The Struggle to Teach Our Children to Fail and Fly
I’ve seen a trend in the last 10 years that I’m not sure how I feel about; it’s the death of independence in kids and teens.
While on one hand, I’m glad that parents are taking more active roles in helping their kids make good decisions. On the other hand, I’m very disappointed to see more and more kids turn into young adults who don’t know how to make a decision for themselves or take action without the backing of their parents.
When a child is five, six or even twelve years old there is a need for us to make decisions for our children and keep them on a tight rein when it comes to their independence. We do this for their own good but as they creep into being a teenager and young adulthood it’s just as important for us to loosen those same reins and let our kids figure some things out on their own.
In short, we have to let them fail.
That’s a bitter pill for a lot of parents to swallow; me included. Just because I’m touting independence and teaching our children to be independent does not make me immune from wanting to do as much for my kids as possible. It’s hard for me to watch my kids fail, whether it’s an extracurricular activity or in school, it’s a battle for me to keep from running to my child’s side; bring the trombone to school, give them the answers to a difficult homework assignment or even complete that science fair project they put off till the last minute.
But then I do a reality check.
What will my intervention cost them down the road? Will they have learned anything or grown from the experience?
If my answer is no (as it most usually is) then I back away from the situation slowly and do my best to guide my kids in the right direction but refrain from driving them down the correct road myself.
Guiding can take on many forms, from flat out refusal to solve the problem that they are having (my least favorite but sometimes necessary solution); to encouraging them to think through the issue or problem. If it’s the case of a forgotten homework assignment then I try to offer my condolences for the bad grade and then ask them if they can make up the assignment or gently ask what they might do differently next time they forget something.
We can prod them in the right direction, we can offer choices in an effort that they’ll choose the right one but ultimately when it comes down to it; if we want them to be productive adults and people that others will look up to and depend on; we have to let them go and let them make some good decisions and bad decisions on their own.
We do such a good job at taking care of our children that many times we don’t even realize that our good job will do our kids damage down the road. A few years ago, I wrote about parents who won’t teach their children to do for themselves. I still believe then what I do now.
The bottom line here is that it’s Okay to let our kids struggle a bit.
At some point our kids have to learn to fly on their own. We can’t keep them in the nest forever.