Challenges Create Extraordinary Individuals
An individual’s upbringing is a substantial part of their lives. Everyone one is raised differently. Not even siblings share the same experiences through growing or standards their parents put them through. One question that comes up through the centuries of raising children is what exactly is the best way to raise one’s child. There will never be an agreement between parents on what that is. The definition of an ideal upbringing is interchanging between families, and continues to change with time. What many people believe however; is that they themselves haven’t experienced the ideal upbringing. If you were to ask them, they would come up with something that their parents may have done that has affected them negatively. This is because most people have a pre-existing idea of what a childhood should entail.
In many minds when thinking about an ideal upbringing the classic picket fence idea comes up . The picket fence idea concept is an iconic status in the United States. It symbolizes an ideal middle-class suburban life, including a family with 2-3 children and a dog, a big house and an overall peaceful lifestyle. The husband has a good job that pays well so the wife can stay home and take care of the kids. And the children are free to pursue the things they want including sports, music, anything that they show interest in. “But the symbolism of the white picket fence was inescapable, and it slid into popular culture as a visual shorthand for the good life.” Michael Dolan shows the influences of this idea in his article, How Did the White Picket Fence Become a Symbol of the Suburbs? in the Smithsonian Magazine. This may be what defines a good life, but not an ideal upbringing. There are many factors that go into the white picket fence idea that agree with the claims of Julie Noonan, author of “What makes a good childhood” for the publisher, Berry Street Childhood Institute Knowledge to Action, such as having children feel valued and respected for who they are. “A good childhood is characterised by stable, responsive, caring relationships in families and in the community. Children thrive in nurturing environments that encourage them to explore and engage safely with the world around them, and support them to fulfil their potential.” This is what pops up when “perfect childhood definition” is googled, and most people would agree that these factors would create the groundwork of a stable upbringing.
There are several outside factors that affect families, and the raising of one’s child. The pressures families feel when trying to afford housing and their everyday expenses are two factors mentioned in which the child has little control over. What should be discussed more is that if the child’s basic needs are being met, then there could be certain alterations made to better that child in the long-run. This idea is addressed in Julia Noonan’s chapter on Childhood Wellbeing: Good Childhood Domains, “For all children to survive, they need to have the very basic material resources in place – food, water and shelter. This is a known fact, but in order for children to thrive, they need much more than the basics.” Many families have a lifestyle that is more or less like the white picket fence fantasy, but they fail to realize the potential they are giving their children as well as the potential life lessons they could be teaching them. Most parents have the natural instinct of wanting to give their children everything they never had when they grew up, and this continues on through each generation. What some may not realize is that by attempting to give their children everything they could ever want or need, can cause them more damage than benefit them. As Julie Noonan would describe it as one of her main factors to her chapters, “Childhood wellbeing is not just about the immediate lives of children, but also the long-term outcomes.” What some parents fail to realize is that their children’s upbringing is a very brief, but very critical time in their lives where they must develop skills in order to better be prepared once they enter the real world.
Ultimately it all depends on what that particular family values and what life lessons they want to pass on to their children. There are families that value education above everything else, others may view becoming a contributing member to society as the most important thing their child can do, and some believe that kids just need a chance to be kids. “The changing nature of how we have defined and understood ‘childhood’ over many centuries’ highlights that it is not a constant but an ever-shifting construct” as Julia Noonan perfectly states on page 14 in her book. There are many different opinions on how to raise one’s children and it continues to change through the years as economical factors fluctuate and people’s morals change. Even though there are some things that can be universally agreed upon, the concept of an ideal upbringing will never be agreed on and will continue to change throughout families and time. Yet, what can be altered throughout all childhoods is what parents value and what they find vital to pass onto their children.
Family values have gone through radical changes through generations and have resulted in different family dynamics. A quote from an article called How Parent-Child Relations Have Changed from Psychology Today reads “At the same time, parents have grown far more sensitive to the risks that their children face, both physical and psychological.” The author, Dr. Steven Mintz, goes on to tell the readers about the drastic changes the average childhood is like in today’s day and age. He compares it to parent techniques in the 50’s, where there was a clear establishment of who the authority figures were within a family. Many families today lean towards more of a friend or acquaintance relationship once their children reach a certain age. The idea of respect also plays a factor on this as well. Children should have a respect for their parents and a trust that they know what is best for them. There is nothing wrong with having a close relationship with their child, in the sense that if they needed anything, the parents would be the first people they go to for guidance. Establishing trust needs to be within the groundwork of every upbringing.
