A five-year-old boy gets on his bike. He is curious. He learned recently how to stay in balance. It is late afternoon on Saturday and the guests are arriving for the barbecue. And there he goes. The slope outside the country house is slight …. or is it? It’s actually very, very steep … at least from his Mom’s perspective. She starts running and shouting. Thanks God – she is faster than the bike. She catches the boy just before he goes down the road.
The little boy is safe. At least for now. But one day, he will grow up and he will start his own journey.
Why we don’t let our children fall and rise, have bruises and heal, decide, fail and learn from their own mistakes?
From a historical point of view, the world has never been a safer place, so here is what we can do instead of overly protecting our children.
Inspire kids to love adversity
Joshua Waitzkin is a former US chess champion and world champion in Tai Chi Chuan. In his book the “Art of learning”, he draws the lines between the skills that allowed him to dominate in such diverse sports. He also writes that he always plays with his kid outside on a rainy day. His reasoning? Kids must learn that we should not be emotionally affected by external events that are outside of our control.
The first step towards success and happiness in our highly competitive society is to recognize that our failures and achievements are due to our own actions and not to force major events. Which leads us to point two.
Encourage critical thinking
We all witnessed at least once a situation in which a kid asks a question and starts playing the Why Game until a parent closes the discussion with “Because I said so”.
In a world full of speculations, misleading information, baseless claims and negative news, above all, we have the responsibility to teach our children how to frame and ask quality questions, how to establish the facts and draw their own conclusions.
Because this is the basis of sound decision making. And becoming a strong decision maker, like with everything else, requires intense practice.
Let your children do their own work, decide, fail and learn
Not letting children do their own work can take various forms. Tolerating sitting around and playing video games instead of having chores. Writing their home-works in school and later their college applications. But honestly, is sheltering from reality doing our kids a favor? Certainly not.
Kids should understand that the path towards success is consistent work, not luck. Talent is something to develop, not a gift. If they fail a test, parents shouldn’t protect them by saying that it was just a bad day.
Because once you understand that you can overcome any obstacle by having a plan, working smart and being persistent, failure is no longer a threat. It becomes an opportunity for personal and financial growth.
Moreover, to develop resilience you must face the consequences of your own decisions. We should let our children figure out that there are responsibilities associated with everything we want.
If they go to college in a different town or to study for a year abroad, instead of arranging everything from travel to accommodation and refilling their bank account upon request, parents should explain how to plan a budget and not spend more than your monthly income is. And then let them make the arrangements. Let them negotiate the agreements, take the decisions, make a mistake and learn from it. Let them work to recover from the financial loss.
Because even if you plan to leave your children a huge inheritance, if they didn’t already develop sound decision-making habits and are not responsible, the only guarantee is that the money will someday run out.
I have seen a lot of similar situations after having been an estate planning and probate attorney for almost 20 years.
Ultimately, the best gift that we can offer to our children is to help them get out of their comfort zone.
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