Anxious Kids Need Skills in Doing Hard Things Part II

Being a parent today is no walk in the park. Especially with anxious kids.

We are up against commercialism. Every advertisement on TV, billboards, radio, in movies, webpages, (on practically every surface we see) touts the message that we deserve things, just because we are us.

This message gets under our skin, we like it, it makes us feel good, important.  We want the product, so we can have the good, deserving feeling the product promises. We feel entitled to have it. They say we are entitled to it! 

I think this is where anxious kids come from. Watch my TEDx Wilmington Talk on this! 

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Kids today are raised on these commercials. Even if you restrict your children’s TV, they are everywhere (even in schools) growing a sense of entitlement to huge proportions. Kids want what they want, they feel like they deserve it whether they work for it or not, simply because they are them.  Generally, kids have lost their work ethic.  (Not every kid, many kids are incredibly hard working.) Read more in my book Anxiety…I’m So Done with You!

When our children are born, we hold our little bundles and think that we are going to make the world perfect for them, protecting them from all harm and trouble. Our love overflows and we try to do this to the best of our abilities. But we can become like Merlin, the dad in Finding Nemo. He didn’t want anything to happen to his son, and Dory says, “What do you mean you don’t want anything to happen to him? Then nothing would happen to him!”

Anxious Kids

So our kids expect their lives to be perfect and we desire to make it perfect for them. Do we see a problem in this equation? Kids get anxious if it is not perfect, if they are slightly uncomfortable. It feels too out of control. Parents are pulling their hair out because their children are asking for material things, discarding them once purchased, and then asking for more. This sets up much conflict between kids and parents. But worse I think this is the culprit for some anxiety.

Anxiety grows out of a feeling that you have no control. When parents restrict kids who feel entitled, anxiety can result, kids are desperate to be comfortable, feel good and important all of the time. They want their way and if they don’t get it feel desperate. Their desperation makes them panic.  Helping Kids with Anxiety. 

They get nervous

My kids have been a little nervous this week, especially my 12 year old who is dreading long days of school then crew practice, then homework.  To him, it seems as if there is nothing for him to look forward to. He proclaims daily that he is quitting everything, desperate for relief from the social anxiety and discomfort he feels. Even though I deeply desire to relieve him of his stress, I gently and compassionately make him go. I worked with too many children who have limited their lives because of anxiety. Once they begin to quit things, it can get worse, everything becomes a choice, even school, even getting help for themselves. In extreme cases, they feel entitled to not do what they don’t want to do, to the point that they may not even be brushing their teeth, showering, or leaving the house.  And they desperately never want to be forced to do anything.  Feeling so entitled they can become angry and violent when they do not get their way, claiming that they “can’t” and you should know that!   

Anxiety tricks

A desperate mom left this comment on my Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog this week.

My 19 year old son has severe depression and anxiety. He refuses counseling, and will only take his medication when he is rock bottom. He has only one friend. One of my biggest problems right now is that in order for me to keep things on an even keel I give in to him constantly. I am starting to see (I think) that his need to control me and his younger brother may stem from his feeling unable to control anything else in his life. I need to break this. And, I am at a loss. It is scary and painful.

Exactly, his need for control is that he feels so out of control in his life. If he believes this, it is a trick of the anxiety, since he is very much in control. No matter how much he controls a situation, he may use the excuse he is out of control. This is a tactic of power, playing on his parents inherent guilt that he is struggling.

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Hard skills

Sometimes in protecting them, we take away our children’s ability to do what they don’t want to do–skills in doing hard things. I work with these kids and their parents to ease them into doing things that they don’t want to do. It is a struggle because some kids feel so entitled they do not want to participate in treatment since treatment means they have to do “hard stuff.”  They want to be better without work, like can’t they just buy something or take a pill and feel good like the commercials say.

They assume there should be an answer, and I say there is: It is attitude.  See the good instead of seeing the bad.  They think they have to feel good before they could do things, but it is the opposite. They have to do things to gradually feel good. The problem is they have so convinced themselves and everyone around them that “they can’t.”  We need skills in doing hard things to survive this physical world.  We need to have confidence in ourselves that we can do it in order  to do it.  We need to have them do hard things and reap the rewards of this.

They will convince us that it is not “worth it,” but it is so worth it.

These skills will help them their whole lives. But mostly it will help them not be anxious kids.

It is one of the most important gifts that we can give our children– the ability to work through a hard time. More info in the comment section!


Restoring, and Re-Storying Work Ethic Part I   

Do you have anxious kids? How grateful were you to have the skills to get through a hard time in your life?

27 thoughts on “Anxious Kids Need Skills in Doing Hard Things Part II”

  1. Children’s reactions always succeed in making me feel guilty.
    They also know what are my weak points and base their sayings and demands on that. We have tendency to accept their refusal of doing “the hard things” either because we feel the need to compensate something we know they are missing, or just because we are too tired of our own “hard things” that giving up is easier.
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    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      You feel guilty, because you feel guilty. Anything might take you here. Let the guilt go, don’t let it come between you anymore! YOu said exactly what I was meaning to say, well put!

