In the normal order of the goat herd, everyone browses. They go from food pan to food pan; one or two nibbles and it’s off to another container. The highest ranking goat pushes lower goats from the food pan they want. That goat in turn pushes a goat that is lower in rank. Moms let their babies eat with them if they are higher up in the herd. The lowest goats are busy trying to get food for themselves, and their poor babies sneak food wherever they can.
Princess Pam did not understand these rules. She had never experienced them. As a baby she ate with her mom, who was the top goat of the herd. When she got a little older, Pam would eat with Mom and then move to a pan next to her. Almost magically, as Pam approached a feed pan, other goats, big or little, would walk away. If a goat ran up to push her away from the pan where she was eating, they would get close enough to see it was Pam, stop, turn and find someone else to chase off.
This is all Pam knew growing up. As a young mother, she continued happily in her ideal world where everything revolved around her and later her son upon whom she doted. After all, she had a good mom as a role model. She would still eat with her mom or from a pan right beside her with her boy right there with her. Even during her post-weaning depression and illness, all the other goats respected her food pan choice and amazingly did not pick on her.
Pam could walk confidently through the barnyard. Nobody messed with her. If someone did challenge Pam by hitting horns with her, it never went any farther than that. The other goat would always back down and Pam would happily go about her business. She never realized her mom would be right behind her shooting poison daggers from her eyes to the offending goat picking on her daughter. Pam got to pick the place where she would lie down, and nobody ever suggested she move.
One day, however, when she was a little over two-years-old, her world shattered. Her mother went to be with the billy goat. As soon as Cutie left the barnyard, Pam was ganged up on by the twins, Litha and Stormy. They butted heads, rammed her sides and chased her. She stood up to them, but instead of running from her, they held their own! She didn’t know what to do.
At supper that night, she was eating as usual when she was pushed out of her pan. She went to another but the goat there would not budge. She stood in the middle and just looked confused. She was experiencing for the first time the normal rules of the barnyard because her mother–one tough mama–was not there to protect Pam from reality. She was lost. She could not survive without Cutie protecting her.
Similarly, parents can do more harm than good when they shield their child from the normal rules and consequences of life. We cannot always rescue them and bail them out if we expect them to learn respect for rules and authority. Like Pam, children need to learn that they are not the center of the universe, and they can’t just have everything they want. At some point in their life, they will no longer have Mom or Dad coming to their rescue. I seriously doubt their boss will care if they don’t want to do something or if they don’t feel well.
Do you want to raise a Princess Pam who feels entitled? Would you rather raise a Stormy or Litha that wants to beat the crap out of Pam as soon as her mom is out of the way? Hopefully, the answer is no to both of those questions. It’s a fine line between independence and over-protective, but it’s a balance necessary to raise happy, healthy kids.