Generation E: Help Your Children Stop Enduring Now!

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We pour our hopes and dreams into our children from the moment they are born. We want them to fare better in life and grow up more secure and presumably happier than . . . than what? Than we are. But despite our best intentions, today’s children are fast becoming a generation of endurers raised by a generation of endurers. And everyone pays a steep price. Parents run the risk of passing their ever-striving-never-stopping tendencies on to the next generation. Call them Generation E—a whole generation of kids for whom enduring seems, if not natural, at least normal.

For many parents afraid for their children’s future, childhood has become a race to the finish line, the brass ring being college and a good career. Isn’t it ironic that, in pursuit of our children’s “success,” we sacrifice ourselves and them by driving them so hard? If the road we’re on together is plagued with stress, resentment, and fatigue, then perhaps it is a vicious circle and not a road at all.

As parents who truly have our children’s best interests at heart, we need to take a different approach. We can help our children stop enduring by practicing a new mantra: Enough is enough!

•Don’t over schedule. Offering children the very best doesn’t mean keeping them busy every moment, even with what we believe are enriching pastimes and enterprises. Nowadays, 12-year-old children are using the term ‘burnout,’ and the sad part is, they mean it! Cut back on the extracurricular activities. Let your child’s moods, energy level, learning style, personality, and interests dictate how many activities they pursue. Then put your own energy level and needs into the equation.

•It’s okay, even good, if kids get bored. Boredom is beneficial, if not imperative, to the growth, creativity, and confidence of children. When children have moments to dream up new ways to entertain themselves and each other, their imaginations are developed in ways a controlled learning environment can’t compete with.

•Teach your kids the difference between endurance and perseverance. True perseverance involves the spirit. When we persevere toward a goal, we are listening to that still small voice within. We are inspired, not drained; empowered, not victimized. When we are enduring, however, we hear only our fears. Our spirit is drowned out by this fear-driven voice that warns us to remain hyper vigilant, ultimately leading us to exhaustion—victims of our To Do lists, the demands of our jobs, and our failing mental and physical health. We exude fear and dread, not enthusiasm. Stuck in a rut, lost in fear, how can we expect to be able to help our kids discover their path?

Begin to discern this important distinction for yourself and you will be able to help your children persevere rather than endure. Children mimic what they see parents doing. So the most important way to stop their endurance in its tracks is to get out of the endurance cycle yourself. Do you feel you never have time to stop? Do you resent never having the time to do things your spirit longs for? Do you look forward to an imagined future time when you will feel happier/ more energetic/debt free? Do you feel resigned and unappreciated as a parent, in spite of all you do? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are enduring. Something needs to change—the sooner, the better.

•If you are enduring . . . It’s time to stop now. The primary source of endurance is fear. Are you worried about your children’s future so much that you can’t imagine taking a risk in your job or career, even for your own well being? Are you convinced that your child will not get into a good college if you don’t continue to sacrifice both your energy and your financial resources? Try not to let fear rule your life or theirs. Take a risk to live a more inspired life yourself so that this, and not powerlessness, is your legacy to your children. Live a life that is admirable by your own standards and your children will both notice your courage and want to emulate it.

•When they disappoint you, give time ins, not time outs. Next time your child doesn’t meet your expectations or misbehaves, don’t ground them or call a time out; provide a time in. Let them talk to you and you will learn more than you would have by closing the door on your communication. If we want our children to be honest with us, we have to make it safe for them to share with us. If we want them to take responsibility for their actions and their lives, what better way than to ask them to reflect on their behaviors and decide what appropriate steps they need to take next?

•Remember what is most important. Some of our worries about success and failure reflect our own need to prove ourselves worthy in our own and others’ eyes. But we want our children to know that they are inherently worthy, not for what they do, but for who they are. Remind them that they are so much more than the sum total of their successes and failures. And if you need to, remind yourself similarly.

Let your motivation to help your children come from your own spirit’s journey. Let yourself be a gauge of what feels inspiring and enriching. Ignore the fear-based need to charge ahead to the point of exhaustion. By learning to say Enough is enough!, together parents and children may just find life filled with more love, joy, and peace. We owe it to our children and to ourselves to shift our focus from fear for their success to just letting them blossom into the extraordinary beings their spirits already yearn for them to become.

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