By Jill Hope
I don’t know where we picked up this idea as parents that we should ensure our children remain protected from all suffering. How will they develop resilience if life is all unicorns and rainbows?
I know that many of us had challenging childhoods, and so it is normal to want to prevent your kids from suffering the same pain you may have experienced as a child.
But keeping them from experiencing the natural consequences of their choices and bailing them out when they experience problems will only set them up for a challenging adulthood.
Allowing them to make mistakes and live through challenges, and then helping them to problem solve a solution is teaching them positive life skills that will take them far in life.
So how can you use this idea when your child’s next challenge arises? Here are 4 things to keep in mind:
1) Remind yourself that NOW is the time to allow them to experience mistakes because you can be there to guide them through it.
If you always rescue them, then what will happen when they grow up and experience a hardship, and you’re not readily available to help? Rather than rescuing, you can make the most of the time you are with them by teaching them how to recover from their mistakes and challenges.
2) Put the responsibility of resolving the issue on your child, with you as a guide.
I remember when my son was 6 years old and had a problem at school. I thought about contacting the teacher and meeting with her to discuss it, but decided that this was the perfect opportunity to teach my son how to resolve his own problems.
I explained to him that the best way to solve the problem was to meet with the teacher. While I would go with him and help him talk through his concern if he needed it, I thought it would be best if he explained the problem to the teacher himself, as he knew exactly how he felt. Then I asked him if he felt he could do this. He was willing to give it a try.
I started off the discussion, and then he took over from there. His teacher warmly received his concerns and was able to offer a solution that he appreciated. His confidence in his ability to solve his own problems went up a lot from that one encounter.
3) Allow natural consequences to teach, not a lecture.
With every choice comes a consequence. Some are good, some are not so good. Offering choices, explaining the likely consequences of each choice, and then allowing your child to choose and experience the consequence (as long as you keep the choices in line with their level of maturity and understanding) can help them become better decision makers.
Most of us learn better through experience than through being told!
One day after a light slushy snowfall, I asked my son if he wanted to wear his boots to school or his shoes, encouraging the boots. I said there was a good chance some of the paths would not be shoveled and his shoes might be wet. He chose to wear his shoes and take that chance, and I allowed him to make that choice.
As we made the ½ mile walk to school, we encountered several dips in the sidewalks that were very wet and slushy, with no way around them. My son got really upset as his shoes started to feel wet.
Though he wasn’t happy, he took responsibility for his choice and knew he had the power to make a different choice next time. While I could have chosen for him, what would he have learned the next time it snowed?
4) Character is not created through our successes, but through our mistakes.
Success doesn’t teach you anything. Rather it is by working through mistakes on the way to success that create character. Ask any successful person and they will tell you that it was their failures that made them the successful person they are today.
Why do mistakes lead to success? Because with every mistake we make, we are called to try harder, think differently, and persevere, and this process challenges us to become a higher version of our self.
We all have the power within to create lives of success. To access that power, we need to experience mistakes and failures and learn how to overcome them, so that we can live to our full potential.
This week, consider how you can support your child through their mistakes and challenges without taking over and rescuing them. What one thing can you do to strengthen their resilience, teach decision-making and problem-solving skills, and build their confidence and character as they experience their next challenge?