Last week I wrote about allowing children to fail. They learn what it is to fail and how to bounce back. That's one of the issues identified by Dr. Tim Elmore in his list of seven things parents do to keep their kids from becoming leaders. This week I'm going to write about another of those bad parenting behaviors, rescuing too quickly.
As a society we are increasingly safety conscious. In most ways that's a positive, but when it comes to raising our children, this can be a real problem. We want to protect them from everything. Much like preventing them from failing, we want to help them fix any problem they've created. They learn that adults will be there to rescue them at all times. Of course we do want our children to trust that we can take care of any situation, but rescuing too quickly may communicate that we think they are inadequate to solve life's problems. We certainly don't want that. The best way to help them grow up to understand the real world is to structure life for them so it mirrors the real world.
In the real world, we pick up crumbs when we drop them. In the real world we fix the things we break. We go back to get things we've forgotten. We do without things we left behind. We have to pay extra when we are late on our payments. Likewise students should be expected to pick up after themselves, repair their destruction, and retrieve the items of their own forgetfulness. In school get a lower grade when they turn in work late. If they turn in too many late assignments they could even repeat a grade. These are the normal consequences of our mistakes. Don't shield you children from these events. Teach them to recover from happenings like this. It will go a long way towards the much larger problems later in life. I would rather my child repeat a grade than come to expect he will always get a free pass in life.
I'm not saying this is easy; the easy route is to rescue. Unfortunately that's parenting for the short term, but it does not prepare our kids for the long term, for real life. And yes, it must be age appropriate. We must replicate the real world increasingly as children grow older. We protect more when they are younger.
Finally, this does not apply to life threatening events. Please do rescue a child who goes out in the street or is playing with a knife. But if the danger does not involve something that will pose permanent injury, let the natural consequences apply as much as possible.
Blessings on your role a parent. God has given you the highest calling in this life.
In His Service,
As I sit to write this letter, I am reminded of how blessed we are at Epiphany to share in the highest calling God gives, being a parent. You have that awesome responsibility and allow us to work with you to fulfill it. We never take that for granted do greatly appreciate it.
Right now we have the Winter Olympics in progress and I'm reminded of the story of Apollo Ohno. His is one of change and rededication through self-discipline. Below is an excerpt from an article on his preparation.
Back in 1997, Apolo Ohno was beginning to make a name for himself. At the tender age of 14, Ohno had already won gold at the 1997 U.S. Senior Championships, the youngest person to ever do so. Being a young teen and living away from his parents, however, he decided not to listen to his trainer in the year that followed, choosing "to eat pizza instead of complete required runs." His habits caught up with him, and in 1998, he failed to qualify for the Olympic team. It was a crippling defeat that led him to isolate himself in a cabin in Washington to contemplate his future. During this week of solitude, Ohno concluded that his failures stemmed from a lack of proper focus and dedication. Moving forward, he recognized that he needed to become more self-disciplined and attentive to his trainers' instruction if he was going to succeed in his sport.
The rest of his story is amazing. Ohno committed to an incredibly difficult training routine the next year, which led to wins in the 1999 Junior World Championship and the 2000-2001 World Cup. He then qualified for the 2002 Winter Olympics and won gold and silver in two events. Then, at the 2006 Winter Olympics, he won a gold medal in the 500-meter event and two bronze medals in other events.
- See more at: http://growingleaders.com/blog/grow-leaders-olympics/#sthash.zZ8LSNRi.dpuf
Parents, how do you go about raising children who will rebound as Apollo Ohno did from his failure? I think the first thing is to allow children to fail. What would have happened if this young skater's parents had not allowed him to compete for fear of failure? Or what if they had tried to "rig the system" to give him success?
It's easy to see how poor these choices are in the life of Apollo Ohno, because "hindsight is 20-20" and we know how his story turned out. What about your child? Do you allow him/her to experience failure and then help him/her grow from it? Do you "hover overhead" to protect from all possible problems? I know that can be a natural tendency of parents, but it can be deadly for our children. Unless they understand how the real world works they are not prepared for it.
Please understand, this is a growing experience; a five year old need not experience as much of the world as a fifteen year old. I find it helpful to draw a line from our children's ages at a given time to the time when they would turn 18. What would they need to know then? They need to be "ready to ship" at 18. Then I could assess whether they were on a time line that would be ready. If not, I'd need to speed up the process. Try that little experiment, and let me know what you see. I'd be eager to hear about it.
Again, thanks for the privilege of partnering with you as you help your child grow into the young man or young woman they will be in a few years.
In His Service,
In this writing I want to address one of the misunderstood concepts in parenting today, self-esteem. This concept became popular beginning in the seventies and has led to some rather bizarre actions on the part of parents. Even that great commentator on our culture, Saturday Night Live, has a spoof on it. Check it out on you tube and search for "you can do anything".
Originally the concept meant someone who knows, understands, and loves himself for what he is. But slowly the definition has come to mean parents think they must constantly praise their children whether it's truthful or not. Unfortunately this engenders dishonesty as a virtue. We've all seen the parent telling his toddler that he's the best soccer player on his team even though he's the only one who did not score. Here's the problem. Kids grow up; they recognize the truth and learn not to trust that parent. Don't be that parent.
Real self-esteem is the result of two simple things, unfettered love and complete honesty. Show your children that you love them even when they do wrong. That's what God does for us, and His is the best example. Telling them you love them is fine, but showing them is even more important. And showing them love does NOT mean doing whatever they want. It means doing what's best for them in the long run. It means speaking and acting towards them in a kind way but keeping their future in mind.
While showing love can be hard, sometimes honesty is even harder. Sometimes you just want to be that parent who does tell his child he's the best soccer player when clearly he's not. After all he'll believe you for now, and you have this short time to shield him from the real world, right? Wrong. You have a short time to build trust by showing him you will always tell him the truth.
Using that soccer example (okay maybe overusing), don't tell him he's the best; ask him which player on the team is the best. Ask him questions about the different skills of the players and which player is best at each position. Don't tell, ask. By this you give him credit for having a valid opinion and prevent yourself from lying to your child. By the way, if he asks you point blank if he's the best player on the team, tell the truth.
Yes, I know we all want to protect our children from the realities of life, but it's better to prepare them for the realities of life than protect them from it. You won't be able to protect them forever. (Clearly you do offer physical protection, you know what I mean.) If your child does not want to do his homework, he'd be better off failing a grade than having you step in and "check" his work. You may save him from failing an elementary or middle school grade only to have him drop out of college later. Take the hit now.
Parents, I hope this does not sound too harsh. Part of me would like to do the same thing for you and pretend that it's all going to be okay, but you will be better off in the long run if I tell you the truth here. If you would like to talk about how this may apply to your individual situation, I'll be happy to do so. I share this not to hurt any feelings or be critical, but in the hope of helping you be the parent you want to be.
In His Service,