Parenting Conflict: To Shield or Not To Shield?

parenting conflict-shielding
Do we shield our children from the increasing struggles of this world or expose them in the hopes of building resilience?

It’s Wellness Wednesday!  I’m going to address a topic my husband and I have been discussing a lot lately in regards to our parenting approach.  It’s about shielding our children from the ugliness of the world, or making them aware and resilient to face the inevitable.  It’s a tough call, no doubt.  In our recipe section I will be sharing some facts about protecting your heart with proper nutrition and one of my favorite (and easy!) cardio-friendly meals.  Thanks for joining me today.  Note–I may receive small compensation from advertisers and affiliate links seen on this blog.  For further information, please see my terms and disclosure page.

Food For Thought  I love my daughter, quirks and all!  She is special beyond description to me.  In fact, she’s been a life-saver to me at times, but that’s a topic for another day.  As her parent, I want to protect her from anything bad.  No, I’m not saying she should get everything she wants or never have to work hard and practice perseverance skills.  But I don’t want her to experience hurt or pain, physically or emotionally.  My feelings and prayers are always to protect her from anything harmful, dangerous, hurtful, or terrifying, and let’s face it, the world is full of things that fall into these categories right now.  As her parent I have always felt it is my job to protect her from these things.  My job as her parent also includes preparing her for the real world and how to function in a place that can get ugly and messy, and sometimes downright mean.  So how do I know if I’m protecting her “too much?”  Am I a bad parent if I shelter her from things that in reality she will need to face on her own some day?  As a kindergarten teacher I definitely saw my fair share of “helicopter parents.”  Am I “that parent.”

These are questions my husband and I began to discuss the other night after she went to bed.  I had taken our daughter to an activity with other kids, mostly her age.  As my daughter went to join another group of girls, they told her not to sit with them and I overheard one of them say “I don’t like her,” referring to my daughter.  As a mom, this is gut-wrenching!  Although my daughter is unique in her mannerisms, she has never exhibited anything but kindness to these other girls, or any kids as far as I’ve seen.  My daughter is the one who always comes home from an activity and says, “Mom, I made knew friends.”  In her eyes, pretty much everyone is her friend.  She thinks this because she behaves in such a way that it doesn’t make any sense why someone wouldn’t be her friend.  This is how she talks about her classmates, too.  She thinks they’re all nice and friendly.  I’ve observed, and I know this isn’t completely true.  But how do I approach all of this with my daughter?  I love her positive outlook on life and people, but I don’t want her to be taken advantage of and I don’t want her to become the brunt of other kids’ jokes.  I desperately want to swoop in and rescue her from any of these potentially hurtful situations. I want to spare her having her feelings hurt and possible tears.  Plus, it makes me mad.  She’s a nice kid, so be nice to her!  My husband’s perspective is a little different than mine.  He says she will have to learn how to solve these social problems without our help and that it’s part of growing up.  Ugghh…growing up the first time was hard enough, do I have to do it again?  So which is the right approach?

Maybe I’m sensitive to this because of what I dealt with growing up.  I was teased and made fun of a lot.  I was left out and whispered about.  School, church, summer camp…didn’t matter, there were always other kids available to make me feel unworthy of their friendships.  But unlike my daughter, I knew it.  I would tell my mom “nobody likes me” instead of “I made new friends.”  I would tell my mom these things and look at her and wonder why she wasn’t trying to help me fix the problem, why she wasn’t able to make me feel better about being left out.  I don’t want my daughter looking at me like that.  But I don’t want to make the problem worse either.  My heart says to shield her from anything unpleasant, but my brain says I need to help her think for herself and how to handle these different situations as they arise.  What is that saying, parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love?  Wow, that’s truth!

So what should we do?  Here are three key points I would want to make about this topic:

First, Pray Consistently.  I pray for my daughter every day after she goes to school.  I pray for her to be able to work and think and complete tasks that she is given, but I also pray that she may give and receive kindness throughout her day.  I also have started to pray before we go to extracurricular activities, again using the words “give and receive kindness.”  I want God to watch over and protect her every day and in every situation and there is no better guarantee for that than to participate in consistent prayer for my child.

