fact that you are helping them learn by experience, not pleasure in their pain because that is cruel – and that is not loving – you are as a parent the one who provides unconditional love – and there is nowhere in that for cruelty.

So next time your child about to cross a line, think about this before you take away from them one of the greatest gifts you can give them – the right to experience suffering for the purpose of learning! Legitimately though!

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Posted on July 2, 2011, in Life and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Interesting thoughts Matt. I agree, it’s hard to let them make their mistakes, but I’ve been doing that with mine once they got to 15 or 16 and it’s nerve wracking…but worth it. The problem comes when they get to an age to make some really dangerous, serious mistakes. And you just have to trust that the core values you’ve instilled will eventually come through. I reckon if parenting isn’t exhausting, time consuming and gut wrenching, then you’ve probably delegated your responsibility to someone else…perhaps the TV.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

    • Di, i had a glimpse of the ‘future’ this week, and that inspired me to write it down… but yes, mine are only just pushing little boundaries, can’t wait for the big ones… my research made me realise, that surprisingly, there are just as many web savvy parents out there who have some really good suggestions about some of the challenges we face, as well as providing the support that we sometimes need to ‘stick by our guns’ so to speak. it’s a tough job parenting – who’d have signed on if they truly new what was going to happen. 🙂 But now at least i know my own suffering – is for the better!!!

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