The other weekend we took our little guy on his first camping trip. I was a bit nervous, especially about the sleeping part (and honestly that wasn’t great but could’ve been worse!), but there was a lot that could go wrong. I cringed at the thought of how much dirt he might consume, and how slobbery he’d be after trying to make best friends with our neighbor dog, and how grimy he’d be from exploring the campsite. I was tempted to follow him around, grabbing every stick as it got close to his mouth, barricading the dog…but I decided to take the opposite approach.
I decided to let him put that pine cone in his mouth (and he did, a few times) and figure out for himself that it didn’t taste good.
I decided to let him pet the dog, and feed the dog, and get licked all over the place.
I decided to let him crawl around and show me every interesting leaf and rock.
And he was in heaven.
He carried around pine cones like they were trophies, carefully inspecting new ones he found; giggled at every wet slobbery kiss; clapped, proud of himself, for climbing over the bars under the picnic table (after bumping himself a few times!). With so much of a mess to worry about, there was so much more to be gained from the messiness, the mistakes, the ut ohs.
There can be so many things in the world to be afraid of once you are a parent.
There are grapes or nuts, corners of tables, stoves with burners, unattended stairs, stuffed animals in cribs, tubs, pencils, blind cords…and those are just the everyday things. Don’t even start with stranger danger or bullies or getting lost at theme parks.
Yes, we want to protect our kids from all of the possible dangers we can conjure up, wrap them in bubble wrap, shelter in place, so that nothing and no one will ever hurt them.
But here’s the thing…you can’t discover, can’t learn, can’t love without falling down, getting a bump or bruise, taking a hit to the ego.
So even with all of those scary things lurking around, we have to allow them some room to make mistakes and figure things out. They have to face a little adversity and learn to handle it now before the bills come and the boss calls and life happens.
So how do we take a step back and let our kids discover and handle adversity? Here are 3 easy ways-
1. Don’t solve all their problems
First and foremost, they have to learn to problem solve, so don’t rush in and try to fix something or give the answer too quickly. Ask them what they think might work or what they could try to do. Allow them to process through it and try their ideas even if they aren’t the right solution – they will learn from why it didn’t work. Keep your words encouraging and positive, focusing on the JOURNEY and not just the RESULT.
2. Give them responsibility
I’m not a big fan of the dishes, but I do them because they need to get done. Our kids need to learn that we have responsibilities that may not be enjoyable but are necessary. When they are little, they can pick up their toys, put napkins on the table, help water the flowers (ok mine just walks along after me, but he’s helping right!). Contributing to the family and taking pride in completing a task are bonuses too!
3. Follow through on consequences
When our kids do something wrong, they need to own it and learn from it. This doesn’t have to be harsh and the punishment should fit the crime, but we can’t let them off the hook because it is easier.
So let them eat some pine cones or make a mess or get a bad grade, because those are the moments they discover the most.