By Tim Walker
The other day in the drop-off, car-rider lane at my boys’ elementary school, one of my kids realized that he accidentally threw away something he needed for school.
My first instinct was to jump the curb, go home and dig through the trash to find it. In fact, there’s something deep within me that still wants to drive 45 minutes home and do just that.
My son works hard at school, he’s very conscious of his grades, and I could tell that he was pretty upset about it.
I wanted to make it better for him.
I resisted the urge.
In fact, while we sat in the car, we talked about alternate solutions. And in my head, I also thought that he might just have to get a bad grade on that one assignment.
Sometimes self-control as a parent means that I have to fight my protective instincts and let my kids go through things that might cause them pain, frustration or even disappointment.
I’m finding as my kids get older, I’m having to do this more and more. We faced it recently with my oldest son and some of his schoolwork. My wife and I tried to help by getting him to school early for extra help, and asking him about assignments and tests. But the reality was that it was up to him. I’m not in school with him every day. I’m not the one who has to take a test or turn in an assignment. He had to do it.
And the awesome thing is that when he realized what was on the line, he met the challenge.
Self-control means resisting the urge to rescue my kids, and let them walk through some things on their own.
And it’s so hard. Life hurts. Every one of us has experienced a wound or a scar from past disappointments and failures. We don’t want our kids to hurt like that too. But often, when we see those situations pop up in our kids’ lives, we remember the emotions but forget the valuable lessons we learned in the process.
I’m not saying I shouldn’t ever step into my sons’ worlds, or help them at all. But sometimes the best thing I can do as a dad is to let them face things—big or small—in a way that helps them navigate them, not avoid them.
When have you resisted the rescue and allowed your kids to fail to help them learn a valuable lesson?
Tim Walker works at Orange and is a husband, father of three boys, editor, writer, superhero—well, you get the idea. More of Tim’s words can be found at www.timswords.com.