Lean Into the Struggle
As a mom of five kids, I’m a master at teaching children to ride their bikes without training wheels.
The teaching situation has always consisted of a wildly excited yet cautious son or daughter who longs for my support and desires independence, exploration, and adventure.
My job was to securely grab the bike seat with one hand and the handlebar with the other, so I could steer and guide my kiddo while also offering words of encouragement so they would remember to pedal, brake, and keep their eyes on the pavement. Inevitably, I would let go at some point. And when I did, it was also initially inevitable that my child would lose balance or have trouble navigating the pavement. The good news is that they would struggle at first, but each of my children found success with time, continued practice, and my coaching.
A family tradition
Although it can feel downright daunting, the truth is it’s okay to let our kids struggle sometimes. Of course, I wrestle with this truth just like you do. But since I’ve launched three adults into society so far, I’ve learned from experience that this is necessary wisdom as a parent.
I once heard my uncle say he was grateful his father, my grandfather, made him go to the dictionary when he needed to know the spelling or definition of a word.
He said that while he wished as a child that his father would give him the information he needed, he appreciated the mental strengthening that small responsibility developed in him over the years.
I too can remember the many ways my parents left room for me to struggle and work through things on my own and with their support when needed. Playground politics, school projects, household chores, and college applications are a few areas that my parents gave guidance when needed. But they also gave me the bandwidth to work through the challenging, unpleasant, or unknown in my life.
Learning how to think through or feel my way through things helped me. It gave me the confidence to know I could solve problems. It gave me the discipline to figure things out that I would have rather let someone do on my behalf.
The blessing of a supervised struggle
My youngest child is now 13 and I’m going through 7th grade pre-algebra, grammar, and composition for the last time. I’m amazed at how this son of mine hates to look up the definition of a word in an actual dictionary. Instead, he’d rather get the answer from me or pull it up quickly on an electronic device.
After homeschooling five children, I’m not surprised. They all hated to do that. But because I’m now a little older and wiser in my motherhood journey, I’ve seen how well my kids flourish in big things because of how I let them learn how to do the little things by themselves early on.
The older ones learned so much as I allowed them to learn in a “supervised struggle” while they were still in my care.
Listen, mom; your children have to figure some things out and work through things to grow strong. And you have to be willing to let them do so.
As your kids mature and get older, give them small responsibilities. Then, let those responsibilities grow with them.
Here are a few ideas:
- During toddler years, have your child help throw away their diaper after a change. This can be their first chore.
- Consider having your school-age children pack their own backpack and/or lunch the night before school with guidance from you.
- Your middle schooler’s responsibility may look like allowing your child to communicate with their teacher on missing assignments instead of you doing it for them.
- For high schoolers, you might allow them to determine the right balance between work and school commitments. Have them create their schedule and manage their time with input and coaching from you as needed.
Your children are capable of learning, growing, and doing hard things. As the mom, you should assist when needed, but don’t overdo it. Let your children figure out solutions to problems with ongoing guidance from you that shifts and changes as they get older. Allow them the chance to strengthen their wings and fly independently as they learn to lean into the struggles life brings.
You are a good mom for letting them wobble a bit here and there as they ride through this life.
You are a good mom for grabbing on and directing their decisions when needed, and as they mature, guiding them with words of encouragement when your hands-on input is no longer needed.
But you know what?
You are also a good mom for knowing when it’s time to let them grow by letting go.
It’s a beautiful thing to watch them develop confidence, move forward, and learn to enjoy the journey. The good news is when you truly and prayerfully ask God for guidance in raising your children, He is there coaching you through the layers of letting go as your children grow.
When you let go, God never does. He is with your children when you can’t be there, and He can always be their guide as they have need.