I love the quote by William James that says, If the young knew how soon they will become walking bundles of habits, they would take more care to make good choices while in the plastic state. That isn’t verbatim, but it’s close. (Have you seen the commercial of the 14-year-old boy vaping and saying “It’s just what I do”?)
James goes on to say one of the best things parents can do for children is help them set good habits, so they are free to be creative, not having to waste energy on making decisions about getting enough sleep, exercising, eating good food, brushing their teeth, washing their hands and faces, manners, not vaping etc. It makes life much easier, happier, and more creative. And that means confidence.
But this is important: helping your kids is not doing it for them! Or in the other ditch, assuming they will learn what they need. Love is helping them gain skills to build a foundation, a confident identity.
I had a client years ago who was helping her daughter with her homework–mostly doing it for her. When I learned how much she was really doing I confronted her about what she was doing to the child. “You aren’t really helping her, you are crippling her. She isn’t learning what she should be learning and she isn’t building confidence. Unless you want her handicapped for the rest of her life, you need to apologize that you didn’t realize what you were doing to her and stop. She’ll whine and plead for awhile and then she will adjust.”
The mother immediately took my suggestion and implemented it. A year later, the daughter was doing much better. And two years later was thriving and three years later excelling. The mother is grateful; the daughter, now a woman, is even more grateful for her confidence and independence.
We love our children and want to make life easy for them, and that is natural, but helping is such a tricky arena. A healthy two-year old says, “I do it by self!” and hopefully we let them try with guidance. We are teaching them to harness their energy, and gain skill. This is critical. They all get bumps and bruises.
Later on we will teach them to choose. Good choices make a good life. People who haven’t developed the skills for making good choices have difficulty. But we don’t start by letting them choose what they eat or if they wear a jacket when it’s 50 degrees. We make decisions their brains aren’t prepared to make.
My daughter now has her first teenage son who has his first girlfriend. Now there’s a delicate situation for parenting. She’s doing a lot of communicating–listening and sharing. There are few life skills that are more life-determining than learning how to treat the opposite sex, and the choices you make while dating. She has been aware for years that what they see at home, and her relationship with them sets the tone for how they treat girls and the girl they will choose to marry.
Writing the Bible has been very revealing about the importance of identity and foundations. Now finishing Joshua, I can feel the angst he feels in dying and leaving these people, fearing they still aren’t ready to make good decisions when he is gone. Will they follow Adonai? It takes more than two generations to overcome the effects of Egyptian slavery. He would feel so much better if he knew they would follow God’s plan to take out all the inhabitants in their country. But they take the easy way, and it takes many of them out.
Adonai tells them He will fight for them but He doesn’t make them take their land. He lets them choose. They evidently rationalize that mercy is better. But it didn’t prove better for them. Most lost their identity as His people–and His protection. So sad.
God knows what we need. He wants the best for us. Doesn’t want us to miss being our true selves. That’s what it means to be jealous for us. Too bad we don’t have the confidence to listen.
While proof reading this, I heard a great quote on KLOVE, “Be weird, be random, be who you are, because you never know who would love the person you are hiding.” C.S. Lewis