No Pain, No Gain!
I want my children to struggle. I don’t want to solve their every problem or make things too easy for them so they may learn resourcefulness and perseverance. Our kids need to become problem solvers but that requires having problems to solve. Things were different when I was a kid during the 70s and 80s. When I left my house, I was unreachable until I called home, and if I got stuck somewhere I had to figure out a solution because there was no mobile phone with which to call my mom. I even had a morning paper route when I was eleven years old! One of my customers was upset because his paper arrived after he’d already left for work so I had to figure out how to rearrange my route to deliver his paper sooner. Can you imagine allowing an eleven year old to deal with some angry stranger at 6:00 am in today’s world? I didn’t ask my mom what to do because it was just something kids my age figured out on our own. Contrast that with today’s kids who are chauffeured everywhere and have play dates. Their activities are structured to always have an adult nearby to fix things. Quit fixing things! I’m not sure why we so often run to our children’s aid but it may be that our generation is overcorrecting for the way our parents allowed us to flounder with so much independence. We remember some of the difficulties we faced and want to protect our kids from experiencing that, though that early problem solving helped us become the adults we are today. I hate watching my kids struggle in the moment, but it shapes the person they become.
We should treat our kids like a personal trainer treats us in the gym. On the sixth rep, I’m hurting and whining like a baby but my trainer knows that if he helps me too much, my muscles won’t grow. We parents act like a permissive trainer helping our kids lift their weights. Let me give you an example with my son, Christopher: Just before the end of this school year, his fifth grade teacher sent home a list of missing and incomplete homework assignments which he needed to turn in or receive a reduced grade. We made Christopher stay up late each night for two weeks with almost no play time in order to finish that work. He got a taste of victory when he completed the work and learned he could rely on himself to deliver to a deadline. He also developed perseverance and earned his dad’s praise. A few years ago, our oldest son, Derek, texted me a picture of his parked car’s axle, broken and angulated on the side of the road. When he called me and asked for help, I made myself tell him “I provided you with AAA, call the number on the card and let me know how it turns out”. Why leave work and rob him of the joy of learning how to handle an adult level, real-life scenario? I suppose the wisdom we need as parents is to wisely choose those problems we leave our kids to solve on their own. The famous expression goes “No pain, no gain”; it shouldn’t be “No pain because mom did it for me”! There is no magic moment when our children become adults, as if they will be bestowed with wisdom, experience and judgment upon reaching the chronological milestone of eighteen. Kids slowly become adults by solving progressively larger problems as they age. Solving every problem for them leaves them ill-prepared for life, kind of like sending a five year old to kindergarten who hasn’t been potty-trained, and that’s just awkward for everyone.