  2. Bravo! This is a lesson for kids AND adults in our society. No wonder there are so many people in our country struggling with anxiety and depression. We just want to medicate it away it seems and not deal with these more difficult but rewarding solutions.

  3. Thanks Jodi! I think the real question for me at this point is how to find the strength and skills to force him to do the hard work. I am starting to realize that in order to make him change his habits I need to make him uncomfortable. It is so against my natural grain to make anyone uncomfortable. I am a lover and a comforter and a peacekeeper. I don’t want him to hurt or be uncomfortable. I know that we are both doomed unless I do it. I know in my mind that change needs to happen, I just don’t know how to do it!

    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      Mary, I know you are afraid, it is best if you can get him bought into it, if he can see a benefit to himself. There is such benefit to him!!! He just needs to have it outweigh his egos need to stay where he is. We can’t protect kurt kids form being uncomfortable. It is beautiful that you are like that, but it good for him to be uncomfortable sometimes, it will help him grow. He will protest but he will win in the end, When I was young at camp, I had to hold a ice pack on a little girl who bumped her knee. She hated it, it felt uncomfortable, I knew it would help the swelling so in the long run was good. It broke my heart to force it on her. In that moment I realized thats what God feels when seeing us going through hard times, wanting to stop us form being uncomfortable but knowing we will be better for it. Believe in him. Believe he can be uncomfortable and survive, even if he doesn’t at first. And start small. Ask him to help you with something as a big favor to you, like lift something heavy since you can’t. He will be doing what he doesn’t necessarily want to do, but will likely do it, for you. Show him it is ok. Build from tasks like these.

      1. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for saying the things that I so need to hear. The more I hear it, the more I know what actions need to be taken. You are a blessing.

        1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

          I’m so glad, you think so, they are hard things to say since I don’t know how people can take them. I believe in you! Let me know what happens!

  4. This is the best parenting post ever, Jodi! It perfectly captures the parenting connundrum so many of us are in these days. A book that helped me so much when my kids were little–and I was trying to make everyone happy, everything even and equal and no room for (valuable) error anywhere–was “Blessing of a Skinned Knee,” by Wendi Mogel, PhD. and rabbi, which teaches parents to embrace the ordinariness of a child and to find joy in limitations. May you get three zillion views!
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    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      Thank you, I can write a book about it and it will be my next one, I know I promised it would be fiction but this will be a short ebook,–it is just so necessary! Thanks for your compliments!

  5. We do indeed live in an age of entitlement for all the reasons that you mentioned. The current young adult generation lives so differently than my own did at their age. And I can see all of the problems in the making in young families around me. Yet, kids have a way of working through the mess and becoming good people for the most part. I think the majority will do fine.
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  6. Great article, but can we get some clarity over the use of the word “entitlement”? It has gone through so many changes in the past few years, it makes my head spin. It used to mean that one is owed something, like Social Security, after paying into it all one’s life. Now “entitlement” seems to mean that one feels one is owed, but is not actually owed anything at all. In some cases, it means one is behaving like a spoiled brat over what one feels one is owed. Can we really blame youth if they are confused? The changes in the word, more than anything, make me fear for my retirement.

    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      🙂 Hary, we are all afraid of our retirement, you worked hard, ‘deserving’–such a crazy word in our line of work, pun intended. Our poor children are confused, I’d rather love them than blame them.

  7. I think the best thing we can do as parents is to give kids the tools and encouragement to solve their own problems. Yes, they will be anxious, and frustrated, and sometimes they’ll make bad choices or get things wrong.

    But we will be giving them the most important lesson of all – that WE believe they can handle it. Doing whatever is necessary to soothe a baby with colic is one thing; doing your kid’s book report for him because he’s all freaked about writing it himself – not cool.

    It’s our job to teach them that even when they get anxious, the world will go on spinning, and things will work out.
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  8. I totally agree with you. We live in an “instant” world and the kids are growing up to expect things, instantly. I’m thankful that my daughters were raised that if they wanted something, they had to work for it. The frustration comes in having stepkids that want to know “why” they have to wash dishes or telling us that they “want” 60.00 for their birthday. I have a hard time understanding their mentalities.

  9. Really great piece, Jodi!

    You hit the nail on the head with why there might be so much anxiety with youngsters today. Great food for thought. So coherently presented as well.

  10. It’s not just kids, adults have the same problems. Therapy is hard, so people don’t want to do it, cause what they’re going through is hard enough as it is.

  11. Great post. I am so grateful to my parents for teaching me how to live in this world. I left home at age 18 and was fully competent to pay my bills, keep my apartment clean, and hold a job. While my anxiety problems sprang from other sources, I always knew, deep down in my core, that I could take care of myself — and that helped me overcome my difficulties until later in life, when therapy helped me “rewire” my thinking.

    I wish my stepkids had been given the same gift. They are, at 23, doing very well these days, but they, and we, have had to work hard to play “catch up” in giving them a sense of their own competence.
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