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I don’t think that the title of this article will win me any “Mother of the Year” awards. But it is true: I really do want bad things to happen to my children. Not catastrophic things. Not irreparable things. But yes, bad things. I want my children to learn something that is a buzzword in military communities nowadays: Resilience.
Sadly, resilience has become something that we actually have to teach. Our society provides special trainings, classes, and symposiums in order for grown adults to be able to handle the stresses that life throws at them. Instead of holding my kids’ hands through every step of childhood and then throwing them to the wind when they turn eighteen, I want my children to have experience handling challenges. I want them to feel the satisfaction that comes with working through a difficult situation, whether it is bringing up a low math grade, finally being able to do a pull-up, or working through hurt feelings with a friend.
I want my children to feel the pain that occurs when they mess up. I pray they never mess up terribly, such as driving drunk and harming someone, but if they get pulled over by a policeman for speeding and have to mow yards or sell precious possessions to pay off that ticket, then so be it. Plus, they will have learned how it feels to see those blue flashing lights in the rear view mirror. Maybe then they will think twice before drinking and driving.
I also want them to know how to handle difficult situations. My daughters were rear-ended on the way to school yesterday. Thankfully, everyone was okay and there was not too much damage to their car. But with that experience they learned how to handle an accident scene. I am teaching them how to work through the process of making an insurance claim. They also had to overcome the jitters of getting behind the wheel of a car again.
One of my daughters is away on a college visit right now. I don’t know if she packed everything she needed, but I guess she will figure out how to handle it if she didn’t and will know to plan better next time. And if she did pack well, it will add to her confidence.
The same goes for my other daughter who is going on a religious mission trip this spring. She will not be able to have a cell phone–and I am good with that. The leaders will be in touch, letting us know that they arrived safely and if there are emergencies. But my daughter will have to work through difficult situations without calling me for help. This is a good thing!
As parents, sometimes we have become so lenient and yet so overprotective of our kids that we are messing them up. We allow them infinite freedom in the electronic world, but God forbid they should scrape their knees while climbing a tree or eat something without using antibacterial spray first!
I’ll admit that I am as guilty of these things as any other parent. But I don’t want to be. I want my kids to grow up and learn how to handle life. That is what resilience is all about: handling life’s issues in a productive manner. And that is why I am okay (mostly) when bad things happen to my kids.
QUESTION: How resilient are your kids? What bad things have happened to your children that you have protected them from? What bad things have you let them handle for themselves? What are some of the situations they experience where you can step back and let them learn from their mistakes?
CHALLENGE: Think of one situation where your kids are making mistakes or are dealing with difficult situations. The next time you feel the impulse to step in and save the day, STOP! Ask yourself if this is a “good” bad thing. If it is, let them handle it.
Editors: Elsje Denison and Rachel Nielson.
Image from Shutterstock/Graphics by Julie Finlayson.
Thank you for your article. I am trying to let my children struggle more and help them understand that struggling with things is okay. My children are 6, 4, 2, and 4 months. The older two are just learning to ride bikes. When they fall over I give them “high five” and cheer “you fell off your bike!” When they ask why I say that, I respond that it’s part of learning to ride a bike. When my 2 year old fusses and screams as she tries to take off her shoes, I sit and watch now instead of trying to stop the noise as soon as possible. I’m learning to be okay with the sounds that come with a struggle. If they ask for help them I give it, sometimes by physically doing and sometimes by verbally directing. I still stay nearby an bandage scrapes and kiss “owies”, but my way of thinking has shifted, and it’s a good shift. I feel more peaceful and less afraid.