As parents we want to protect our children from painful experiences and sometimes we over compensate. Psychotherapist Lise Fitzsimmons explains.
As parents, we want to protect children from painful experiences, and ‘fix’ things for them. By engaging in this well-intention act of love we deny them their opportunity for growth.
“If we fix what is not ours to fix, we take away their power and autonomy instead of supporting their growth and transformation” (Heather Plett).
The story below reminds me of this lesson.
What Avoiding Pain Cost the Emperor Moth:
A man found a cocoon of an emperor moth. He took it home so he could watch the moth come out of the cocoon. One day a small opening appeared, and he watched the moth for several hours, as the moth struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making progress, and appeared to have gotten as far as it could. It just seemed stuck.
Then the man, in his kindness, decided to help the moth. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bot of the cocoon. The moth emerged easily, but it had a swollen body and small shriveled wings. The man continued to watch, and expected the wings enlarge and open out to support the body. Neither happened! The moth spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It was never able to fly.
What the man in his kindness and haste didn’t understand was this: In order for the moth to fly, it needed to experience the restricting cocoon and the painful struggle as it emerged through the tiny opening. This was a necessary part of the process to force fluid from the body and into the wings so that the moth would be ready for flight once it achieved freedom from the cocoon. Freedom and flight would only come after allowing painful struggle. By depriving the moth of the struggle, the man deprived the moth of being whole.
Just like the moth, your child may struggle but you are actually developing their strength and resilience rather than protecting them from the experience. You are supporting their growth and transformation. We can easily forget the most important thing is their right to be their own person and to lead their own life in accord with their unique spirit. Our children are not extensions of ourselves, and if we are able to accept them for who they are, we teach them to honor themselves writes Dr. Shefali Tsabary.
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Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) providing therapy services in Burlington