Parenting Style: Stop Eliminating Your Child’s Pain

By Greg Baer M.D.

November 20, 2023

Today I read a newspaper article about society’s attitude toward pain.

The author, using a number of sources, said:

A great portion of today’s progressive politics suggests—consciously or otherwise—that the highest moral good seems to be the elimination of human pain and suffering.

We see this played out in one social program after another, as they attempt to lift up and comfort EVERYONE, even those who show no apparent interest in being lifted up.

We seem to believe strongly that people of all cultures, races, genders, gender identities, sexual orientations, levels of education, and other groups must have equal income, equal happiness, equal everything.

Parenting Style that is Numbing the Children

Proponents of what is called “The Abolitionist Project” believe that both physical and mental suffering can be eliminated using drugs and genetic engineering, and one philosopher strongly states that “the world’s last unpleasant experience will be a precisely dateable event.”
Some experts believe that as technology advances—specifically AI—the need for humans will shrink, and we will experience a “new massive class of useless people,” who will be kept “happy with drugs and computer games.”

We might laugh at the possibility of this notion—or be horrified by it—but this future is already happening. Where? In OUR HOMES. All day I talk to parents from all over the world, and I follow trends and statistics involving children. 50% of our kids go to sleep at night with a phone touching their body. Average screen time for teens—and younger—is 8.5 hours per day, making adequate education and sleep simply impossible. Drug overdoses are exploding to levels we never imagined. We are ALREADY “kept happy with drugs and computer games.” More accurately, we are kept numb.

My conversations with parents reveal that the primary goal of the great majority of parents is to PROTECT THEIR CHILDREN FROM DISCOMFORT (pain). Not to teach them to feel loved, or to be loving, or to be responsible. No, just pain removal. That’s a great goal in caring for a PET, but not a human child.

Why We Need Pain

Why is pain relief not good—bad in fact? Because we NEED pain. Pain is INFORMATION—feedback—that guides our discovery of faith, strength, growth, resilience, creativity, research, problem-solving, resolution, confidence, and genuine, lasting happiness.

It is through pain that we learn who we are and who we can become. By way of striking contrast, the AVOIDANCE of pain leads us to shrink from discovery, run from responsibility, and withdraw from the reality and even the possibility of all meaningful relationships. Without pain, we are pets.

Why We Don't Know How to Parent

WHY has our parenting devolved—disintegrated, really—to this low standard of excellence? It’s not a mystery. In only a few sentences, here is why we don’t know how to parent:

  1. What our children need most—as much as they need air and water—is to feel loved UNCONDITIONALLY. Most of us parents have never seen or felt love of this kind. Unconditional love involves no disappointment or anger—ever. Yes, I know, almost unthinkable, but it exists, and that is what children hunger and thirst for. It is that love alone that nourishes and heals them.
  2. Our children don’t get this kind of love. We don’t give it to them. Instead we smile and say approving things when they’re quiet, responsible, dutiful, and respectful—when they’re “good.” In our defense, we didn’t get unconditional love ourselves as children.
  3. Without this love, this Real Love, our children suffer—unavoidably. They MUST have this love, so without it, they’re in PAIN.
  4. And then they WILL act out in response to their pain: with anger, whining, defiance, cutting, bullying, lying, withdrawing, entitlement, and their pathologic use of phones, video games, porn, and much more—all the “problem behaviors.”
  5. When kids act up, we hate it. Unable to identify their pain clearly in words, they scream their pain at us with the behaviors we just mentioned. And because those behaviors are very uncomfortable—painful—to us as parents, we react NOT by unconditionally loving them, because we don’t know how to do that. Instead we respond with every trick we know to make them comfortable and silence their pain. We avoid hearing their anger and disapproval by soothing, enabling, and controlling them. These tricks do briefly work, but they also further starve our children, whose suffering continues and eventually breaks out as depression, cutting, suicidal thoughts, inability to have relationships, and worsened addictions by the dozens.

It is one of life’s great paradoxes that as we claim to love our children, we are actually making genuine love impossible for them to feel. Most of us parents have no idea what unconditional love even is, having never received it ourselves as children.

