By Sabrina Schlesinger
My firstborn was in first grade and I volunteered in her classroom from time to time. This particular day the teacher had a fun activity of spreading shaving cream all over the tables. At cleanup time, I went into my usual mom mode and started cleaning, thinking the mess was too big for the kids to handle. The teacher stopped me and said kindly, "The kids have got this. Let them do it!"
That may not seem like an epiphany moment to you, but it was for me. I remember thinking, "What else can she do that I am doing for her?"
Up to that point I was doing everything a "good" mom would do. And those things were obviously not bad to do! I actually enjoyed them most of the time. But I had to ask myself a tough question..."Am I helping her or enabling her? Is my ‘helping’ actually stunting her growth?"
We've all probably heard of the metaphor of the butterfly breaking out of the cocoon. If you help that little bug out while seeing it struggle to escape it's cocoon, in the end you are actually harming its future. The struggle is what the butterfly needs so it can spread its wings and soar!
Can we talk for a second about raising world changers? I think we all want to have kids who grow up to change their world for the better. If they are going to do that, no matter how big “their world” is, let’s set them up for success so they can have every opportunity to do so.
Here are 6 things you can start doing to raise a world changer…
#1 Let them fail
Learning from our mistakes is one of life's greatest classrooms. But too often moms with great hearts and good intentions attempt to shield their little ones (and not so little ones) from failure. Why is that? Are we afraid they won't be able to handle the embarrassment or disappointment? Are our expectations of perfection or image too high that we can't let them stumble and fall? I am not sure what your reasons are, and everyone’s motives behind this may be quite different, but in order to stop the cycle of rescuing our kids from this necessary struggle, we need to figure out why we do this.
Instead of rescuing them from failure, let's teach them to grow and learn from them. The Bible says, "A righteous man fails seven times but gets back up!" I would rather my child learn how to respond the right way when they make mistakes so that on the days and moments I am not around, they know how to process it correctly and get back up again!
Take the training wheels off mama and let your kids build the character trait of resilience!
#2 Let them feel pain
It is nearly unbearable to watch our kids cry and be in pain, both emotionally and physically. If there were a magic pill that I could take that would pass all of their pain to me, I would seriously take it. I am sure most of you would too, because that is a mother’s heart. But if we aren't careful, our desire to never see our kids experience pain will cause us to shield them from taking risks in this life.
I'm preaching to myself now!!!
In our family, we teach our kids that there are things worth crying about and things that aren’t. Especially as I am raising a son, I am even more aware of this. Little scrapes and bumps deserve an "ouch, that hurts mama," not a meltdown of tears like they just had their arm blown off. I don't want to raise hypersensitive kids that overreact when they get bumped and bruised physically and emotionally.
If I am continually shielding them from pain, am I really helping them? I would rather teach them reasonable responses to the different degrees of pain they will encounter.
I know I risk sounding insensitive. To be honest, mercy is not my strongest gift (it may be actually be at the bottom), but I think I am right when I say we need to raise a generation that needs to know how to appropriately respond to their pain.
Let's teach our kids how to evaluate their pain and help them discover how strong they really are.
#3 Let them experience rejection
Well, if I haven't offended you yet, hold onto your seats with this one!
Can we stop with the participation trophies already? Can we let there be an actual winner and loser? Why is losing so bad anyways? Yes, being picked for the team is amazing and winning is awesome, but losing isn't the end of the world.
Are we so insecure in our significance that we can't let our kids experience disappointment when they aren't in first place? I often see this with the parent who is living vicariously through their child. But is that helping them? No! Rejection happens and it isn't the end of the world. I think we will actually be surprised by how well our kids take it and move on if we would let them encounter it.
If we don't, we are going to raise kids that feels incredibly entitled. They won't feel the excitement and motivation behind hard work and the reward that comes with that. They won't experience the satisfaction of getting something they have actually had to wait for and fight for.
I don't know about you, but I want to have a young adult son that won't be afraid to ask a young woman out on a date! I want him to be gutsy enough to know that she may turn him down, but that doesn’t change the person he is, nor should it stop him from taking risks again!
I want to raise daughters who know their identity doesn't rest in whether or not they get picked for the promotion. I want them to know that trusting in the timing of God is crucial, but they also ought to do everything they can to pursue their dreams with class and integrity.
Rejection happens my friend. You may be able to protect your child from it now when they are young, but it won't be long before they are faced with it.
I would much rather teach my kids that rejection doesn't define them. It can actually push them to self-evaluate and reveal how they can improve. Sometimes rejection is the catalyst they need to take a good look inwardly and ask themselves the hard questions.
- Could they have prepared more?
- Did they give it their all?
- Are there character flaws within them that need to change?
Not every time they are rejected will it be because they could have done something different, but we owe it to our kids to help them discover if there is truth to it.
Let's teach our kids how to self-evaluate and remind them, "If at first you don't succeed, try and try again!" Don’t underestimate the power of building perseverance!
#4 Let them work out conflict
Imagine if you will, your child is at college and they get in an argument with their new roommate. How weird would it be if you stormed over to their dorm room and chewed out Johnny Roommate for how he treated your son. Crazy mom status, right? Yep, you said it! So what are we doing NOW to teach our kids how to talk through tough situations.
We know for a fact that our kids will not avoid conflict. Yet there are a ton of moms (and dads) out there acting like they are a part of a tag-team wrestling match! Parents are tagging in at the first signs of struggle and going into the ring to fight their childs’ opponent. What parents SHOULD be doing is standing in as the coach, giving their child perspective and instructions to make it through the battle.
