Stepping Back

My youngest daughter got checked in hockey practice the other night. For those of you who are not hockey fans, a check is when one person uses their body to smash the other person into the boards. The kid was about 6 inches taller than her and outweighed her by at least 20 pounds. And there's no checking at her age level.

My daughter never cries at hockey. She's one of two girls this year out of 50 kids. She knows that crying won't help her case in being accepted. But she cried that night. She even asked to be taken off the ice to sit on the bench for a while.

When she skated over to the bench and asked to come off, it was all I could do to sit on my hands and let the coach deal with it. I wanted to run over to the bench and check her out myself. And as my momma bear claws came out, I also wanted to have a conversation with the kid who hit her.

My daughter never asks to come off the ice. Her coach sat her down, took a look at what hurt, gave her some time to get herself together and put her back on the ice. My daughter and her coach handled the situation and really didn't need my help. I checked her out when we got home and she was fine. I was glad I had sat on my hands. My going over to the bench would have done nothing to help the situation.

I read an article the other day that talked about how we're becoming a nation of hovering parents. The article pointed out that kids who go to the playground with their parents get less physical activity because their parents are so worried about them getting hurt. By the time these kids get to college, they have never made decisions for themselves or suffered the consequences of a poor decision. They fail at college because they don't know how to manage life on their own.

Our job as parents is not to protect our kids from every imaginable hurt or consequence. Our job is to get our kids ready to live life on their own -- a life that lets God's light shine through. I'm not saying let your kids run out in the street and get hit by a car, but it's OK to let them fall down and skin their knee.

Proverbs 22:6 says "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." This means if we are constantly rescuing our children or stepping in and dealing with difficult situations for them, they will never learn to deal with those situations themselves. On the flip side, it also means if we teach them to make decisions and reap the consequences of those decisions on their own, they'll be prepared when they leave home.

As our kids grow, we need to let loose of the reins and allow them to start dealing with things on their own. We need to be there for support and advice, and there are times when a situation gets so out of control that we need to step in. But we should let our kids have the first crack at solving their problems.

My oldest heads off to middle school next year. I have stopped being responsible for her getting her homework done. She knows what our schedule looks like for the week, so she is responsible for mapping out her time and getting it done. I'll help if she has a problem and check it if she asks me to, but I don't set her homework schedule anymore.

As your kids get older start turning over decisions and responsibilities to them:

  • Let your kids deal with their teachers. If your child is having trouble with another child bothering them or the teacher marked something wrong on their paper that was right, let your child have first dibs on talking with the teacher. Talk with your child at home about a respectful way to approach the situation, then let your child have the conversation with his teacher.
  • Start young. If there are decisions your child can make or responsibilities around the house they can do, put them in charge. My kids have been in charge of clearing their place at the table since they could walk and carry a plate. Now, they have chores they are expected to do. I don't nag, but if I have to do their chores, I leave them a bill.
  • Teach your kids to work out their disagreements. Don't immediately step in when your kids are arguing with a sibling or friend. Give them a chance to work it out. Sure, things may get said that could hurt another's feelings, but it teaches them about the importance of considering each other's feelings and point of view. If they have to apologize for their speech, they'll think twice about saying those things the next time.
  • Teach them to pray first. When your kids are stuck in a tough spot, and they don't know how to deal with a situation, encourage them to seek out the Source of wisdom. Show them how to ask God for help in dealing with the situation.

It's hard to watch our kids get hurt and make mistakes, but it's much easier for our kids to learn these lessons now than it is for them to learn them as adults. Start giving your kids the tools to handle their own problems and conflicts, so they get plenty of practice while you're still around to back them up. They will thank you for it when they are older.