Let Your Kid Struggle

Tonight, we gave Anthony a fork at dinner. Mitch is typically the one that is more stressed out in a situation like this, but we both always wonder how messy it’s actually going to get when food is involved (dinner usually includes food ending up on the two-year-old’s head and all over the floor of course). Before we gave him the fork, he was SO OVER dinner. I gave it to him thinking he might feel more engaged and actually finish the food on his plate.

I was right.

But then I did the mom reach. You know the one…where you reach in to help your kid when they’re having a hard time with something. It’s natural, right? To want to help our babes.

And then I pulled my hand back.

Anthony was so focused and totally not fussing at all. He was struggling with the fork, trying to get that piece of broccoli on there. It took him about 928294 seconds until he got it on there, but darn it if he didn’t eventually get it all by himself. His face was PRICELESS. So proud. He went for it again and again, still working hard to get that food onto the fork. Every time he got it on the fork and into his mouth, he’d look up at me and put his hands in the air with the biggest smile.

I was proud of him. And then I was proud of me - because I didn’t help him. Hear me out on this.

As a teacher, I’ve seen a whole bunch of kids from a lot of walks of life. People ask me all the time what I’ve learned about parenting by being a teacher. Well, first of all, it’s always okay to bring chocolate or adult beverages to parent conferences (wrapped inconspicuously of course).

But here’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned: WE HAVE TO LET OUR KIDS STRUGGLE.

My opinion is that persistence and grit are more important than any academic skill they could ever have. The students I work with are night-and-day on this spectrum. I can tell you that without a doubt, the kids who are more successful overall in my classroom (whether it’s in relationships, academics, extra curricular activities) are the ones who are willing to push through the hard stuff. Especially hard stuff that takes a little bit of extra time.

This takes practice. Practice learning that sometimes, things are hard. And that sometimes, things take longer than you want them to. But what matters is NOT that you were successful in the end – that will be inevitable. What matters is that you WENT TO WORK and persisted. That you were willing to do the hard thing. And that you celebrated the fact that you worked and worked and THAT is the victory.

You get the point.

But it’s hard, right? As adults, we so often want to take the lead and just do it for them. We are experts at using forks, so why wouldn’t we just show him how to do it?

That’s not the point.

The point is that OUR BABIES get the ownership in that victory when they are the ones that dug in and overcame the hard thing. And what’s better than giving them the path to self-confidence and ownership over their own life?

Even if it starts with a fork.

Cheers to the struggle! xoxo