No loving parent enjoys seeing their child suffer. From the time of their birth we want to protect our children from pain, sorrow, heartache, grief… and struggling. We see them taking their first steps and we hurry to their side lest they take a tumble. We take off the training wheels and run beside them lest they wobble and fall. As they get older we help them finish their homework when it seems it will overwhelm them. We get offended when they are not picked for a particular team or school play. We rush to and fro trying to make life easier for our children lest they be overwhelmed and defeated. We try to keep our kids from struggling.
Modern society that tells us we should protect, nurture, love and guide our children to the point that they do not struggle. Kids need to struggle. When children are not allowed to struggle they lose out on a powerful life principal. When we continually step in and prevent our children from struggling we are cheating them of one of the most powerful tools they will need to survive this life. Struggling is essential.
When our children see that we are upset, offended or upset because of a natural consequence in life, such as not being given the lead role in a play, or not being invited to a party, children learn entitlement. They begin to believe that it is their “right” to have it all. They build a false realm of reality where everything is supposed to go their way. We do a great disservice to our children when they see an inappropriate attitude conveyed from us.
I was one of those parents who hated to see my children suffer through the process of struggling. I can now see areas of my adult daughters lives that could have been more successful had I allowed them to struggle. I can also see areas of their lives where they are powerful and tenacious because those were the areas that we did allow them to struggle, where we didn’t step in and make things easy, where we allowed them to ride the wave of difficulty, pain and sorrow. Struggling grows children into strong, responsible, capable adults.
Hebrews 5:8 tells us that “Jesus learned obedience by the things which he suffered.”
What does this verse mean? It means that the tool of discipline and self-control were learned through the school of pain, suffering and struggles. He grew in the knowledge of His divine destiny by being allowed to struggle, to endure, to fight to survive.
Struggling is painful to watch. No loving parent enjoys watching their child struggle. My youngest daughter struggled with English and spelling from the time she was in Kindergarten. We had to review each word up to 500 times before it would sink in. It was painful, arduous and difficult for both of us. She struggled. Yet today her words are like artwork upon paper. She expresses herself beautifully with the words she once struggled to memorize. Her struggles caused her success. Her struggles gave her fortitude. Her struggles gave her gumption.
Have you been preventing your child from struggling? Perhaps they haven’t done well in sports so you pulled them off the team. Perhaps a class was too hard so you had them switch to an easier one. Maybe they tried out for a school play and didn’t get the part they wanted so you encouraged them to not be a part of the production. What is the area of your child’s life where you are stopping the struggle? Let it be. Let them struggle.
Now, we must use wisdom when a child is hurting in comparison to struggling. If a child is in a dangerous situation that could have detrimental results it is a wise parent that steps in and stops the abuse, the bullying, the fist fights. We should protect our children against harm. This is not what we are talking about. Those are dangerous situations that need to be remedied with wisdom in a timely matter. We are talking about situations that are difficult but in the end can be found to be rewarding as the child struggles to succeed through them.
I am also not talking about being insensitive to your child’s needs. You need to be able to listen attentively to their fears, concerns, insecurities and worries. Listen, but use wisdom as to how often you jump in and try to change the situation.
If they are in a difficult class and are struggling guide and encourage them as much as your can. Hold their hand through the process but don’t do the homework for them. Don’t pull them out because it’s too hard. Let them learn the value of hard work and determination. Kids’ don’t need to make A’s and B’s to be a success. Sometimes just passing a class can be a blessing.
If your child doesn’t get the part in the school play don’t down talk the play or the decision just be frank and let your child know that the other child was talented as well and deserved the part. Stop loosely using terms such as “It’s not fair.” Life isn’t fair, yet this is how we grow, this is how we learn to accept adversity as part of everyday life.
Stop coddling your child each time things don’t go well for them. Love them, encourage them, help them, guide them, but don’t coddle them. When they fall, teach them to get right back on their feet again. Let them focus on what they can do not on what they can’t.
There is great value in struggling. This is how we grow. This is how we move forward. This is how we become strong. Do not rob your child of the gift of struggle to make life easier. For in the end it is the strongest that succeed.