Thursday, January 29, 2015

Do I Have To?

How many times have you heard those words?  “Do I have to?”  “Do I have to make my bed?”  "Do I have to shovel the snow?”  “Do I have to write a whole page?”  “Do I have to write it in cursive?”  “Can’t I just tell you the answer?”  
And let’s be honest, we do it too.  We procrastinate paying the bills, doing the dishes, answering an email, or making an important phone call.  Our reasons and our excuses, well, we could fill books couldn’t we?  Or am I alone on this?  So, when Johnny wants to just tell you his answer instead of writing a summarizing paragraph (complete with proper capitalization, punctuation, spelling, higher order thinking and neat penmanship) it’s tempting to say, “Sure. just tell me what you think.”  After all, it’s easier than fighting with him.
     Here’s the thing though.  As parents and teachers of our children, what are we teaching them when we lower expectations and protect them from doing things that are hard?  What is at the heart of the situation?  It could be that your child just likes to avoid hard work (that would make him human) and take the easy road.  I need to ask myself whether laziness is the quality I am trying to teach that day.  
Or maybe the child has a fear of failure.  Don’t we all?  But what are we teaching our children about failure?  Is failure always a bad thing?  Actually, failure can be a good thing.  It teaches us where we struggle and where we need to grow.  We can guide our children to see that we learn from failure if we take the experience and do something differently next time.  If we never let our children fail, we set them up for a lifetime of avoidance of hard things, which is a breeding ground for never reaching our potential.  
     Through doing hard things, academically, physically, emotionally or any other “ally”, we learn so much about our capabilities and our strengths.  Every time I do something hard, I grow.  I learn.  I gain confidence.  I see that failure isn’t my goal, but it doesn’t kill me.  
     Here is a recent example from my life.  My son is a wrestler.  His coach makes sure he gets challenging competition.  If he didn’t have challenging competition, he could win all of his matches and have an impressive record.  He is not undefeated.  He has met up with some really tough competition and has lost some hard matches.  At a tournament in Council Bluffs he made it to the finals and was pinned in the first period.  He had two choices.  He could stomp off and be mad about losing.  Or, he could watch video of the match.  Listen to his coach.  See where he made his mistakes and learn from them.  He faced the same opponent later in the season and the second time around, he won.  What did he learn?  While he still hates to lose, he knows that it can make him stronger.
     Setting high expectations for our children is loving our children.  We need to teach them to persevere and see what they are made of.  We need to have the wisdom to see when to press them and when to give them grace.  Research shows that we all learn the best when we are challenged enough to struggle some but not so much that we throw up our hands in despair.  It is our responsibility to teach them to do hard things while we are still able to shepherd them through it, cheer them on and help them pick up the pieces when they fail.  
     Here are some great posts that will encourage you in this area.