Sunday, November 4, 2018

Butterfly vs Bubble Wrap Parenting


The process of the metamorphosis of a butterfly is an amazing feat. From egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to emergence is truly a miracle.  The culmination of this process is a physical struggle, without which the butterfly will not survive.  

 
Photo by Lindsay Smith


A monarch, for instance, exits its clear chrysalis and begins a laborious process called enclosing.  The creature continuously pumps meconium fluid from its abdomen through the system of veins in it wings. Slowly the wrinkled wings take their traditional stiff-winged shape.  After time for the wings to dry, the monarch is ready to launch itself into the wide world.  Watch Benjamin Hill's time lapse video of a monarch enclosing.   David Schuttler has a good video as well.        

Occasionally, a person may find a butterfly struggling to emerge and and attempt to help it out of the its chrysalis.  Such assistance, more often than not, results in the butterfly's wings not forming properly, leading to its death.  It needs the struggle to force the fluid into its wings, so it can eventually fly.

Our children are a lot like these  butterflies.  We care for them attentively so they don't become injured or have bad experiences.  Our knowledge keeps them safe.

As a teacher, I've seen more parents in the last few years who take take this responsibility to the extreme.  They want to spare their children every negative experience.  Like butterflies, however, children need a few struggles in their lives to help them understand how to solve problems and meet challenges.  

Imagine if you never turned loose of your tiny toddlers' hand when she was learning to walk.  You would be teaching her to fear the inevitable tumbles at that point in her life that lead her ultimately to walking independently.  Instead, you provide a safe environment in which she can learn, with many a fall, to balance and take off.

What if you rescued your sons from every.single.fuss?  How would they learn to problem solve, negotiate, and work out differences in the safety of your own home?  These skills can transfer to the kids in the neighborhood and to their classrooms.  You can listen from the other room or keep an eye on them in the back yard to make sure things aren't going too far.  Later, in cooler moments, you can have a discussion (rather than a lecture) about strategies they can use to get along. 

Parents who carry protection to the extreme are what I call "bubble wrap parents."  They want to insulate their children from any possible negative experience throughout their childhood.  

Their child shows up at the Pinewood Derby an amazingly-designed vehicle because they don't want their child to lose.  Their child brings the perfectly-crafted Student of the Month poster to school that obviously was not their own work.  They're the parent who gets in a teacher's face because their child did not score well on  a test.  They are the kindergartener who falls down and starts screaming because the teacher told the child, "No."

What can a child learn by failing?  Even though I didn't win the race, I still had fun building my car with (not by) my parent.  I enjoyed being creative to make my poster.  If I don't study, I will experience the natural consequences of doing poorly on a test.

If children learn to respect and obey "No" at home, they most likely will act properly at school.   When parents cave in to their children's "No" time and again to keep them "happy" or avoid a fight, they are teaching them unrealistic expectations of the world.  Life is not always going to go the way they want.  Whether it's in their years of school or their jobs later on, they will quickly find it's not Burger King.  They can't always have it their way.

Parents certainly should be supportive of their children and be their back-up when experiences are unpleasant.  They are the sounding boards and teachers to help kids learn to deal with hurts and disappointments sure to come into their lives.  Parents are the advocates when circumstances are beyond their children's abilities to solve.  

Bubble wrapping children against every bump in life stunts their social and emotional development.  It is our job to guide children through childhood and adolescence in such as way as to prepare them for independence as an adult.  As they deal with both positive and negative experiences while growing up, they are like the struggling Monarch who eventually flies away.  Parents walk a delicate balance of being only as supportive as their children need without being smothering.  

Certainly keeps your prayer life active!