It’s ok for your kids to fail.
Step back and let them fail.
It is okay for your kids to make mistakes.
Step back and let them make mistakes.
They will want to choose their own friends – let them.
It’s hard to do, as parents, to take a step back and watch (allow) our kids to fail and to make mistakes. As parents, as much as we want to and believe that we can, we cannot protect our kids from everything.
Allowing kids to fail and make mistakes at a young age will only help them as they get older. They will learn and soon be able to identify, for themselves, when they are going to make a mistake…and decide from there if the consequence is “worth” it.
I figured it out; there are 24 hours in a day.
Of those 24 hours 10 are spent (in bed reading) sleeping.
On an average weekday here is what I figure –
Cohen – 10 hours of sleep
7 hours at school
1 hour in the car
1.5 hours of soccer **5 hours at home
Carly – 10 hours of sleep
7 hours at school
1 hour in the car
4 hours of gymnastics **2 hours at home
Caroline – 10 hours of sleep
7 hours at school
1 hour in the car
2 hours of gymnastics/dance **4 hours at home
Look at those numbers…I only get 2 hours with Carly a day! 2 hours!!!
I really treasure the time I have with them in the car. I consider the time in the car “my time”. They are my captive audience. I find out the best stuff in the car. Its not all sunshine and rainbows, sometimes (a lot) they fight…sometimes we are carpooling and have another kid in the car (funny story here about a soccer carpool and a conversation about condoms that the boys had…that was an interesting chat)…sometimes we sing 80s music at the top of our lungs, but sometimes…sometimes we talk. This is the time when I can really connect with each of my kids.
There is at least one drive whether to or from their sport when they are alone in the car with me. I almost look forward to these drives because this is where I really hear what they are thinking and feeling. No, not every conversation is deep and meaningful – last night we talked about Carly’s crazy idea that it would be funny if your blood tasted like the last fruit you ate…I’m sure my blood would only taste like Diet Coke. Sometimes I hear the good stuff – I let them talk, I listen.
I let them talk out their frustrations, their concerns and their fears. I do not offer solutions, I just listen. I want to know what s going on in their lives and I want them to feel comfortable talking to me. I do not judge (maybe in my head I do a little) and I do not try to solve their problems for them. I often play devil’s advocate – and speak to them from their teacher’s, or coaches’ or friends’, perspective. They do not like this at all, but it’s necessary. I have been the teacher – I have been the coach and I have been the friend.
When I stop and think – each kid is away from me for the majority of the day. They are being influenced by many different people every day. We cannot choose our kids teachers, we cannot choose for them the sports they love (man, did I try to get both girls to play soccer) or their coaches and we cannot choose for them their friends.
Every day they are influenced by their teachers, their coaches and their friends. As parents we cannot control those people who play such a major role in our kids’ lives. I trust that the school has put in place good teachers for my kids. I trust that the gym, dance studio, and soccer club have taken their time to select people who will be positive influences on my kids. I trust that my kids have made friendships with people who will encourage them and lift them up. We cannot control the environments where our kids spend a majority of their day. We can try but it would be exhausting, and likely they would rebel and do the exact opposite from what you wanted.
Navigating friendships may be the most difficult for kids to figure out and for adults to stay out of. I speak kindly of the kids whom my kids spend time with. I try to help my kids understand actions and reactions and sometimes even defend kids that have hurt my kids feelings – I try and teach compassion and understanding.
After 1st grade Carly’s very best friend moved to Iowa. Carly was 7. I was not close friends with her friend’s mom, more like acquaintances. The girls played at school together and even had a couple of sleepovers before she moved away. She visited once over the summer after they moved away. I thought it would be easier (for me I guess) if once her friend moved away, we just cut ties. I thought, Carly’s 7…she will just get a new best friend and all will be forgotten.