So instead of loving our children in that way, we settle for protecting them from pain. We turn them into pampered pets. We soothe them with devices, screen time, entertainment, and innumerable other indulgences. We shield them from responsibility, difficulty, and risk.

Healthy Parenting Style Requires Risk

But it turns out that feeling love necessarily REQUIRES risk—the risk of pain. We can’t feel love or give it without vulnerability, just another word for risk.

Our children can’t be happy without the trifecta of feeling loved, being loving, and being responsible, and all three of those conditions require the faith, strength, growth, resilience, creativity, problem-solving, and confidence we spoke of earlier. And pain is the information that guides us in the development of all those qualities.

In other words, we cannot teach our children about love and responsibility without the risk of pain. If we only protect them from pain, we strip from them the sometimes uncomfortable experiences that lead to genuine, lasting happiness.

"No Pain" is Not a Substitute for Love or Life Worth Living

It’s understandable that we fall into the trap of “no pain” being a substitute for love. In our society, we are obsessed with NO PAIN. Medications—legal and not—to reduce pain are EVERYWHERE.

We can’t even tolerate the discomfort of an imperfect physical appearance, so we use surgery, cosmetics, Photoshop, and endless other gimmicks to eliminate the pain of any disapproval on that account.

The article cites a couple of other glaring examples of pain avoidance:

The social acceptance of abortion promotes the idea that both men and women should never have to deal with the sometimes painful consequences of sex outside of marriage—or even within marriage. (Another example): Death can now be a programmable event as medically assisted suicide has become accepted in Canada and in parts of the U.S., in large part because of the desire to relieve the dying from suffering. (Reports indicate that some people have opted for this assisted suicide solely on the basis of the emotional discomfort of depression or despair.)

Learning to Respond to Pain

The theme is uniform: no more pain, which fails to recognize that only as we learn to RESPOND TO PAIN do we develop the qualities that define a fulfilling life. 

To make this undeniably obvious, imagine a life WITHOUT pain. We’d be those “useless people” we talked about earlier—genetically modified, drugged up, and living in environments where no painful surprises were possible. Is that what we want? Is that even living?

William Golding was the Nobel-prize winning author of the book Lord of the Flies, and he said that he used to believe that social programs could perfect mankind, “that a correct structure of society would produce goodwill, and that therefore you could remove all social ills by a reorganization of society.” (Like many progressives today) 

But with experience, he changed his mind completely and realized that we individuals make our own choices and create our own good and evil. He said “the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual.”

And where do reliable and good ethics come from? From people who are LOVED and LOVING, from people who know what love feels like and who can give it to others. Society will become good only with LOVE.

(It’s) obvious that we do have a moral obligation to alleviate, and when possible, prevent suffering . . . But when the obliteration of all pain — both physical and emotional — becomes an overriding goal to the point of numbly diminishing the value of life, it seems time to step back and reevaluate the project.

Pain elimination doesn’t just diminish the value of life, it erases it.

Further, when the WAYS we eliminate pain become a PROBLEM themselves, and we can’t easily give up those means of pain elimination, THAT is the definition of addiction.

In his book “The Problem of Pain," C.S. Lewis wrote that there isn’t much life to be had without pain, however bitter that pill is to swallow. “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.” And he recognized that we are torn, because he stated that he personally would “crawl through sewers” to find a means to end his own pain.

But such a life will be completely devoid of meaning, and thus devoid of joy. The crusade against pain, as well as meaning as it seems, might ultimately bring more painful consequences than we know.

The Parenting Style that Guarantees Meaning and Joy

There is only ONE way for us to find meaning and joy, and it’s not alleviation of pain. Meaning and joy are found only in the presence of love—unconditional love. And that love—as we feel it and give it—DOES eliminate the worst forms of pain—fear, anger, resentment, victimhood, loneliness—in meaningful and lasting ways.

We can find this often-elusive kind of love—for ourselves and our children. We must. Go to and learn how. You will not believe how your life will change—and how you’ll change your family—as you learn about Real Love®.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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