“I’ve always believed that parents are not for leaning upon, but rather exist to make leaning unnecessary.” – Dr Wayne W. Dyer
I love this quote, don’t you?
I sure wish I could go back and redo some parenting situations. Looking back, my maternal instinct pushed me to act in ways that I now know were not helpful to my children.
That little voice is always shouting, “Protect them from everything! Don’t let them get hurt”.
But that’s just not real life, is it?
In fact most of their life is going to be spent without your protection, without you standing over their shoulders shielding them from anything and everything that could go wrong.
As much as you hate to believe it, pain and suffering is an essential part of your child’s growth.
Think of it this way: what happened when they first went off to preschool?
They always got sick, didn’t they? They sniffled, they threw up and they were just plain ill a lot of the time over those years. You couldn’t do anything about it. And they needed to get sick so that their immune system could grow and get stronger.
You need to let them scrape their knees, get sick and make mistakes for themselves, because that’s the only way they’re really going to learn.
These are the teachable moments in their lives.
Of course you don’t see it that way at first: every unfair teacher, crazy parent and child that doesn’t invite them to a party deserves to be strung up by their toenails. At least that’s how I felt.
I remember a time when one of my kids was left out of a party. He came home from school crying harder than I’d ever seen; it was one of those cries where you can hear that hiccuping gasp for air between wails.
You know the kind that breaks a mothers heart. My first instinct was to get on the phone and make this problem go away. Probably by going crazy at the child’s parents. But, instead, I took a deep breath and realized what a great a teachable moment this was.
So I took my son and I sat him down on the edge of the bed. I let him cry and tell me how he was feeling. I hugged him and rubbed his shoulders.
Then I asked him a question, “What can you learn from this?”
He wiped his nose, looked up at me and said, “Being left out sucks.”
“Exactly. So when you next have to choose whether to include someone or leave them out, remember how you feel right now.” I told him.
As often as we want to call the parent, teacher, coach and try and right every wrong done to our kids we lose out on some incredible growth opportunities.
If you look back at your own life you can probably connect the dots in the same way too: relationships that ended, jobs you hated and times you were humiliated. They all taught you a lesson that stuck with you.
I know, looking at my life, that as you get older you can see the obstacles and painful moments that molded you into who you are today. Even though you couldn’t see it at the time, you most likely are now grateful for them.
They taught you how to deal with your emotions. What your bottom line is. How to be compassionate. And how to work hard for what you want.
Your disappointments always come bearing the greatest gifts.
While I wish you could learn these amazing lessons in joyful, happy times, it just isn’t possible.
God doesn’t give you battles and situations that you can’t handle. The universe doesn’t make your life a misery to be cruel. Instead, you have to enter each situation knowing that it is there to teach you something.
And that when you do surface from the darkness, you will be a whole new person bathed in the light.
These are the lessons you want to teach your children too.
As much as you want to make all of their problems go away, to fight their battles and to tape their broken hearts back together, you just can’t.
Your job is to coach them through to the other side. Give them the tools to stand on their own and not need to lean on you. Because that is where they learn the most.
Or, as Wayne Dyer said, to make leaning unnecessary.
Questions To Teach Your Kids
Have you ever had an argument where 30 minutes after it finished, you thought of the perfect thing to say?
Well talking to your kids as they’re crying in your arms is no different. As you’ve probably felt a million times before.
Which begs the question: what should you be asking to help them learn?
Here’s some questions I’ve used with my kids over the years to really drive home how they feel and what they could learn from the situation:
- How does this make you feel?
- Do you think you have ever made another person feel this way?
- Will you do anything different now that this has happened?
- Do you see things differently now?
The more open (not a yes or no) the answer to the question has to be, the more they will learn from it.
This gives them chance to think about and look at the situation, instead of getting caught up in the emotion of it all.
The first time you try to do this, it will be hard. But if you grin and bear it you will see just how wonderful these moments can be.
For example, my son had a basketball coach with whom he struggled. One practice, this coach went out of his way to humiliate my son in front of his teammates. I had to try really hard to resist the urge to egg his house.
Instead, finding a teachable moment, I took my son to one side and said, “Why don’t you speak to the coach and tell him how you felt?”
Which he did after the next practice, he told him that it didn’t need to happen and that it made him feel bad.
The coach was impressed by his courage and how he managed to handle his emotions so well. He even made a point of talking about it in his end of year banquet speech.
You can imagine how hard it was as a mother to not confront the coach myself. But you can also understand how proud I was at the other end when I saw that through the pain, he had learned a valuable, courageous lesson.
So never be afraid to loosen the reigns. Let them get bumped and scraped. Let them feel what they feel and don’t always try to fix the problem. Ask them questions and guide them to learning from it.
Their survival in real life depends on it.