As a mother of three myself, one of the hardest things with raising kids is watching them fail, hurt, or become frustrated. These are feelings that no one enjoys, but if you are living a life of experience and growth then going through those feelings is inevitable. Your kid’s childhood will be full of them, just as you can expect even more so in their adulthood.
It is our job as parents to prepare them for those setbacks in life and how to overcome them. We do not do our children any favors by trying to “protect” them from those negative feelings and experiences. We have to give them the opportunity to build their self-confidence and resiliency; we have to give them the opportunity to test their judgments and abilities; we have to give them the opportunity to trust their instincts and grow from their mistakes.
Trust me – I know this is easier said than done. I have a hard time keeping myself from stepping in and “rescuing” them from the sometimes harsh world we live in.
Last year I coached my daughter’s playground basketball team, and she was not the best one on the team, so she didn’t get as much playing time as she may have wanted at the beginning of the season. But I explained to her that just because I was her mom and the coach, that didn’t mean she was going to get any favoritism over her teammates. As a matter of fact, I was harder on her than her teammates because she was my daughter and I wanted to push her.
It was not easy seeing her disappointment at times when I would put a substitute in for her, and it was even more awkward when she teared up on the ride home from the games asking me why took her out. I was honest with her, but I encouraged her by letting her know that she had the potential to get better as long as she worked hard and was committed to improving.
After a few games, she realized that needed to improve on some of her skills, so she didn’t complain when I would take her out of the game when we needed points on the board. But while I explained to her that she wasn’t one of our best offensive players, she was a darn good defensive player. She saw her strengths and gave it her all on defense while cheering her teammates on to shoot the ball.
When it came time to schedule summer camps that year, she was motivated to do as many basketball camps as she could because she said, “I know I need to get stronger and better with the ball.”
At this point I wanted her to know that I was going to be her biggest supporter, but her biggest critic and that any coach she had after me was going to be a breeze compared to her mom.
When it comes to school or extracurricular activities, I try to balance my parenting by giving my kids enough space to figure it out on their own with enough support to foster their dreams and goals.
To keep the dialog open and honest, I generally stick to four questions that open the lines of communication during a difficult task they are facing:
1. “What did you do today that made you think hard?”
2. “What new strategies did you try?”
3. “What mistake did you make that taught you something?”
4. “What did you try that was hard today?”
I try my best, and my best is not always on point, but my goal is to be mindful of my own thinking and the messages I’m sending with my words and actions.
Phrases of encouragement never get old and the more your kids hear them, the more they will naturally think them and eventually believe them:
“Mistakes help you improve.”
“You can learn from your mistakes.”
“Let’s see what other strategies you can try.”
Just as important as it is to show your kids, unconditional love, it is as equally important to teach your kids that they can accomplish and overcome things in life without you coming in to save the day.
The truth is you won’t always be around to make life’s punches softer for them, and eventually, you won’t be around at all. So give your kids the tools, opportunities, and experiences in life to save themselves when times get rough. And that is the best feeling you can have as a parent.