They Shrug It Off. So Can You

Your kid falls. If you’re not paying attention, they brush themselves off and keep going. But if they see the look on your face? They burst into tears. A lot of parenting is like this. Your kids naturally have the appropriate attitude—whether it’s about standardized testing or body image or what have you—but then we project our silly baggage onto them and attach undue significance to things, and that’s when stuff starts to go sideways.

We’ve talked before about Rich Cohen’s amazing book on parenting through the lens of youth hockey, Pee Wees. There’s a great scene in it where he tries to console his son after he didn’t make the team, in what was an extremely unfair process. Rich expected his son would be angry or at least aware of what had happened. “He was bugged but not devastated,” Cohen writes, “or even all that upset. Which upset me. Why did I care more than he did?” 

This is a great question. Why do you care more than they do? Why are you spending so much time telling them they’ve been hurt (when they haven’t been)? Why do you need them to take everything as seriously as you do?

When our kids get older, some of these things will become their problem. But for now? Let them have their childhood. That’s part of it. But also, because they are young, they understand and feel things differently. Don’t assume that the ‘adult’ way is better or necessarily more correct. There is a wisdom to their innocence—defer to it, or at least, respect it enough not to corrupt it. 

Let them shrug events off. Then try to do the same yourself.

P.S. This was originally sent on May 4, 2021. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”

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