What have you learned the most from in your life? Your failures or your successes? Your struggles or your achievements? If you are like me, I have learned far more from my failures and struggles than my successes and triumphs. Guess what? The same goes for our kids.
As parents, one of the most difficult things to grapple with is our instinct to protect. When we see our child in pain, we want to fix it NOW! It is uncomfortable in a visceral way. We want to call the teacher, problem solve, get tutors and make the problem go away. But, are we robbing our kids of vital learning when we do this?
The kind of learning we receive from tackling pain and failure is transformational and it is the magic of life. This kind of magic appears when we fail, make mistakes or find ourselves in a circumstance that is painful and out of our control. When our back is against the wall and we are left with the choice to rise up or to sink. These are the moments that leave us changed. So why do so many of us rob our children of this type of magic by going into fix it mode?
When my daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy, I was so used to being in control. If any of my children were in pain, I could make it better. I could kiss it away, explain it away, comfort it away. I could fix it. But, there are things in life that are hard and cannot be loved away or fixed.
After a long, difficult struggle with myself, I realized I could not love away epilepsy. It was bigger than me. I was forced to accept it and soldier forward, or to fall. The lesson for both my daughter and myself was simple, there are some things in life that we do not get to control. I learned the lesson at thirty eight, my daughter learned it at eight. She was diagnosed with epilepsy in August and whooping cough in November. She rarely complained. She never said “Why me?” She somehow knew that life circumstances do not determine our destiny or our happiness. That happiness comes from someplace deeper, somewhere within.
This is the thing with struggle and failure. This type of learning, the type that is deep, that is transformational and creates inner strength, is typically not learned in the celebrations, achievements and accolades. It is not learned in the celebratory high five after a touchdown. It is not learned during the final bow of the curtain call. It is learned in the trenches of some of the terrible things that befall us and some of the massive mistakes we make. It is learned in the moment your teacher humiliates you for forgetting your work, in the moment you lose your temper and yell at someone you love. It is learned in the moment you don’t make the team, the suspension you receive or the instagram post your child makes without thinking. It is learned in the hard stuff.
So let us allow our children to find the lessons in these moments. Let’s hate the pain and unfairness AND welcome the opportunity for growth and learning.
Every one of us will have a time in our life where we will be called to wrestle the hard stuff. So let’s prepare our kids for THAT!
When we allow our kids their struggles. When we resist the urge to go into clean up and fix it mode, some beautiful things happen.
1) Kids learn that you believe in their ability to fail and bounce back. If you are rescuing, fixing and intervening before your child has the chance to fail or struggle, it communicates your belief that they are not strong enough to manage and persevere through hardship. It communicates that you believe they are fragile and must be saved.
2) Kids learn they are capable of managing painful, uncomfortable emotions like fear, doubt, sadness, anger, frustration, and loneliness. They learn that these feelings are a normal part of life and that feelings come and go. They don’t need to fix them or be afraid of them.
3) It takes away the pressure. Failure is the goal because our mistakes pave the way to our successes! Too often, we focus on the goal and the outcome. But success comes on the heels of the many times we do it wrong!
This is simply a shift in mindset. It does not mean a laissez-faire approach to parenting where we stand back and say “whatever happens, happens.” NO!! There must be nurturing and connection. There must be boundaries, teaching and expectations. AND our children must be allowed to face struggles, make mistakes and feel the consequences with you right there, ready to support and guide them when they fall.
It’s going to be HARD,
but you can handle it,
you are stronger than you think!