The next time you shake hands with a professional gardener, notice the callouses. Without their rough skin, the gardener can neither grow vegetables for dinner nor flowers for the vase.
The wisdom that growth comes from discomfort is obvious when talking to a gardener. So why do we want our loved ones – especially children – to be happy and comfortable all the time? It wasn’t always this way. Sometime in the late 1990s, just after my childhood years, too many people embraced this dangerous new habit and it was wrong.
In the name of love and caring, adults started handing out trophies for just participating. Some sports leagues even stopped keeping score to avoid any bad feelings among the children. I understand these choices aimed to protect our kids from suffering, but obstacles are the callouses of life and without them there is no growth.
I don’t want my kids to have it easy. They should learn that life is imperfect. I don’t want them to graduate college but still be nervous about negotiating a good salary or come running back to me because they don’t know how to deal with a tough boss.
Instead, the coddling is getting worse. I see parents arguing with teachers, coaches and other authority figures. They want to swoop in and make everything better. And in college athletics, kids can now simply transfer if they don’t like the environment. I’ve heard stories of parents arguing about their kids’ exam grades or even negotiating for their first jobs.
By contrast, every successful person’s journey is filled with limitations that create a tough fighting spirit. Oprah was told she was too emotional to be on TV. Steve Jobs was booted from the company he created. Tony Robins washed dishes in his bathtub. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Richard Branson’s headmaster said he would end up either a millionaire or locked in prison.
Suffering is hard to watch, especially among loved ones. I’m not suggesting abandoning kids to their fate. But if we want our families to enjoy abundance and gratitude, then they must regularly face up to challenges. Kids should be learning how to deal with barriers and not be pampered into believing obstacles are a fiction.