Haven't we all heard this statement, "There are always two sides to the story!" Unfortunately, some of us hear our child's complaint and with a knee-jerk reaction take offense for our kid and start planning our revenge. Sometimes this is directed towards their teacher! I am sure that your child is perfect in every way and never does wrong, but it could also be possible that they misunderstood, they were not paying attention, or (gasp) were disrespectful or rude.
Can we take off the rose-colored glasses we see our kids through already? It doesn't help them when we treat them as if they can do know wrong. They can...and they will. And when they do, let's teach them how to humble themselves and ask for forgiveness. Equally, let's teach them the art of seeking to understand before being understood when they are in conflict with someone.
I have made it a practice in our family when one of them comes and tattles on another to ask the question, "Have you talked to them first and told them how you feel?" If the answer to that question is no, I send them back to the person they are in conflict with. If after they have attempted to bring resolve on their own and are unsuccessful, I will then get involved and hear both sides of the story before bringing down my gavel of judgment. (Kidding....kind of.)
Let's teach our kids how to communicate effectively and teach them the art of being humble and forgiving.
#5 Let them see injustice
It is alive and well in our world…and if I had my way, we would rid the world of it. But as long as people exist, so will injustice.
These moments of injustice are unique opportunities to instill in our kids right thinking. If we shield them from seeing the ugly part of our world, then they won't know how to face it when they inevitably do.
So what do we do when white supremacists are rioting and hating on people because of the color of their skin, or when a guilty person seemingly gets off scot-free?
I have no choice but to turn to the Word of God on this, because my flesh wants to react a different way. I want to spew hate back at those who are so hateful. I want to take matters into my own hands when the "system" fails. But this is so opposite of how Christ has asked us to respond. And believe me, He is all about justice. His ways just might be at a different time and in a different way than I can understand.
Romans 12:19 says, "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord."
Proverbs 24:24 says, "Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,” will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations. 25 But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come on them."
I have to remember and teach my kids that our God is the best Father. He loves His kids so much. He hurts when we hurt. He also sees the bigger picture. So if we will give Him our pain and frustrations over an unjust situation, we can be certain He will bring justice to those who need it.
To clarify...this doesn't mean that we don't call the police at times. It doesn't mean we let someone continually bully or beat us up. That is not okay! But we can be forgiving while on the phone with the police. Because forgiveness has nothing to do with the perpetrator, it has everything to do with our hearts. When I forgive, I am saying, "I place the guilty party in God's hands and trust He will take care of them." I do this so the violator won't have any control over me. Our kids need to learn this too.
On another note, we also teach our kids to stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves. Teach them how to appropriately defend the weak. Sometimes "appropriately" looks like physically standing between the bully and the victim. Sometimes it means telling an adult when they see something being done to another person that is wrong. And sometimes it means being the only one standing for what is right when everyone else may be sitting and remaining silent.
Let's teach our kids how to treat people honorably and to have compassion. Let us also teach our kids how to have convictions and what is worth fighting for.
#6 Let them receive consequences
In our home we have a statement, "You can make any choice you want to, although I recommend you make the right one. But if you make the wrong choice, you don't get to choose the consequences."
Consequences are meant to sting. They are a great reminder that every choice of ours has repercussions, good and bad. Our kids desperately need to know their decisions have consequence.
We teach our kids they can certainly be forgiven when they have sinned, but forgiveness of sins doesn't equal removal of consequences. And sometimes those consequences can be life-long depending on the situation.
So what happens when we stand in between our kids and their consequence? You may think you are being merciful. You may think you are helping them...after all, it was their first offense. But what you are really teaching them is their bad decisions don't matter. If they don’t feel the pain of their choices, they won’t learn from their mistakes.
When they are little, mistakes are small...and so are their consequences. It is a crucial time for them to learn cause and effect! But when they are older, the effects may result in the ending of someone's life because they got behind the wheel of a car under the influence. The cause and effects have greater ramifications the older they get.
So let's teach them while they are young!
When one of my kids was in 1st or 2nd grade, she thought it would be fun to vandalize the school bathroom with her buddy. There were spit wads and clumps of wet toilet paper everywhere. It wasn't anything major and there was no damage done. I could have quickly gone in and cleaned it up with her, corrected her and moved on. But I thought, "This is a great opportunity to teach her a tough lesson." I explained to her how vandalism was against the law and we needed to let the proper authorities know what she had done. At this time, the proper authority was the Principle of her school. She had to confess what she had done to the school's bathroom and the Principle would decide what her consequence were. My daughter was terrified...and that was good! I let her stew in that over the weekend.
On Monday, she and I went to see the Principle. Before my daughter came into the office, I communicated to the Principle that I didn't want her to go easy on my daughter. I am not a mean mom...I promise....I just knew that if I could put some healthy fear in my girl while she was young, it would leave a big enough impact on her so she would seriously rethink ever doing anything like that again. So my daughter confessed and asked for forgiveness. The Principle accepted her apology and handed out her sentence of garbage duty for the next week during recess.
For one week my girl had to put on an orange vest, gloves and carry a bag to pick up trash on the playground, all the while watching her friends run wild and free. It was a perfect consequence to her actions and she still remembers it to this day.
Let's teach our kids that they will reap what they sow, both positive and negative. Integrity seems to be a lost trait in many adults. Let that not be so of our children.
This isn't an exhaustive list, but it will certainly get you started on the right path to raising amazing kids who will grow into successful adults who bring value to our world.
Love + Blessings,