We all want our kids to be successful. We all want our kids to be winners. It isn’t that we won’t love them, regardless, but we simply want them to be healthy, happy, and feel like they are living their best lives. When they are quite young, we give them support in every way possible, including in the most basic of physical needs. We bathe them, feed them, change them, and in doing so, these little people definitely change us. But, as they grow – physically, mentally, spiritually, relationally – we have to learn how to let them do things on their own.
In education, the process of gradually removing support, as a student is becomes stronger in supporting him or herself is called “scaffolding.” Some of the help we initially provide for our children becomes less and less necessary as our children grow into their “own.” The doesn’t mean they won’t always need our help in some way, but their constant need for us to be their guide or even guardrails will begin to wane. As it does, we want to be sure that we have done all we can to set them up for success. But, perhaps more importantly, we want to be sure we have done all we can to teach them how to find success, even in the midst of what seems to be life’s setbacks. I’ll have to confess . . . the rescuer in me found that very difficult to do at times.
Some parents believe setbacks have “silver linings”—a philosophy they share with their children. Parents often strive to espouse the idea that no matter what bad may happen around or because of or to them, there is always good to be found. My wife and I have found this to be a precarious philosophy, as we have come to believe there are a lot of things in our world that are just plain bad. For instance, cancer is bad. No matter how you slice it. But, setting our kids up to find the best in themselves when they can’t find the best – (forget the superlative), can’t even find one ounce of anything that looks remotely good in something, can be life changing.
Struggles and failures will come. These challenges will range from not making a sports team, to being hurt by a friend, to consequences from making their own bad choices. But if we have equipped our kids to dig deep, remember who they are, and who loves them, they are more likely to realize they still have so much to live for. It’s easier for them to readily forgive, and to readily accept forgiveness themselves. It enable them to believe they still can find success.
Part of setting our kids up, a key platform in that structure of scaffolding, is helping them to understand the varying definitions of success. Help them define their own. Talk about it as a family. What does each family member think success looks like? Is it the pro athlete? Is it the Oscar-winning movie star? Is it the super model? Is it the CEO of a company? Is it the single mom down the street who works two jobs, but always has a smile on her face and somehow never misses one of her kid’s ballgames? Is it the classmate who has a disability, but eagerly tries everything everyone else does, and never asks for help or gives up?
Actually, come to think of it, maybe we should also discuss our definitions of failure. Is failure not making the team, or not having the best job, or not having all the advantages we think others have?
Or is failure letting all of those things keep us from doing all we can to be all we can be? My encouragement to you…take every advantage to be intentional about these important topics. You kids will thank you for it!