“Get down from there!”
“Look both ways before you cross the parking lot.”
These are phrases I say on a daily basis with hopes of keeping my kids safe. My number one priority is to protect them physically and emotionally. I try my best to shield them from pain at all cost. As a parent, it is my job to protect them until they can do it for themselves.
The hardest part about protecting your kids is knowing when to stop. As kids get older they have more obstacles to overcome and more opportunities to fail. It is easy to want to jump in and rescue them before they have the chance to experience failure.
When my oldest was small, I admit I was an overprotective mom. After I lost his triplet baby brothers, my overprotective tendencies skyrocketed. If he was playing on a playground, I was never more than a few feet away anticipating his impending injury. When he struggled to follow directions in kindergarten, I worried myself sick and tried everything I could to fix it for him.
I can specifically remember playing Candy Land with my son when he was five. I won the game, and he came unglued. He had absolutely no idea how to lose. It was in that moment that I realized I wasn’t protecting my child from pain by rescuing him all the time. I was setting him up for the biggest failure of all. If I didn’t start letting him be more independent he wasn’t ever going to know how to handle disappointment.
I decided to make a change. I forced myself to be less involved in every detail of his life. If I’m being honest, it was really hard. I had to fight that desire to constantly rescue him from discomfort.
My son fell down, and I no longer ran to rescue him immediately. And you know what? He got back up. I allowed him to fall and he was okay. Better than okay actually. He began to find a new confidence in himself. The next time he fell, he got back up quicker and with more determination. Of course it was a process for him too. He wanted me to rescue him from tough situations, but over time he realized I wasn’t going to jump in until he could no longer solve the problem himself.
Naturally, now that I have three kids it is easier to give each of them their independence. It would be impossible to micromanage every detail of each of their lives. I still focus on keeping all of my kids happy and safe, but I don’t stress over the bad stuff as much.
It is important that they understand that things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes you have to work with people you don’t like. Sometimes you just plain fail at something. Hopefully, helping my children to navigate life’s disappointments now will help them when they grow up and life throws them a curve ball.
By giving less of myself to my children, I’ve somehow given them more. They will be better prepared for the inevitable disappointments that lie ahead. They will have tools for getting themselves through difficult situations. Most importantly, they will know that when things get tough their parents will always be here to give advice and help in any way we can…as long as they have given their best effort to help themselves first. Hopefully, by allowing them to experience failure now I have set them up to be successful in the future.