Are we raising our kids for the "real world"?

parenting reader question Oct 19, 2022

Reader question:

"People ask me what my kid is going to do when they get to the 'real world.' They tell me I'm not preparing him for real life… What do I say?"



"You aren't preparing them for the real world."


First, let's ask what this statement really means. In this assumption, the "real world" is a place where people are not given second chances, where those in power are not flexible, where we do not make accommodations based on disability or need. In the "real world," people have to overcome their challenges or else they'll sink to the bottom and drown.


On one hand: This is true. Our "justice" system makes few allowances for disability or mental illness. Many people encounter inflexible bosses and punitive cultures where any deviation from the norm is shamed and punished.


This "real world" exists. It is a source of immense pain and suffering. It is a culture of scarcity, racism, sexism, and ableism, where only the privileged few can be safe.



Do I want to replicate this culture in my home?

Do I want my child to fear and obey me in order to grow up to fear and obey others and their punishments?

Does it keep them safe from future pain if they feel it from their youngest days?


Or does this trauma in our homes only make it harder when we encounter it in the world? Does it worsen our suffering, triggering childhood wounds nestled so deep? Making it more likely that we act in dysregulation as adults, putting us in dangerous situations of even more vulnerability?



What if we are raising children who find the third way, the ones who solve problems in mutuality and respect, rather than power and subjection? What if we are creating a culture of curiosity and compassion, where it is OK to show up with needs and vulnerability?


True leadership is the ability to bring the best out in your team. Healthy cultures create space for dissent and for open communication of needs. The strongest community members are the ones who listen and respect all voices, especially the ones most commonly marginalized, disrespected, and ignored.


Our children will emulate the culture they receive.


By witnessing flexibility, they will learn it.

By witnessing compassion, they will learn it.

By witnessing stability, they will learn it.


We are not raising children for the world as it is.

We are raising them for the world as it could be.

We are raising culture breakers, who refuse to participate in the "real world's" abusive systems of power. We are raising the ones who sink in this system. The "real world" wasn't made for them to thrive.



So what do you say to that person who launches a zinger when you're vulnerably accommodating your child's suffering?

"You know, they'll never make it in the real world."


"I hear you, and I worry about that too sometimes. But I've decided to raise them with respect and understanding, so they can be respectful and flexible too some day. I think the real world needs more leaders who know how to listen and more adults who pay attention to others' needs. Thank you for your concern, but I'm good with this approach."



We are raising children in a culture of honesty, trust, communication and respect, and in this culture, they can thrive.


We are not replicating the abusive systems of power in our homes because we believe that healthy children grow into healthy adults who are better prepared to navigate the world as it is and shape it into the world as it could be.


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