María Jesús Álava


"Frustration is the path of knowledge and that is the key to intelligence."

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When you're a teenager, patience is basic; after that, it is knowing that it is a moment that will pass, fortunately. And then: a lot of understanding. They are not at ease themselves, they don't know where they are, they are looking for their place in the world, they are trying to find themselves. It will happen a lot. And you have to feel your confidence, your peace of mind, that you will not lose control. When they see that you don't react to their provocations, you will gain a lot of authority. You know that, although they are saying that they want nothing to do with you, really they still need you. In these moments of great insecurity, they also need your approval, they need to feel that you are still proud of them, that you still think that they are clever you believe in them. Pay close attention to what they do, with whom, what are the symptoms that most worry you, try to listen a lot, watch closely and get involved only when they let you know.

What would be the big unresolved issue with parents? Teaching to live, clearly. What if there were a subject we could teach our children on how to know yourself better? How do we get the best out of ourselves? How do we get to know the people around us? How can we be much more sociable? How can we learn to listen? How can we learn to reason? How do we learn to think? In other words, how do we develop that emotional intelligence? In short, how do we learn to live. If we knew ourselves better, we would know how to relate better and we would know how to be happy, which is the ultimate goal we are striving for, and we would be less susceptible to manipulation. Let's make authentic children, teenagers, young people and adults, who are themselves, who cannot easily be manipulated.

"Fear, guilt or insecurity takes us a lot away from our children. That all brings out the worst of us."

One of the biggest mistakes is overprotection. We try to make their lives so simple that we end up making them unadaptable. In the end, they will walk through life as if on crutches — they will not be able to overcome the obstacles in their way. It's about being on their side, but not in front of them: always stay a few steps behind, just in case they happen to fall.

Every child needs guidelines, standards, limits; it's a mistake not to establish them, just like it's a mistake to think it's not a big deal, and give in to avoid the big evils. This is something we see in many parents. And we should not make children who are well behaved give in because of their siblings. Let's not sacrifice any of them, but it is nearly always the best behaved one, for the sake of another who has more difficulties, which is grossly unfair. But there is a fundamental issue that concerns us very much: let's teach them to think, let's teach them to reason. We know that happiness lies in generosity. Most children today are educated in consumerism, and if we give them everything in exchange for nothing, they start not valuing things, and not valuing people. This is a great drama. In short, let's not be friends, let's not overprotect, let's not give in sometimes to avoid greater evils. Let us put in place a series of guidelines, standards, clearly established limits, act on the basis of how each child is and, with that singularity, let us unify criteria among parents. Let us treat them according to their age and their individuality, and let us always place our trust in them, and trust in ourselves.

A child must be frustrated in order to learn and to develop resources. This is one of the great struggles we have. Currently at psychology practices, we are seeing young people aged between 18 and 30 most frequently. Twenty years ago, young people didn't go to a psychology center, and their parents brought them to you only when they were very desperate. Now why do they come? Because they have no resources to face life; they have never had obstacles — they have never been given the tools. Imagine a baby who wants to start walking. What do they do? They try to get up, and fall down. Frustration is actually the journey to knowledge, and that is the key to intelligence. Of course you have to be frustrated, because if you are not, you won't live, because you have to experience things, and you have to realize when you're right and when you're wrong, and you have to learn from those mistakes. Children who do not get frustrated do not learn in life. In life, they will have difficult circumstances; moments when we won't be there to help; times when they are really alone. Since these have not prepared those resources, they will have a very difficult time. Frustration is necessary.

A graduate in Psychology from the Complutense University of Madrid and with a Master's Degree in Educational Psychology. She is a lecturer at the Madrid Complutense University and the International University Menéndez Pelayo, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Spanish Foundation for the Scientific and Professional Promotion and Development of Psychology. María Jesús Álava Reyes is also the author of books such as "La Verdad de la Mentira," the encyclopedia "La Psicología que nos ayuda a vivir," "La Buena Educación" and "La inutilidad del sufrimiento."