Second, Be Present as the Parent.  The only way you can truly know what’s going on in your child’s life is to be present.  Put down your phone or your tablet and listen to them!  I know things my child doesn’t even tell me because I observe, quietly from the sidelines.  I take advantage of opportunities to see her at school events or extracurricular activities and see how she behaves with others.  I pay attention to her demeanor.  If my normally easy-going kid starts getting wound up about something, there’s probably something bothering her.  We eat dinner as a family, no devices allowed, and talk about our days.  This means I learn about the kids she likes to partner with in science, how one girl helped her with a hard book in reading class, the girl who’s raising chickens, who she plays with at recess, and who she likes to sit by at lunch.  I’m not grilling her every day, I’m just paying attention to her words and behaviors.

My third key point is Model Kindness and Grace.  Sometimes as adults we want to be mean back to the people who are mean to us.  We may not do this in the physical sense like my kindergarteners used to do, but we want to say mean things or hold back our help and encouragement out of spite.  It would be so easy to tell our kids to be mean to the kids who are mean to them, but that is NOT how God wants us to act or how He wants us to raise our children.  If I want my child to follow in the footsteps of the Lord (and isn’t that our ultimate goal as parents?), I have to model those behaviors myself.  I have to show kindness and grace to others, even when it is undeserved.  I have to expect my child to do the same, telling her and showing her so she will know that this is what is acceptable to God.

Being a parent is tough, and I’m bound to make plenty of mistakes.  The best thing I can do is pray, study, and trust that God is leading our family down the right path.  I hope I’ve made the right choices so that when my daughter is an adult she will live a life of balance, happiness, kindness, and gratitude.

Today’s Prayer  God, today I ask for You to be with all of us parents as we struggle to make the right decisions while raising our children.  We pray that we will seek You first in all of our decisions and that teaching our children to know and love You is our biggest responsibility.  God, we are all asking for guidance as we try to show our children how to navigate this crazy, often hurtful, world.  Show us how to shield them from the worst of the hurts while teaching them how to handle the other hurts with kindness and grace.  Let us model for them how You would have us behave in these difficult decisions.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Today’s Scriptures  Here are some great verses for helping teach our children, and ourselves, kindness.

Proverbs 24:29  “Do not say, ‘I’ll do to him as he has done to me, I’ll pay that man back for what he did.”

Ephesians 4:32  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgives you.”

Luke 6:31  “Do to others as you have them do to you.”

2 Timothy 1:7  “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and self-discipline.”

Today’s Recipe  We may not be able to shield our children from everything bad in this world, but we can take action steps to help them be prepared for what is in store for them.  Likewise, we may not be able to prevent all cardiovascular ailments in our bodies, but we can take action steps to shield our hearts through proper nutrition.  Today, I want to share my favorite “fast food” for helping take care of my heart.

This meal is a Smokey Peppercorn Salmon with a saute’ of spinach, onions, and white beans, served with a side of fresh berries.  So here’s the facts:  Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.  The benefits start with raising HDL levels (good cholesterol) and continue helping by lowering blood pressure and stabilizing heartbeat.  Spinach has a long list of beneficial nutrients, including a rich supply of carotenoids that can help protect damage to artery walls.  Beans are another heart-healthy food and high in fiber which assists in lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and boosting HDL levels.  Onions contain flavonoids that help to reduce inflammation which works in disease prevention.  Strawberries also contain some of these anti-inflammatory properties with more flavonoids.  The darker the berry, the more nutrient-dense it is, so you could boost this meal even more by switching to blueberries.  It is have even been noted in research that by combining these foods together, they work together to aid the body in absorbing more of the nutrients.  So you could say that this is a real power meal!  But it gets even better!  This meal is ready in 30 minutes or less!  (Nutrition information found in Super Foods: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life by Steven G. Pratt, M.D. and Katy Matthews, copyright 2004; and www.care2.com/greenliving)

To serve four, you will need:

  • 1 20-oz package AquaStar Smokey Peppercorn Salmon Filet (you can check out their website to find out about the nutrition of their products at aquastar.com)
  • 1 10-oz bag of fresh baby spinach
  • 2 medium yellow onions, sliced
  • 1 can white beans-you can use great northern, white navy beans, or cannellini beans
  • 1 pound of fresh strawberries
  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray.  Remove frozen salmon from package and place on pan.  Bake according to package.  While salmon is cooking, wash and stem strawberries.  Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in skillet.  When hot, add onions and cook until golden and aromatic.  Add spinach, cooking until just beginning to wilt, tossing gently with tongs for even cooking.  Drain and rinse canned beans and add to spinach, mixing gently.  Cut salmon filet into four portions and serve with a side of spinach and beans.

To read more about healthy cooking, check out these books (links verified 10/18/17 at 1:00 pm, CDT):

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