For kids to develop normal and productive lives, they need guidance, education, support, and unconditional love. And according to writer Katie Westenberg on the website Motherly, kids also need to be left alone to figure things out for themselves.
Westenberg admits that tactic was a hard one for her to let go. She felt conflicted about what to do when the training wheels on her youngest kid's bike were removed. She debated running alongside her son, and coaching him while he struggled with balance and coordinating pedals with steering. But when her husband came home, all he did was hold him steady once the boy mounted the bike and just let him go.
And from that moment, she realized parents can't solve every problem that poses as an obstacle to their offspring. From learning to walk and talk, to even riding a bike, life is difficult. Period.
"Growing up is challenging," writes Westenberg. "Why shouldn’t we seek to give them eyes that see beyond what’s right in front of them, intentionally training them and equipping them with the tools to handle hard things?"
To that end, she offered readers five tips for parents to help the brood on their way.
First, she encourages parents to let their kids fail. Westenberg argues that a home upbringing for a child is the best environment to deal with and learn from mistakes made. Better to develop those skills at home than in a competitive college or hostile workplace.
Second, Westenberg suggests their parents equip their children accordingly, such as providing the soft skill sets on how to face fear and overcome the lies about their abilities. When her daughter took to swimming lessons well in the first week, but dreaded them the following week, Westenberg figured out it was her daughter's fear of drowning. Helping her reframe those negative thoughts turned her daughter's head around.
Third, she stresses that children need to be taught the truth about the difficulties of life. Yes, life is hard, but when taught that much of those hardships can be overcome by hard work and the realization that short cuts are not the key to success, a healthy work ethic would work wonders in how kids are able to reach their goals.
Fourth, Westenberg believes that parents should train children for early life challenges, such as doing household chores and helping others when needed. According to Westenberg, these tasks teach self-reliance, tenacity, and faithfulness in themselves. Showing them something hard and demonstrating the perseverance necessary to accomplish that challenge, she argues, will be a skill that children will use for the rest of their lives.
Finally, and hardest of all, Westenberg says doing a follow-through is essential training for a child. If a task is assigned, but not monitored to completion, the life lessons intrinsic in that chore are useless.
"You love those kids like crazy and if you’re anything like me, you tend to let them off the hook too easy at times," writes Westenberg. "But that is not parenting brave. Parenting brave requires the very same thing of us that we are trying to train in our kids, making decisions not based solely on what is right in front of us, but with the end result in mind. In this case that would be responsible and capable adults."