10/10/2004QUESTION: 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?
DR. DOBSON: 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 positive qualities 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 threatened by its hostile environment. It can survive only by sending its roots down 30 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.
QUESTION: What is your opinion of Nintendo and other kinds of video games? They've been claiming a big portion of our son's time over the past few months, and I'm getting uneasy about it.
DR. DOBSON: Depending on the particular games in question, you may have a valid cause for concern. Dr. Vince Hammond, head of the National Coalition on Television Violence, has described the potentially harmful nature of video games, especially those with violent themes. Some observers have come to the conclusion that these games can become obsessive and encourage aggressive behavior. There's even evidence to suggest that children between the ages of 8 and 10 are 80 percent more likely to fight with one another after playing with them.
I'd advise you to put clear limits on the amount of time your son will be allowed to spend with video games or the Internet so that he won't become obsessed with them. Insist that he avoid the violent ones altogether. With realistic guidelines, I think it's possible to keep this kind of activity under control rather than letting it control your son and your family.
Send your questions to Dr. Dobson, c/o Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, CO 80903. These questions and answers are excerpted from books authored by Dr. James Dobson and published by Tyndale House Publishers. Dr. Dobson is the chairman of the board for Focus on the Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the home. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.