by Dr. Lynda, Ever Widening Circles: http://www.everwideningcircles.com/2014/05/10/struggle-the-recipe-for-grit-resilience-and-grace/
the developed world, we have worked our way right into what I’d like to
call an “excess of ease”: many of us have the luxury to shelter our
kids from almost every form of struggle while some of us even become the
go-to problem solver in our extended families and friend groups.
many of these cases, it only feels natural to the problem solver and
The following story, taken from Wisconsin’s Mid-State Technical College’s website (mstc.edu) is an interesting look at the long term consequences of our urge to save our loved ones (our children in particular) from experiencing struggle. It left me dumbstruck.
Once a little boy was playing outdoors and found a fascinating
caterpillar. He carefully picked it up and took it home to show his
mother. He asked his mother if he could keep it, and she said he could
if he would take good care of it.
The little boy got a large jar from his mother and put plants to eat,
and a stick to climb on, in the jar. Every day he watched the
caterpillar and brought it new plants to eat.
One day the caterpillar climbed up the stick and started acting
strangely. The boy worriedly called his mother who came and understood
that the caterpillar was creating a cocoon. The mother explained to the
boy how the caterpillar was going to go through a metamorphosis and
become a butterfly.
The little boy was thrilled to hear about the changes his caterpillar
would go through. He watched every day, waiting for the butterfly to
emerge. One day it happened, a small hole appeared in the cocoon and the
butterfly started to struggle to come out.
At first the boy was excited, but soon he became concerned. The
butterfly was struggling so hard to get out! It looked like it couldn’t
break free! It looked desperate! It looked like it was making no
The boy was so concerned he decided to help. He ran to get scissors,
and then walked back (because he had learned not to run with scissors …).
He snipped the cocoon to make the hole bigger and the butterfly quickly
As the butterfly came out the boy was surprised. It had a swollen
body and small, shriveled wings. He continued to watch the butterfly
expecting that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and
expand to support the swollen body. He knew that in time the body would
shrink and the butterfly’s wings would expand.
But neither happened! The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly …
As the boy tried to figure out what had gone wrong his mother took
him to talk to a scientist from a local college. He learned that the
butterfly was SUPPOSED to struggle.
In fact, the
butterfly’s struggle to push its way through the tiny opening of the
cocoon pushes the fluid out of its body and into its wings. Without the
struggle, the butterfly would never, ever fly. The boy’s good intentions
hurt the butterfly.
As our children go through school, and life, and our loved one’s get
themselves into deep trouble, keep in mind that struggling is an
important part of any growth experience. In fact, it is the struggle
that causes you to develop your ability to fly.
Our short term instincts run completely counter to the lesson of this
story, don’t they?
We as people have a seemingly uncontrollable urge to
save our kids from pain rather than teach them how to be resilient; if
it’s within our reach, we will often accommodate every want and need our
children express, even though we know this reaction won’t prepare them for the realities of adulthood.
It’s often the near misses
and the “school of hard knocks” which force us to engage and hone our
critical thinking skills, emotional intelligence, and overall
resourcefulness … so why do we act out of impulse and always “save” the day?
To augment my point, check out a wonderful podcast from National Public Radio (NPR.org) called “Does Teaching Kids to Get ‘Gritty’ Help Them Get Ahead?”(1) regarding the virtues of relaxing, even coping with the idea of allowing out kids and loved ones to struggle.
We challenge you to join us in taking this concept one step further:
we can all agree that we’ve learned far more from our trials and
tribulations than our successes; let’s allow our children tribulate far
more often and help the next generation grow a little more resilient!
The world will be a better place if a few less people must have things their way and more of tomorrow’s leaders will know how to cope with adversity … intelligently.
1 Smith, Tovia, “Does Teaching Kids to Get ‘Gritty’ Help Them Get Ahead?” npr.org, March 17, 2014.