Kids need to protest psychology today 2015 electricity increase

When we involve ourselves in our children’s activities intending to be encouraging, supportive, and empowering, we may be interfering with key aspects of their development. When we join them in political protest, we may disrupt their need to experience the risk that goes along with it and that aids in the development of a sense of courage, pride, and agency.

I was impressed to hear about their schools’ support and involvement until I saw my last appointment of the week. As 14-year-old Jonah told me about his participation in his school’s walkout, this soft-spoken adolescent’s voice became increasingly louder. He complained that the faculty at his school participated in it. Worse, they organized it! “It was so overly organized,” he reported with indignation. “It was supposed to be a student protest. But by making it a school activity, they took away our protest!”

Protest is part of a lengthy process of becoming a separate, independent individual. While the process becomes active during the first year of life, it becomes most evident during the “terrible twos”— that time in development when toddlers begin to assert their autonomy, shouting “NO!” and melting down at seemingly slight provocations.

Parents’ mistakes are unavoidable, and they can become the useful basis for our children’s protest. Even if we aim to be perfect parents, inevitably, we will fail. Minor failures are not just unavoidable, they are a necessary and intricate part of our children’s development that propel them towards a sense of agency.

The term Good-Enough Mother highlights the importance of disappointment and protest as critical developmental experiences for babies. Minor “failures”—for example, not getting milk to the baby the instant he feels hunger—help the baby to gradually understand that the caregiver is someone to whom he must communicate need. Babies cry to let their mother/caregiver know they are hungry. When mommy responds to the crying by feeding him, he proudly discovers his sense of agency; his power to have an impact on his world.

As children become more self sufficient, their form of protest must evolve and become more complex. Gone are the days when they cried to be fed. Now they yell at us when we tell them to take out the garbage. They wear clothes they know we don’t approve of. They find creative ways to defy us and, within certain limits, it is through this type of rebellion that children experience healthy separateness.

Separating can be a scary process, for both child and parent. There’s a clear understanding that children are dependent on their parents, but what’s less acknowledged is that parents can become reliant on their children. For better or worse, we see ourselves in our children. We identify with them. We get a vicarious thrill when we experience their youthfulness, agency, and hope (for example, when we proudly share their accomplishments on social media).

If we’re too good, too supportive, too helpful, we end up squashing our children’s development. As our children’s protest evolves and becomes more pointed, it is more likely to destabilize us. “Because I said so!” can lead to eye rolls and verbal protests that threaten our own sense of power or worse, humiliate us. We have to tolerate their rebellion in order to show them their strength (and paradoxically, ours).

As adults, we need to be careful about the subtle ways that we may inadvertently undermine our children’s protest. Instead of stepping in and taking over, we need to make sure we step back sometimes. We need to allow our children their protest.

Jill Leibowitz, Psy.D., is a psychologist in private practice in NYC. She is a graduate of the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Training Program at the William Alanson White Institute, where she now teaches and supervises. She is also on the faculty of the Harlem Family Institute, and is an advanced candidate at the Anni Bergman Parent-Infant Training Program. Jill is passionate about the importance of play and emotional literacy in child development.