Trees are fascinating. In normal conditions, trees develop something called “reaction wood” or “stress wood” which develops as a result of being pulled or blown in one direction or another. The stress wood strengthens the tree and it keeps the tree from continuing to grow in directions that would ultimately hurt it. In an environment where trees are given everything they need (sun, water, nutrients), but not provided with wind or storms, the trees end up dying before they fully mature. They collapse because their growth was not strengthened by stress wood from the stress that wind and natural conditions create.
This reminds me of children. We as parents so often want to protect our children from stress, from pain, from rejection, loneliness, and fear. Yet the stress that they encounter under normal conditionsactually allows our children to grow a stress wood of sorts so that they can fully mature. Without the rejection that happens when a 2ndgrade friend chooses to play with another friend (a normal condition), that child will be far shakier in the face of a breakup from their love, or in the face of layoffs. Pain creates strength.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
We live in an affluent society (if you don’t think so, count the number of devices in your home or visit Haiti). The majority of us live without the reality of war in our backyard. People surround us. Schools aren’t using red ink any longer so as not to damage self-esteem. Our needs are largely met, so sometimes we have to figure out how to allow stress for our children. Sometimes parents need to be the storm so children are able to develop stress wood.
Saying “no” is necessary. Following through on consequences is important. Setting limits and enduring your child’s pushback is hard, but essential. It’s essential for your kids to grow into fully functioning adults that contribute to society. If you’re in the midst of setting boundaries – keep it up! You’re doing good work!