The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

How to Be a Brave Parent

by Lydia Anderson
April 2, 2014
Wed, 04/02/2014 - 14:20 -- landerson

The Atlantic's recent cover story on “The Overprotected Kid” has hit a nerve in many families. Parents don't want to be neglectful, but also don't want to helicopter, and it can be tough to find a balance. Luckily, Krissy Pozatek can help! In the article below, originally posted on her website, The Parallel Process, Krissy helps us to understand what parents can do to nurture and strengthen their children no matter where they live or their income bracket.

The article, “The Overprotected Kid,” may leave us all with envy that we don’t have a “risky-play playground” around the corner in our neighborhoods, where kids can be lost for hours to build natural confidence in a container called, “The Land,” with the supervision of professionally trained “play-workers.” The good news is, there is a way to employ these concepts in everyday parenting which I write about in my new book, Brave Parenting: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Raising Emotionally Resilient Children. In fact every day is littered with obstacles for our young ones to work with as fodder for maturation to build resilience and confidence. Whether it be sibling conflict, chores, homework, school assignments, or a nagging mom. The trick is that we need to value struggle and challenge in our children’s lives and not interfere so much with all their problems.

For example, as we now have built safety-proofed playgrounds, we also create (or try to create) smooth, obstacle-free lives for our kids. What if we stopped managing their homework, their chores, their emotions, and their weekends and so on? What if we allowed all these things to stay on our children’s laps as our parents used to do. What if we let them have a bad day (rather than cheering up)? What if we let them struggle with homework and even validate the struggle (“that looks challenging”)? What if we simply give them a consequence for not doing their chore (no allowance) rather than constant nagging? What if we allow them to feel bored, rather than provide constant entertainment or a need for productivity? What if we became more like these very cool sounding “play-workers,” “who keep a close eye on the kids but don’t intervene all that much.” Sounds like a great description of Brave Parenting. We can also decide what is in the container, just like in “The Land.” For example we don’t have to have a TV in our house, or lots of screens, junk food, etc.; we can put a lot of healthy stuff in the container like sports, spirituality, lots of nature, and so on.

The trick is we don’t need to be on alert, constantly removing struggle from our children’s lives, and padding any discomfort. Certainly what I coach parents to do is to differentiate between safe and unsafe struggle. It is hard to watch our kid’s struggle. So most of the time we step in, even if it is normal safe struggle, like getting out of bed on time for school, figuring out friend-problems, or a hard math assignment. We can listen and create a container where we are there and present for them, but we don’t have to step-in and solve problems that aren’t ours. This is how kids build their own skills. With unsafe struggle – I give parents the green light to step-in. This can range from your child being bullied, to hitting his head snowboarding, to experimenting with drugs. Just like a play-worker, we can intervene if there really is a safety issue. If not, let’s compassionately encourage our kids to problem-solve and be resourceful in the face of life’s adversity and natural consequences. What if we even validated struggle as normal and necessary for maturation – even good.

Today kids don’t feel their life is their own. They feel that their emotions are to be managed by mom and dad, and as a result most kids aren’t fully engaged in their lives, solving their own problems and feeling their own feelings. If you’d like to become a Brave Parent and allow your kids to develop more natural confidence and resilience – pick up a copy of Brave Parenting.

Reposted with permission from

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