Since she moved away, 3 years ago, Carly has made a new best friend and between school, gymnastics and dance, she has lots of friends. I thought she had moved on. I should have known better, Carly is deeply emotional; she is fiercely loyal and she doesn’t make friendships quickly or easily. She hangs on to people and things and isn’t quick to let go. Carly has held on to this friendship and still talks about this friend as if she had just seen her yesterday. This morning I thought she was going to burst when she received a letter in the mail postmarked from Iowa. As much as I though I could control it and help her ease the hurt from losing a friend but pushing it away or ignoring the friendship, it didn’t matter – Carly remains friends despite 2 states and 3 years. I feel like they will connect over social media one day and end up back together somehow.
While I cannot keep them in a bubble and control every aspect of their lives, I can, as a parent, be honest with them, listen to them, advocate for them, and give them the tools to figure out this thing called life.
They have to learn to navigate it on their own. They need to fail so that they know what failure feels like. Only after a failure will they be able to celebrate their successes. It’s easy to illustrate this through sports, loosing soccer games leads to a greater appreciation when you finally win. Cohen’s soccer team took 2 years to win a tournament. It was worth the wait to watch them explode in pride and joy at their accomplishment. This year is a “rebuilding” year so we know, though it will take time, it will be worth the wait. Parents need patience – winning tournaments, meets or competitions doesn’t happen overnight. Having a great team does not occur instantaneously…it takes time to develop relationships and trust on each team with teammates and with coaches. Please have patience with sports, and as long as your child is happy…let it be. Get them to practice – encourage them – say positive things…it will come together.
Failing first, also holds true for kids relationships, their relationships with their teachers, their relationships with their coaches and their relationships with their friends. I sometimes think I can control these but in all honesty it’s up to each kid. There are teachers whom my kids have great relationships with and others where they struggle. There are teachers/coaches that two of my children really connect with and one of my kids might hold a different opinion. This is okay. Different kids have different needs. Their needs cannot always be met in the same way. We teach them how to advocate for themselves – ask for what they need, all while being kind and respectful. Each one of my kids has coaches that the respond to better than others. This is especially true at gymnastics and dance where my girls share many of the same coaches – their favorites are not the same, they shouldn’t be, because my kids are not the same. They each have friendships with different kids. Some of these friendships are stronger than others. Their friendships are constantly changing – they change when they are assigned new classrooms every fall – they change when teammates move to different teams or groups – they change when dance classes are on different days. I think of the different phases of my life and who my best friends were at each different time. I look back at how my friendships changes as I went from elementary to middle school to high school and to college. Then friendships continued to change after I got a teaching job – and again when I moved. And still again as my kids entered school and I became “mom friends” with some (not all) of their friends’ moms. All of these changes in friendships are ok, they need to be. Kids (and us too) need both good and struggling relationships they need to experience it all, that way they know when there is a relationship or friendship that they want to fight for. They will to learn from each…they will come out a better person in the end.
Caroline has the most trouble forming relationships with her teachers and coaches. She forms opinions quickly, and it takes her a lot of time to change that opinion (even if it’s “wrong”). I used to apologize for her behavior and then explain that, “she hates everyone”, which was really not the right thing to say…and really a crummy excuse for my child’s behavior. She hated school for nearly a full year, had crying (sometimes violent) fits with her dance coaches and quit gymnastics more than once. I even had to drag her out of the gym during a particular bad fit of rage and lock her in the car I was so afraid she would open the door while I was driving…all because she didn’t like the coach for making her do bridge walks across the floor. For a time I allowed this behavior because it was just easier to give in and allow her to quit. Now I just try and talk her through her fears and anxiety. She still is very guarded with teachers and coaches, she is selective in who she “likes”. Her behavior is not perfect by any means, but she has really come a long way. At the gym a few weeks back one of the coaches (not her coach) saw her and said, “this one – doesn’t cry so much anymore.” He’s right, she doesn’t…and I’m proud of her! And, honestly, proud of me too for making it through those days.
It is not my job to prevent or fix their mistakes. It is my job to be truthful with them when they (or I) make a mistake. It is my job to be a model for them when they are unsure how to navigate something. They watch and listen to everything I do. So I try to show my integrity through my responses both in the things that I do and they way that I speak. I try to speak with good purpose…those 8 keys are never irrelevant.
I am raising good people. I am raising honest people. I am raising true people who will make mistakes. We are doing the best we can – and that’s okay.