Children can be at their worst on family vacations
Why is it that children are often the most obnoxious and irritating on vacations and at other times when parents specifically try to please them? On those special days, you’d think the kids would say to themselves, “Wow! Mom and Dad are doing something really nice for us, taking us on this great vacation. We’re going to give them a break and be really good kids today.” Isn’t that reasonable?
Sure it’s reasonable, but children just don’t think that way. In fact, many boys and girls misbehave even more at these times. Why is this? One reason, I think, is because children often feel compelled to reexamine the boundaries whenever they think they may have moved. In other words, whenever the normal routine changes, the tougher kids often push the limits to see if the old rules still apply.
Our 15-year-old daughter is getting some rough treatment at the hands of her peers these days. She wasn’t invited to a party given by a girl who had been her best friend, and she cried herself to sleep that night. It’s just tearing me up to see her hurt like this. Will this experience leave lifelong scars on her mind?
It’s all a matter of degree. Most teenagers experience a measure of rejection like your daughter is experiencing. They typically roll with the punches and eventually get beyond the discomfort. Others, however, are wounded for life by the rejection of those adolescent experiences. I suggest you give your daughter plenty of emotional support, keep her talking and do what you can to help her cope. I think she’ll get her legs under her when the pressure of these years has passed.
Let me address the larger issue here. When we see our children struggling with the teen experience or other frustrations, it’s natural to wish we could sweep aside the problems and obstacles. Sometimes we have to be reminded that the human personality grows through adversity. “No pain, no gain,” as they say. Those who have conquered their problems are more
secure than those who have never faced them.
I learned the value of hard times from my own experience. During my seventh and eighth grades, I lived through the most painful years of my life. I found myself in a social crossfire that gave rise to intense feelings of inferiority and doubt. And yet those two years have contributed more qualities that are positive to my adult personality than any other span of my life. What I learned through that experience is still useful to me today.
Though it may be hard to accept now, your child needs the minor setbacks and disappointments that come her way. How can she learn to cope with problems and frustrations if her early experiences are totally without trial? Nature tells us this is true. A tree that’s planted in a rain forest is never forced to extend its roots downward in search of water. Consequently, it remains poorly anchored and can be toppled by even a moderate wind. By contrast, a mesquite tree that’s planted in a dry desert is threat- ened by its hostile environment. It can only survive by sending its roots down thirty feet or more into the earth, seeking cool water. But through this adaptation to an arid land, the well-rooted tree becomes strong and steady against all assailants.
Our children are like the two trees in some ways. Those who have learned to conquer their problems are better anchored than those who have never faced them.
Our task as parents, then, is not to eliminate every challenge for our children, but to serve as a confident ally on their behalf, encouraging them when they are distressed, intervening when the threats are overwhelming, and above all, giving them the tools they need to overcome the obstacles.