Why do our expectations for our children so often fall short of what they deserve?
It's an ironic question considering it's hard enough to be a kid growing up in 2019 when the pressures building up on them seem insurmountable. Kids in middle school are perseverating on colleges, and GPA's tend to matter more than they ever have before. In some ways, we hold our children to the absolute highest standards in regards to their grades and level of extracurricular involvement. There are other areas, however, where we as parents may be missing critical opportunities to support our children’s growth.
We live in a time where mounting expectations have the potential to break children. With the fast pace of life, and the need for academic survival, so many of our kids are developing an ego-centric, me-before-you attitude for their own self preservation. They learn to think of themselves, their homework, the amount of goals they score in their soccer game, and they often think of themselves at the expense of others.
Ultimately, this ego centric lens can lead to a sense of isolation and disconnect. Peer relationships become competitive rather than collaborative and when one’s life falls short of the expectation, depressive feelings and seeds of resentment grow with abundance. Children take to social media in an attempt to create connectivity, but that too can be an isolating competition of the best photo shopped life. This can create a dangerous dynamic where there is nothing is to live for outside of yourself and you simply don’t feel like enough. More and more pre-teens and teens are prone to despair and hopelessness. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) "suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 12-18. Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,400 attempts [of suicide] by young people grades 7-12.”
It’s a multifaceted societal and parental conundrum. One that I believe can be bettered through the development of authentic connections. What if we as a whole focused on supporting one another and building a collective. We as parents are forgetting to hold our kids to higher standards when it comes to the virtues that impact relationships and others- character, integrity, empathy and altruism. Empathy being the keyword here.
If more and more parenting focused on developing empathy, we may find a decrease in some of the issues we're coming up against. Starting to see the world through a lens of empathy in early childhood may reduce rates of bullying, social exclusion, peer rejection, unreasonable competition and ultimately emotional disconnect. If we live for the we instead of the I, we can collectively rally when challenges present, rather than bury them in shame for fear of judgement. It’s a foreign concept in a highly individualistic society, but the idea of empathic collectivism is worth exploring.
Written by Dr. Surina Mazzola