Latest from The Conservative Mom

Raising Them Tough

Unpolitically correct opinion: we’re raising a bunch of whiny sissies and we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

I remember the first time I described my kid as durable.

I was with a coworker and it was in passing. In all honesty, I can’t remember the context, but I’m sure it had something to do with my 2-year-old tripping, crashing, or falling off something. Sounds horrible, right? Being nonchalant about your toddler hurting himself? Understandably so, my coworker was surprised by my choice of words. Parents usually describe their kids as sweet, fun, cute, personable, happy… not durable.

I didn’t always have a lackadaisical attitude about the physical well-being of my son. He was my first child, and as such, I spent the first few months of his existence in a perpetual state of panic. I would have nightmares of him falling down our circular staircase or smacking his head on the hard tile floors. His every cry was met with uncertainty and fear on my end that he was in pain and couldn’t express where or what hurt. The outside world felt like a relentless minefield designed to somehow hurt my baby and induce paranoia that I was failing at protecting my child.

I’m not sure the exact moment my entire outlook did a 180, but it’s probably around the time my infant son rolled off our bed.

Now, I know some readers probably read that line and gasped with disdain and horror. How could a mother leave her little baby unattended and allow him to just fall on the floor like a sack of potatoes? If that was your response, you are probably not a parent.

If your response was to burst out laughing, then you are probably a parent.

Because I literally don’t know a single parent that this hasn’t happened to. Maybe not this exact situation – maybe you are a far better mother than I am and would never allow your 5-month-old to fall off a bed. Yet, somewhere along the line, you messed up. Whether you accidentally dropped your kid, let him fall in the bathtub, slammed his finger in a door, forgot to buckle his car seat, or forgot to close the baby gate and let him fall down the stairs… somewhere along the line, you must have messed up. And if you haven’t, you will because all parents mess up.

And, while I don’t think children hurting themselves is funny, what I DO find funny is how delicate we act like our children are.

I can’t believe I have to preface this with a disclaimer because there are so many keyboard warriors and sanctimommies out there, but … I IN NO WAY THINK A CHILD BEING IN PAIN IS A GOOD THING. I DO NOT ENCOURAGE SENDING YOUR 3-YEAR-OLD DOWN A GRAVEL HILL ON A SKATEBOARD WITHOUT PADDING OR A HELMET JUST FOR A HARDY GIGGLE.

However, after the first five falls your kid has, you start to realize how resilient those little buggers are. Literally. Their bodies are actually much more malleable than our old, stiff, worn-out adult bodies. Don’t believe me? Have you ever seen a kid sleep with their neck resting on their shoulders and wonder how the hell they do that without getting a stiff neck? Or how they can sit with their knees and legs bent outward like a W without their knees shrieking in pain? Its because kids are ridiculously bendy.

But there’s something else I learned about the durability of kids that has nothing to do with their physical prowess: A kids’ reaction to pain almost always rests squarely on the reactions of their superiors. If you treat every bump, fall, skid, spill, and bang with an instant need to comfort your child, those things stop being just accidents – they become learned behavior to elicit attention. And learning the difference between real pain and reactive pain requires adjusting your own reactions, accordingly.

This may be a hard pill to swallow (and I’m sure there are plenty of people that will disagree with me), but it’s ok to let your kid cry. Crying won’t kill anybody. Nobody has had the following conversation: “Oh my gosh, did you hear what happened to Suzy’s child? Suzy wouldn’t pick her toddler up when her toddler had a tantrum and that’s why she ended up in the ER.”

Of course, every situation calls for a judgment on your end to assess the seriousness of the situation. There are plenty of times my kid has fallen and I’ve swooped him up to comfort him because I know it hurt and every kid deserves the comfort of their parent when they are hurting. Hell, I’m 34 and I still wish my mom would soothe me when I bang my little toe.

But we as adults have got to stop with this knee-jerk reaction to protect our kids against every damn thing that happens to them. We have got to make the distinction between actual pain and a calculated response based on learned behavior. We have got to let them figure out how to metaphorically navigate the waters without a life vest (not literally – please don’t throw your baby in the pool unless he actually knows how to float).

My kid is a 2-year-old boy, which means he probably bangs his head into something at least twice a day and I’d say maybe 20 percent of those incidents actually result in tears. When he does cry, it might last for 30 seconds. This isn’t me bragging; these are just facts.

While learning how to navigate physical pain at a very young age isn’t a top priority in many parenting circles, I think it’s relevant to the trajectory of how your kid will handle other kinds of adverse situations. Right now, it’s mostly physical pain, but eventually, that physical pain will turn into emotional pain. It’s important that kids are equipped with the skills to recognize what is manageable and what isn’t. Everyone complains that each coming generation seems to be more and more ill-equipped to deal with real-world problems, but that’s not a generational problem – that’s a parenting problem.

I’m not trying to tell you how to raise your kid. I certainly don’t have all the answers and only time will really tell if my parenting methods are effective or detrimental. At this point in the game, the chances of my kid getting his Ph.D. in astrophysics are just as likely as him working at McDonald’s or being a serial killer (or worse, a Democrat). What I DO know is that he’s a very happy kid that is pretty in-tune with his emotions. He cries when something is recognizably painful and gets up and brushes himself off when there’s no reason to cry. Hopefully, he’ll carry this trait with him as he grows and becomes a man. Pain (both physical and mental) is an unavoidable part of life and it is our responsibility as parents to teach our children the coping mechanisms to deal with it.

