Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain. But instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it. – Brené Brown
Growing up, I experienced a series of high’s and low’s familiar to childhood. Perhaps you can identify. As a 4th grader, I earned a lead role as a soloist in my school’s annual Christmas play. The following year, I missed out on a similar opportunity and was relegated to a lesser part. The heartbreak was real.
In high school, I was named a starter on the varsity soccer team as a Sophomore only to be cut from the varsity basketball team and placed on the JV later that same year. Once again, I had to contend with disappointment.
Years later, I’ve reflected on how these experiences shaped me. I now know that had everything I desired come easily to me, I wouldn’t be who I am today. You see, I was forced to deal with failure. To wrestle with setbacks. To realize there is more to life.
My parents never swooped in to intervene when others’ decisions or circumstance dictated a different route. They offered comfort and loved me well; but, my journey was one I had to forge on my own merit.
I love education. It’s my calling. I’m young enough to relate to my students (I think), yet far enough along life’s path to have experienced a youth absent cell phones and social media.
As the parent of a fourth grader, and someone who interacts with teenagers on a regular basis, there are several learned lessons I’ve come to hold dear.
Kids need to learn how to fail
Students whose every obstacle is greeted with a soft-landing struggle to adjust to life’s future hurdles. Learning how to fail is purposeful. It requires parents to allow the common adversity that life introduces to impact their child in a meaningful way.
Kids aren’t brittle; they’re resilient. Every time we as parents “make that project look just a little bit nicer” (after all, straight lines and colorful artistry appear much more appealing when publicly displayed, right?), we remove an opportunity for growth. If we search deep down, when we try to do our student’s work, it really says much more about our vicarious need for approval than anything about our child. And, it catches up when he or she gets to high school, parents. I promise.
In her book, How To Raise An Adult, author Julie Lythcott-Haims says, “Depriving our kids of the chance to struggle and to learn to persevere, while we focus instead on prepping them to be the number one at all things and tell them how awesome they are, is a prime example of our best intentions gone awry. Perhaps we didn’t realize that ‘protecting’ our kids from falls and failures could hurt them. But it can.”
Everyone is designed to fulfill a calling
As image-bearers of Christ, I believe that each person has been created with the capacity for excellence in some endeavor. GCA has the distinct privilege of partnering with parents as students discover their calling.
In I Corinthians 12, Scripture reminds us that we all have a role to play. It’s that combination of unity and diversity that makes the body of Christ so unique. My gifts are different than your gifts, and yours different than mine.
As your student seeks to discover his or her intended path, encourage the exploration of where personal giftedness and passion collide (e.g. that which they are good at and that which they love to do). A word of caution, parents: This may or may not be what you envision for your child. Grow comfortable with this. Seeking God’s will for his or her life will never breed regret.
Conflict is normal, even healthy
Knowing someone has been unkind to our child is difficult. Naturally, we want to protect and prevent. It’s important, however, to distinguish between bullying and conflict. Bullying is physical or verbal harassment occurring over a period of time which involves an imbalance of power (social or physical). If you fear your child has been bullied, reaching out to school officials is a wise and necessary step.
On the other hand, conflict is part of life. Adults don’t always get along with co-workers like students don’t always get along with classmates. Equipping your child(ren) with the skills to navigate conflict is key. Like fielding a ground ball or learning to play the flute, dealing with conflict is a skill which must be built. Students must be taught the language and behaviors to work through issues without constant adult intervention. Kids who learn these strategies often transition into adulthood with greater success and social-emotional balance.
You’re parenting a child, but raising an adult
For some, an empty nest is merely months away. For others, an empty nest may feel like science fiction. In either case, your child(ren) will someday, God-willing, grow to adulthood. The decisions we make now, as parents, in many ways will shape the adult(s) they will ultimately become.
Brave parenting is counter-cultural. And when we choose to be courageous, we run the risk of being misunderstood. Resisting the urge to follow the crowd won’t always be easy, but it can make all the difference.
- How To Raise An Adult – Julie Lythcott-Haims – Next to the Bible, this is as powerful a book on parenting as I’ve encountered. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
- The Gift of Failure – Jessica Lahey – A wonderful look at how failure prepares kids for the unavoidable challenges life presents.
- Grit – Angela Duckworth – Want to raise up kids who persevere? This is a playbook for you and yours.