In order to gain a sense of self accomplishment, the child must be put through a challenge and work their way to the end goal. Something as simple as doing chores can give the child a sense of responsibility and a feeling of success once the task is completed. Julie Lythcott-Haims talks about this concept in her 2015 Ted Talk, titled “How To Raise Successful Kids – without over-parenting.” She dives into the idea of modern day parenting and how constantly being there and supporting your child can actually be detrimental for them in the long-run. “and so, with our overhelp, our over protection and over direction and hand-holding, we deprive our kids of the chance to build self-efficacy.” With the constant praise children receive from parents the child may begin to think, “What if someday, I won’t have someone there to praise me for my hard work, then what?” They begin to create a dependency on the constant encouragement their parents give them. “Self efficacy is built when one sees that one’s own actions lead to outcomes.” By developing this skill early on, it will benefit the child in their future carriers, relationship, and life over all.
Why would parents even consider putting their children through hardships in order to teach them a lesson? Why not just try to teach them though communicating with them? These are all valid questions; however, some lessons cannot just be taught through lecture. Even though some children may be considered visual or auditory learners, it takes real life experiences to better prepare a child for real life. Dr. Steven Joseph in his article How to See Challenges as Opportunities writes, “By avoiding challenges, we don’t have the opportunities to learn about ourselves.” His piece in Psychology Today, expresses how important it is to get out of one’s comfort zone, in order to continue learning. With nothing to keep pushing us to do better, we would cease to grow as individuals. “To lead an authentic life, we need to take on new challenges that stretch us and give us more opportunities to be ourselves.” Self growth is an essential skill everyone needs. One cannot gain this skill if they are sheltered from anything that may challenge them. In order to continue growing through life, the desire to be better needs to be something that is engraved into an individual’s being and can be trained through real life experiences.
Much like stamina conditioning in sports teams, coaches have players run or sprint 3 miles a day at practice, so when put into the game it is much easier to tolerate the demanded running. This is essentially creating a skill that can be used later on. In addition to this, having the mind and body go through a difficult task makes it easier to accomplish when forced to do something similar in the future. The idea that needs to be imprinted in every individual’s mind is that when put into a difficult situation unexpectedly, the immediate thought that comes to mind would be “Hey, I’ve gotten through more challenging times, I can get through this.” This type of thinking gives the child a sense of independence and confidence in themselves.
Being able to learn everything you need in order to get though life is an impossible task. One can never be fully prepared for what life may bring them in the future, no matter how hard they try to be. Parents are the people responsible for raising their children in a way where they’ll be able to leave the nest and be on their own eventually; however, with customs and values drastically changing in recent years, parents have begun to stray away from the focus of teaching their children life lessons. Rather, they focus on creating a more lenient environment for their children to try new things and make their own decisions.
Some life-like situations are more likely to occur than others. For example getting a flat tire or simply being overwhelmed with daily tasks. Most difficult situations can be easy to get through if you’ve already had similar experiences. The underlining challenge this concept brings is how exactly can this be achieved? Creating hardships for a child to go through isn’t a logical thing to do. Rather, guiding them to the better outcome is what needs to be implemented. Giving them their own set of responsibilities and observing how they work with those. Something as simple as pushing them to try a sport or activity and showing them that one must make the first step to try something to see if they enjoy it and if they don’t then there should be no pressure to. Having them cook their own meal for the family once a week can create major benefits in the future, and also reassure the parents that their child is able to properly feed themselves if they’re not there. Doing these small tasks can make a child’s future everyday life effortless rather than a struggle.
Small challenges are easy for a parent to allow their children to face. What becomes difficult for a parent to do is allowing their children to face dangers alone. Even though there are many more dangers that come in many different forms in today’s world, one will never learn how to face these dangers if they’ve been sheltered from them their entire lives. Being an overbearing parent can be detrimental to the development of a child and their future. As Dr.Steven Mintz would phrase it, “If it has become harder for some children to cut the umbilical cord and establish an independent identity, and if it has become more difficult for some parents to let go and grant their kids a fully autonomous life, for most, the ongoing bond between child and parent proves to be a crucial source of meaning and personal happiness.” The most important matter to consider goes without saying, it is vital for a child to feel loved and secure within their family. The relationship between a parent and their child is a compelling force.
Giving a child more challenges than they already may face may seem like a far fetched idea at first, but it is actually simpler than it seems. “What possible benefit is there in a tumultuous childhood?” as asked in the article, Surprising Benefits for Those Who Had Tough Childhoods in Psychology Today. The author, Megan Hustad, raises a valid question, which most readers would ask the same thing when introduced to this idea. She goes on to describe the not so apparent benefits of having a problematic childhood. Such as having almost a 6th sense when they walk into a room due to their experiences they had growing up. What can be seen in individuals who have experienced troublesome childhoods is a set of skills not everyone is able to acquire.
