“Kids today…” It’s a phrase I’ve heard more than once from small business owners who are hiring. They are referring to employees in their 20s who threaten to quit or complain soon after starting because the workload or the work itself isn’t quite as expected to be doing at this age and stage.
Why have we have all but stopped the normal, healthful early training of children as in previous generations which has helped kids build mental muscle?
This requires parents to be mentally strong as well. Watching kids struggle, asking them to face their fears, and holding them accountable for their mistakes is tough. But those are the types of experiences kids need to reach their greatest potential.
Several parenting beliefs have given rise to kids who are ill-prepared to cope with life’s challenges.
It’s an issue that educators are grappling with today, as colleges are focusing on ways to teach resiliency. It’s clear that grit and resilience will benefit our kids in school and once they get into the real world.
Training a Child is (just a bit) like Training (aka ‘Stressing’) Puppies
Now don’t get all shocked that I am loosely comparing training children to training puppies… this is an analogy.
When our kids were young on the farm, we had a wonderful Great Pyrenees named Anna, and we raised her puppies to become working farm dogs. We learned how to stress/train those puppies to get them ready to be productive, competent adult working dogs capable of protecting small farm stock or even guarding children. It wouldn’t do for them to be fearful of new situations or their surroundings, so we had to give them small stresses gradually over the last 3 weeks they had with us before going to their new home at 5-6 weeks.
Simply put, we had to “stress” them.
Starting at 8 days old, we took them for short periods (like 10 seconds) from their mother. Boy, were they unhappy! But right back they went to mama, and we would pat them and say, “There, there, it’s okay!”
And just so you know, I do NOT advocate this for human babies, lest someone say I do!
Every day we would gradually take the puppies for a bit longer and farther out on the farm to learn some of the ropes, but soon they’d go back to mom.
They learned quickly. They became calm and eager to learn. At one point, we actually put them in a area with several noisy, feisty hens that were bigger than them. They soon ignored the hens’ bluster, but they also learned the hens weren’t their next meal or play things.
It was a great little business for the children, and one of the reasons it succeeded (and people would pay a premium for our puppies) was because the puppies grew to be exceptionally well-adjusted, eager-to-work adult dogs and word spread. They were confident with their role, and they could be counted on.
While that isn’t a perfect analogy and puppies are very different than children, the outcome is intended to be quite the same.
Proper Training Produces Mental Growth!
Veterinary Dr. Bruce Fogle’s book “The Dog’s Mind” says that early handling (in some dog circles it’s called stressing) in a puppy’s life can be good for the emotional development of the dog and will make him better able to cope with stresses later on in life.
Mild stresses early in life influence the adrenal-pituitary system, fine-tuning it to respond in a sensitive and graded manner later on in life rather than in an all-or-nothing fashion.
Findings according to EEG readings on puppies showed:
- Dogs mature faster if they undergo mild stresses early in life
- They also perform better at problem solving when they are older than do other dogs
- Even mild stress in the newborn period is good for a pup’s mind
- Constant temperature, comfort and freedom from adverse conditions do NOT make for better puppies
- Mild stress accelerates body growth, reduces emotionality and may even increase resistance to certain diseases
What we can be certain of is that a hands off policy – of leaving it to nature – is definitely NOT in the best interests of the puppy.
It’s also not in the best interests of our children!