February 10, 2015
Last week I wrote that I'm planning to describe big mistakes that we as parents can avoid using Dr. Tim Elmore's book by that name. The first one is that we won't let our kids fail. By failure I mean those little mishaps that we tend to blow up in our own minds and make them huge emotional losses, when in fact they are learning opportunities for our kids.
Why is it that we as parents don't want to let our kids fail? Dr. Elmore lists three possible reasons. The first is that sometimes we parents treat our children as our little trophies. We want them to be reflections of our own success. We may even want them to be expressions of what we could have been. The second is that our families are now smaller than they used to be. I grew up in a family of eight children. My mom could not possibly have been a hovering helicopter even if she had wanted to. Today we focus our energy on fewer children, so each one has to be perfect. The third is that we assume our kids are too fragile to recover from life's little failures. We don't realize that failures will allow them to grow and become stronger.
So how do we overcome this problem? The first way is to create a safe place to fail. For example carpet -- when a child is learning to walk, falling on carpet is a good thing. The child learns how to walk without cracking his head on concrete. Falling and skinning your knee when first learning to ride a bike is a positive thing. It teaches us about pain, being careful, and the importance of balance. This knowledge of the pain produced by collisions is important before learning to drive.
The second action is to help our children see the benefits of failing. Failure creates resilience in our children. Failure forces us to reevaluate and come up with a new plan. Failure can motivate us for a better performance in the future. And failure prompts creativity and discovery. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "The things which hurt, instruct".
So when life's little failures come along, remind your kids, it's not the end of the world. Ask them what their new plan will be. Tell them you know they can solve the problem. That confidence and encouragement will build far more self-esteem than rescuing.
Parenting is hard work, but it's one of the greatest joys in life. God has given you a great blessing and a great responsibility in this role. It's our joy to be your partner.
Blessings on your role as a parent,