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  1. Unfortunately parents who have not themselves learned the “ coping mechanisms” will not be able to teach them to their children. This not only applies to “pain” but to many of life’s other important issues such as working hard to get a good education or job skills, using appropriate discretion regarding the use of alcohal or drugs and learning how to make a marriage work. It’s sad to see so many young people with no idea how to raise those beautiful children they keep bringing into the world. I hate to identify a problem without offering a solution, but in this case that’s what I am doing. Sorry.

  2. Thank your for speaking the TRUTH…OMG I have boys 29, 16, and 14 and they have had their fair share of knocks. It is so true that they need to learn to distinguish between a parents overblown reaction and something that truly hurts. As a nurse, it makes a difference too….every cut finger is NOT a 10 on the pain scale! Let’s let our boys (oh yeah I do believe in two gender specific choices) not be wimpy….

  3. I’ve watched my granddaughter pull the “crying game” to get her way. She starts to cry when upset or hurt and the tears stop at once when catered to.

  4. Fantastic article!

    I’m 54; my little brother is 52. We were raised by a single mother in the 1970s; we were “latchkey kids” before there was a term for it. Mom is a logical person; she isn’t given to emotional outbursts. When we got hurt or sick, we were taught to treat it as a problem to be solved, not an emergency.

    Now, when I went head over teakettle down a steep street on my bike, that was an emergency. I bark my shin, that’s not.

    I have ADHD, and was diagnosed with “hyperkinesis” before it became ADHD – and we had to figure out how to deal with it. We would get sick, and we talked about symptoms, to figure out what it is, and whether it needed a trip to the doctor or ER.

    M’Lady, you are SO right when you say “those little buggers are resilient”. My brother and I survived years of bike wrecks without pads, as well as being generally accident prone. We both have the scars to prove it. BUT – we survived, and are better for it.

    God bless..

  5. Recognizing when that moment occurs is monumental in how you survive being a “mom.”
    Mine came when my 3rd grader came flying down a large hill, his broken leg sticking out to the side, on a large piece of cardboard, yelling “ hey Mom look at me.” He had destroyed two casts already and I knew right then that if I didn’t want to worry for the next 20 years, I had to let him fly!!!

  6. I understand what you are saying. Many years ago, my mother lamented to the family doctor about one of us kids getting hurt, and how she wished that these things never happened, so we never experienced any injury and/or pain.

    Our wonderful, wise doctor replied, “that would be wonderful for their bodies, but very bad for their character.”

  7. Great article on how to raise kids to handle the ups and downs of life. With this approach it is doubtful that the will become snowflakes.👍🏻

  8. Great article on how to raise kids to handle the ups and downs of life. With this approach it is doubtful that they will become snowflakes.👍🏻

  9. As a father of 6 I can relate and certainly speak with some level of experience. The term durable is AWESOME!
    For many of us, including myself, I look back at my childhood remembering…
    riding in the backs of trucks, biking with no helmets, skinning my knees, bumped, bruised, scraped up and in no way coddled. We fished the rivers alone from 10 years old. We grew up with parents that were WWII generation. We survived our upbringing and we are no worse for the wear.
    Today things are certainly different in most households. I see a generation of softer kids. I see it in parenting and schools. Even in politics and socially we are a softer version.
    I prefer the durable approach.
    I was loved growing up, but it was tough love and it was ALWAYS ok to get out there and live. We survived and so will our kids.
    My only advice. Love them. Teach them and dont put them in a bubble. Great article. Should have been titled “kids are made of nerf material” LOL thanks!

  10. I am a 60 yr old former kindergarten teacher and grandma. My husband and I raised 3 rough and tumble boys into amazing young men, and enjoyed reading your article until your comment about Democrats being worse than serial killers. Please, please, please use your writing skills to make the USA a better place. Stop this kind of talk, even if it was an attempt at humor. Teach your 2 yr old son how to get up when he falls, and how to express opinions without hate. Read what YOU wrote about the “Pledge of Allegiance”. We are all in this together. I appreciate your willingness to share the joys and frustrations of parenting and hope you respect me enough to take my words to heart. Thank you.

  11. You are right on conservativemommy. Although the democrat comment won’t go over well with some who may read it, no matter how much I agree with you!! LOL. Love the site. Keep up the good work

  12. Loved the durable comment, aunt to over 45+ before the greats come into the counting. After a fall etc, kids will look at parents to see proper emotion or response required. Parents make a big deal, the child cries, parent continues with whatever he/she was doing, child gets up and continues on its way. Never believed in false praise either, praise should be reserved for real accomplishments. Certain things should be expected from children on a daily basis (this changes based on child’s age). When the child does something exceptional or over and above expectations then praise is deserved. If the child has a type of disability which places ordinary accomplishments in the exceptional ream, then praise is warranted as he or she moves forward in the developmental phase. As a child gets older, don’t forget to thank them when they help out with things around the house; no, I’m not talking about payment for chores etc. I’m talking about a sincere thank you for their help. An acknowledgement that they are helping so that you have more time to spend with them or have more time to take them where they need to go. It’s not praise per say; however, it will help their self esteem grow and lets them know you appreciate their actions.

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