If my children don’t choose to go to college, that’s okay with me. If they aren’t sports stars, great ballerinas, or fantastic gymnasts, that’s fine too. Though I’d love to see my kids enjoy great success in life, there are other things I see as more important. I have bigger goals for them than being successful.
I want them to be good people. I want them to look at others with compassion and love, understanding and kindness. I want them to take care of their families and friends. I want them to love God.
I also want them to be able to do things. As they enter adulthood, I want them to go out into the world with great knowledge of the everyday stuff needed to live life.
We have some pretty lofty goals for raising our children. Besides the obvious goal for our children to be “good people,” I also want them to be capable.
By age 12, I hope our children will have a basic knowledge of cooking, cleaning, balancing a budget, filling out forms, home and car repair, and first aid (among others). By age 16, they should be fully prepared to be self sufficient. The years between 16 and whenever they leave our home will be years to practice caring for their own needs with us here for support and advice.
And all of this training starts now.
It’s telling the two year old, “You must try to put on your own shoe. Do your best.”
It’s watching a four year old struggle to pour her own milk, knowing a mess is likely in the process of learning.
It’s being the “mean momma” when the six year old wants to give up on finishing a job, reminding him to tough it out because the animals or the family is depending on his good work.
It’s letting the eight year old do something big, cooking a meal for the family. It’s standing aside as she struggles. Letting her make a few mistakes. Giving her time to figure it out, and offering advice only when there might be danger or she asks for it.
I have learned to step back from the initial impulse to jump in with help for them. I know that letting them struggle to do something on their own will help them more in the long run.
It’s hard to stand back when you could help. It’s tempting to do things for the kids to avoid messes. It’s not much fun being the bad guy who makes sure the job is complete. It’s not easy letting go of the reins.
But, it is very important.
And so, I let them struggle sometimes. In the struggle, they often find that they can, indeed, do the things that were so difficult. They gain skill, knowledge, and self-confidence.
Though I don’t want them to grow up and leave, I know they will. I don’t want that time to be a struggle, full of mistakes and hard-knocks. So, I let them struggle now in a world where there are hugs and folks who can catch them if they fall.
There’s a lot of love in letting them struggle….