My college girl is amazing, actually all my girls are amazing. They’re strong, smart, capable and move through life with dogged determination. So, why do I crumple like a cheap suit every time they have an issue? Because I’m a mom. As such, my knee-jerk reaction is to fix problems for my kids to save them pain. However, as a life coach, I know that pain and struggle is just what’s needed to create grit and resilience. We can’t control the pain and suffering of our kids, but we CAN control our own—by being a calm compassionate spectator instead of a player in our kid’s game.
I’m writing this to myself as much as I’m writing to you. Before I opened my computer, I was sitting with my head on my folded arms trying to figure out how I could help my baby with her latest concussion crisis. In the midst of the giant game of “if/then” I was playing in my head, I realized that I was in the same position I used when I was a kid—hiding my head, hoping the threat would go away. That one second of clarity reminded me that I am no longer a kid. I’m an adult, with adult tools and power. And the best way to use my adult power is to let my kid ask me for help.
It is not my problem to fix. I’m not a player in this game. I am just a spectator, giving support and spreading cheer, as befits the need. As soon as I had that thought, I straightened up and started writing—the thing that helps me make sense of my world. Before long my daughter called with a solution to her problem that she devised without me. That’s resilience.
Was it my solution? No. It was hers, and it will work. Maybe not as well as mine, but that’s not the point. The point is for her to solve her own problems, asking for help when she has a concrete need for it. For instance, I made the doctor’s appointment for her, as she couldn’t function yet. I was prepared to drive her, as well, but she recovered to the point that she didn’t need that. She made that decision, not me. The hardest job in parenting is knowing when to step in and when to stay on the sidelines. This is made simpler if we use the mantra that “struggle makes them stronger.” I didn’t say it made it easier for us, just simpler.
Where are you playing in your kid’s game, trying to save them from any struggle, instead of cheering from the sidelines? I humbly recommend that you stop it, already. If you can let them devise their own solutions, until they really need, and ask for, your help, they will benefit far greater in the long run. Autonomy creates resilience. If you can stand watching them fail and recover, you will feel a greater sense of pride and efficacy, watching your kid play their game, their way. If you need a little help sitting on your hands, write me at email@example.com or see me at the front desk!