There is a quality and a substance of character that we long for our kids to have, but which can only be worked into their very fabric through difficulty.
If we remove every trial and tribulation, every hard thing from their path, then there is nothing left for them to resist, oppose, or endure.
We must love them enough to allow them to struggle.
As a mom, I want every little thing to go smoothly, nicely, and easily. I want to rescue my children from trials and shelter them from pain.
When I see others making choices that affect my sons negatively, I’m tempted to be critical of those people. I can plot an interception in my mind when I’m privy to an imminent correction, however gentle, that my husband is planning to bring to one of my sons. Or, when my answer won’t bring my sons pleasure, sometimes I want to soft-soak it to dilute its strength.
I want to move things around to make the way easy for them.
Everything within me wants the best for these young men. But this is not love in truth.
Sometimes their “best interest” means allowing them to experience life’s hard knocks. Sometimes I want to be nicer than God.
New York City 7th grade math teacher, Angela Duckworth, observed with surprise that talent, income level and intelligence were not the predictors of success she had imagined, but instead, if her students possessed perseverance and passion for long term goals, which she refers to as ‘grit,’ they would crush it in life!
She became obsessed with the topic, wrote a bestselling book: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance and gave a Ted Talk that’s been viewed 14 million times in 49 languages.
Perseverance is apparently, POWER.
And more importantly, her research concluded that this ‘grit’ isn’t inherited, but can be cultivated in our kids. How, you ask?
We learn perseverance by pressing on, even though we don’t get our own way.
It’s a natural fact of life for everyone.
Children must be allowed to experience this most aggravating emotional experience.
We don’t always have to make things even-steven. Some days the scales will not balance no matter how hard you try. This is simply reality. Life is not equitable in all circumstances. We must stop trying to be the “almighty balancer of the scales” for our children if we’re going to see our kids become the kind of adults who persevere.
We are producing tomorrow’s leaders who will build families, communities, churches, schools, governments…determining the health of society.
How do we expect to produce strong leaders if we don’t allow strength to be built through trial?
Muscle is built by resistance.
Patience is produced by painful endurance.
Character is cultivated when circumstances bring disappointment.
Friends, think for a moment. When have we learned our most valuable lessons and experienced our finest moments along the path of life? My answer has to be: during trial, hardship, and contrary circumstances.
It was truly while traveling along the roads of perseverance and endurance that my leadership capacity was enlarged the most.
Why then do we long to shield our children from difficulties and rob them of the blessing of true character riches?
How will our children remain committed through thick and thin in marriage if they were never required to endure hardships along the way?
What kind of parents will they be, having never grown up themselves?
This spiritual and character development through pain and perseverance has been well illustrated in the Mira men’s power-lifting pastime. As teens, several days a week you could find our sons in the garage pumping iron with their daddy. It was an environment chock-full of resistance. The noises they made indicated severe struggle, even pain. But their vision kept them pressing on in the process of building hard-earned muscle which they knew could come no other way.
Here is a profound Scripture passage, ensuring us that if perseverance is allowed to work within us, we have every single thing we need for life. That’s quite a promise! Perhaps you could tack it up on the wall for you and the kids to memorize:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4).
I woke up today on this rainy, Seattle Monday morning, rolled over, and looked at the clock. My mind began to wander to…what else? My kids.
As I considered each one, from oldest to youngest, and what he would be doing at that very moment, I realized that in different places and in diverse ways, they were each working diligently. And, whether gainfully employed supporting just themselves, or an entire family, or earning a college degree while working part-time, they’re young men who are carrying their weight in the world. In addition, each one is pursuing personal goals and dreams along with all the other mundane tasks and day-to-day responsibilities they handle.
I took pause to ponder – and marvel at – God’s goodness to have shown me the importance of allowing perseverance to have its way in my sons from a very young age. It would have been easy for me to remove the obstacles and irritants that worked such tenacity in them for this marathon called life.
“Therefore my heart is glad…” (Psalm 16:9a)
Your Two-Minute Takeaway
1. Allowing our kids to experience life’s hard knocks is our test, Mom and Dad. It’s up to us to face this relentless ‘life exam’ with loving courage, strength and determination.
2. Are you indulging your children in an unhealthy way? If so, could it be that you are trying to…
a. assuage guilt for not being with your children more?
b. make up for your childhood pain or lack?
c. express the deep love you feel for them, but in a potentially unhealthy way?
3. Listen to your gut – it usually has the answers you’re seeking.
4. If you’re truly not sure if you’re out of balance in this area of allowing your kids to struggle, consider seeking perspective from someone you trust who wants the best for you and your child and has a birds-eye view of your lifestyle.
5. Are you and your spouse in agreement about this topic as it relates to your parenting and how it is practically applied? If not, is there someone in your lives who you both have confidence in and could discuss this with to gain perspective?
6. Reflect and make a list of specific moments that come to mind when you felt you missed opportunities for allowing your children to face naturally-occurring struggles.
a. What adjustments do you now see you could make, to respond differently to bring better balance into your lives in this area?
Lastly, consider: Could you, by repeated choices to rescue and indulge, be robbing your precious children of the muscles they need most to be successful in life??
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