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Raising Sturdy Kids by Keith McCurdy

“When you allow your children to struggle, you set them free.”

This is the difficult-but-true message Keith McCurdy desperately wants parents to hear. He will be speaking on the topic “Raising Sturdy Kids” at Westminster on Thursday, February 22, 6:30 8:00 p.m. in the Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church sanctuary.

McCurdy is the founder and president of Live Sturdy LLC and president and CEO of Total Life Counseling in Roanoke, Virginia. He has worked with families, children, parents, and individuals for more than three decades in the field of mental health, and during that time he has recognized a trend.

Happy Is Not the Goal

“In 30 years in the mental health world, the thing I’ve consistently seen is that parents have gone further down the road of trying to make their kids happy,” McCurdy says.

In the moment, easy feels great. Struggle is inherently uncomfortable and often upsetting to children. The reality is that struggle is also required in order for children to grow into what McCurdy calls “sturdy adults” – adults who can face life’s challenges with maturity, resilience, and perseverance. If we want our children to be able to do hard things, we must allow them to struggle, McCurdy says.

When parents, knowingly or unknowingly, minimize natural disappointments for their children, or intervene to rescue them from difficulty or relational conflict, they win a short-term victory at the cost of a much larger long-term goal.

“We are seeing the results of pursuing happiness and self-esteem for our children. What we are ending up with is fragile children and fragile young adults. When we make everything easy our children stay fragile.”

The irony is that despite all the effort we spend trying to make our children happy, what we are actually accomplishing is ensuring they will never be able to experience true joy.

The Struggle is Real

McCurdy says that when people are fragile, they shy away from difficulty and challenge in order to protect themselves. But this means they miss out on the richest experiences life has to offer. “Fragile people can’t handle the rigors of relationships and life, so they can’t experience true joy,” he explains.

The cycle perpetuates itself through generations. Adults who did not learn to struggle well themselves will raise children who do not know how to struggle well. The impacts of this progression are felt not only by individuals and families but society at large. Children who learn to struggle well throughout their school-age years will grow up to be the natural leaders of the next generation.