Making Mistakes

They all do. Make mistakes, that is. Kids, adolescents, teens make mistakes.  (As do we, as parents, of course, but I will leave that issue for another post.) Our kids and young adults fall down, they hurt themselves, they cry, they get back up and try again. One of the hardest things I have encountered as I parent my four children, is knowing when to leave her/him on the ground for a while, and let her figure out how to pick herself up, or when to run to him right away and be the one to pick him up. When children are younger they obviously need help in getting up from their falls but as they get older, we need to start to resist the urge to come so quickly to their aid. My two older children are 18 and 16 and they each have made their fair share of mistakes. Yes, they have learned from them and yet I realize that they will continue to make them and hopefully continue to learn. But so often the real learning comes from letting your child endure the full consequences of their mistakes, which cannot happen if we quickly try to pick up the pieces for them or cushion their fall. One of the most instinctive drives we have as a parent is to protect our children, so the letting them fall strategy can be all but excruciating. And it goes further than that.  It is what we do from there.  Do we try to clean things up for them, erase their mistakes, cover for them, save them from embarrassment or shame? As an outsider, the answer seems so clear. Of course you don't do that. How will they learn? But I am here to tell you, that as easy as it is to know what to do, the execution of this is not so easy. Why? Because tough love is hard. Because they will ask (beg) for your help. They will feel alone in dealing with the consequences of their mistakes and they will try to pull you in.  The boundaries between their hurt and your hurt become clouded. But we know in our heads that we are doing them a disservice by taking on their pain because if they know that mom is going to feel badly about what they do, they are less accountable for their actions, and therefore the real learning will not happen. They will not own their own mistakes.  So as they tug at our heartstrings, and our own desire to scoop them up and make it all better kicks in, remind yourself that by resisting the desire to take the fall for them, you are helping them develop their own internal compass, which they desperately need to make good decisions, guide them through their lives, and ultimately to keep them safe.