Take for example, celebrities and athletes who had to work their way up from nothing in order to get to where they are today compared to the children of celebrities who have already had a head start to their careers just by being born. There is something different about them, a more humble attitude on things. No matter how much they gain, their attitude and persona continue to be unpretentious. Oprah Winfrey, whose childhood was full of moving from family member to family member all in small apartments sharing rooms, and at one point facing sexual abuse from family members. Through these many hardships, she still managed to become one of the most successful talk show hosts, television producers, etc. She shares her success with her followers and people who need it most through gifts and donations. And in recent news she donated $10 million to the coronavirus relief.
This can be seen in every line of work, not only celebrities. Successful business men and women, many of whom started out with nothing to their names persevered and climbed the economies ladder. What all of these different groups of individuals have in common is that they have all had to figure out how to do things on their own, without the help from their parents or anyone else. This one simple idea is what defines them and is what needs to be implemented throughout every child’s upbringing. The real challenge is determining what specific steps need to be done to do this the correct way.
It goes to show that not all people who’ve had a challenging upbringing become amazing people, parents who commit crime and have substance abuse tend to have children who grow up doing the same. “First, the broken family creates conditions to predispose children to criminal activities” says Effects of Family Structure on Crime a collection of data created by Marripedia a social science encyclopedia. They go on to talk about several different statistical evidence such as individuals who have been charged by police and then separating them by family structure and religious practice to name one. “The scholarly evidence suggests that at the heart of the explosion of crime in America is the loss of the capacity of fathers and mothers to be responsible in caring for the children they bring into the world.” The years children spend with their parents or guardians are what decides what type of person they’ll be, but those who work to be their own person and detach from their parents, learn lessons along the way that few have the chance to.
This idea of an “extraordinary individual” is even depicted in the media, the main character who doesn’t use fancy training techniques and often comes from a single parent home, defying all odds, and against the one who has had everything they could have ever needed given to them. Classic movies like the Karate Kid, Daniel who is from a single parent home and no background in martial arts defies all odds and competes against his bully in a tournament. He not only wins the match, but he gains the respect of his enemy, which turns out is what he needed all along. What sounds like one of the cheesiest story lines is what inspired many other storylines to come. A hero figure, from humble beginnings, takes matters into their own hands to get what they want and persevere. The types of movies are inspiring and for most viewers and makes them want to be better people.
So why don’t we do this in real life? Unfortunately the desire to want to be successful is not naturally in all of us. An individual needs to decide that they want to become better, and in order for that to happen parents must inspire them to do so. What many immediately think when this topic is brought up is that we as a society can’t drastically alter the way we raise kids. Especially if the thing that we’re changing is making a child’s upbringing inherently more difficult.
Each parent is involved in a vital point in their child’s lives and ultimately are what shape their children into the adults they later become. There needs to be a sense of dignity in wanting to prepare your children for life’s unexpected challenges. The hard to swallow reality is that parents are not always going to be there for their children and life is unpredictable. Preparing a child for what may come their way, can reassure the parents that their children will know what to do when life throws things their way. The best thing that can be given to a child, is the ability to make it on their own and become successful independently.
To fully apprehend this concept you must be open for new ideas, including ones that challenge your beliefs. It is only natural for parents to want the best for their child, and give them everything they could ever want in life. However what you want in life and what you need to survive and to succeed are two drastically different things. By giving your child a set of skills they can use to survive on their own can be one of the greatest gifts of all. Children need to want to survive on their own and become successful as their own person. Individuals who want to get out of the life they are currently living to strive for something that is better, this is what makes an extraordinary individual.
Noonan, Julie “What Makes a Good Childhood?” Berry Street Victoria Inc. Childhood Institute, Knowledge to Action, 2017
Lythcott-Haims, Julie “How to raise successful kids without overparenting.” TED Talks Live. 15 Nov
Dr.Mintz, Steven “How Parent-Child Relations Have Changed” Psychology Today. 7 Apr. 2015
Dr.Joseph, Stephen “How to See Challenges as Opportunities” Psychology Today. 5 Nov. 2016
Dr.Fagan, Pat “Effects of Family Structure on Crime” Marripedia
Hustand, Megan “Surprising Benefits for Those Who Had Tough Childhoods” Psychology Today. 7 Mar. 2017. Reviewed 17 Oct. 2019
Dolan, Michael“How Did the White Picket Fence Become a Symbol of the Suburbs” Apr. 2019