Let Your Kids Struggle

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Many of us parents have done our children a disservice. We have failed them on such a tremendous scale that it is truly embarrassing. I am just as much at fault as other parents yet I have found out where many of us parents have gone wrong. We didn’t let our kids struggle.

We were so bad at this that we got called helicopter parenting. We would run to our kid’s defense and excoriate the teacher for doing her job. I have heard some pretty wild things ask of teachers because their kids didn’t have a good enough grade. When the kids are the ones who needed to be held responsible. We have let so many of the nervous wrecks we have as young adults down. Now that many of these kids are adults and should have known how to face adversities. Instead, we now have balls of raw nerves that can’t stand disagreements and need safe spaces to go for their mental health.

These kids that many of us often smirk at, are of our doing. Why? We didn’t let our kids struggle as they needed to. We helped them with everything. Science projects should actually be given to the parent more than they should be given to the kid. Our kids are unprepared for the world because we coddled them and didn’t let them work it out themselves. 

Well, let’s back off a little bit, and I understand why we “help” our kids.

Why We Help Our Kids

There are many different reasons why we help our kids. Some of them are understandable. We want to be our kid’s heroes. Some are sort of misguided but understandable like we want to be our kid’s go-to friend. Many of them we flat out just don’t even think about and so we don’t even see that we are doing it.

We don’t like discomfort

One of the big reasons why we don’t like to see our kids struggle is because it makes us uncomfortable. We see little Billy trying to do his schoolwork or he is trying real hard to do something and it just isn’t working out. So we hop in and say here I got this champ and we take over. What does little Billy learn? Nothing, We have robbed him of the joy of the accomplishment. We have taken on the joy as our own. All because we don’t like to see our kids struggle. We felt uncomfortable so we needed the bump in atta boys and so we took that joy from our kid. Now I hope you feel like crap for helping your son with that difficult problem. Because once that hit me I sure did.

We want to show them they are loved

Often us Generation X kids were latchkey kids. That means that when we got home we were the only ones home till the parents got off from work. We had to entertain ourselves and motivate ourselves to do homework. Because many kids didn’t have a parent to greet them at the door you wanted to show your kids that you had their back. You were going to correct all the wrongs your parents did to you. You were not going to let them struggle. Not once, No sir, They were going to enjoy life and have the best of everything. Well, we are finding out loving them isn’t doing the job. Because our love was going to fix everything, we have made kids who can’t handle anything unplanned. They can’t look out into the future and see something great all they see is the fog of war and that is too scary to face.  Can you love your kids too much? When it comes to the detriment of mental health as an adult? Yep, you can.

happy family hugging
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You don’t want to look like a bad parent

Now sadly many of us have let the neighborhood Karen raise our kids. Yes CPS is used as a weapon more than a service these days. I know more than a couple of grown adults who find a sick twisted pleasure in calling child protective services on someone just to make their next few weeks or more hell. Why? Because we as adults don’t have time to deal with the Gladys of the block. We have given way too much of our power to schools and those who don’t know how to mind their own business. 

Then there are the imaginary Karen’s. These are the neighbors that you don’t want to look bad in front of. These are actually worse because you are sacrificing your kids for the sake of your own comfort. You don’t want to have the awkward discussion of letting your kids walk and play in the neighborhood. It isn’t any of the neighborhood Karen’s perceived or justified responsibility to watch your kids. Many times we shy away from the hard talks that need to be done because we are afraid to look like we are the Karens. We avoid those hard talks and instead do the work our kids need to do.

Sadly this is the Ego cropping in. We have to have a son that is the star of the football team or throws a 500 mph fastball. If we don’t help them be that then it looks bad on us. Are you seeing how much your emotions are hurting your kids now? No? Look at the next one.

We feel bad

Again this is us parents going off of our own feelings. We feel like we are letting our kids down because we are not jumping into the fray and helping them with whatever is happening in life. 

We do this simply because we can’t handle the emotions that are going on inside of our heads. We want to feel good and bubbly, and if our kiddo isn’t sailing through whatever we can’t feel happiness or joy. Essentially you are saying your kid is responsible for your happiness and if you have read anything from this blog you know that is impossible. Your son can’t make you happy nor can he make you comfortable. Only you can do that.

IF you are feeling bad because your son isn’t doing his schoolwork then whose fault is that? It isn’t juniors. It is yours. Do you need to do some thought work on why you are putting so much of your joy into your son’s school work? If he gets A’s then great! IF he gets D’s then he will learn that he needs to find a different way to learn. Can you help him with that? Sure! That is where the nonnagging parent comes into play.

sad mature businessman thinking about problems in living room
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The Harm We Are Doing

When we don’t let our kids struggle we are doing quite a bit of harm not only to their ability to function as an adult but also to their ability to believe in what they are able to do. So what are some other ways that we are harming our kids but not letting them struggle?

They cant grow

When you are struggling you are growing stronger. You are learning about what you are able to do and what your limitations are. When and where you can use help. If you are always running to your kids’ rescue and not letting them struggle with how to get homework done instead of playing video games or even when they are young adults on their own, they can’t learn. If you are letting them live at your house till they are “ready” to leave they are not learning how to live on their own.

This is much like learning to walk. You can’t do it for them. They have to land on their butts and face till they develop the muscles needed to walk normally and even then they will fall. You can not protect your kids from dangers. You can help them develop the needed skill set by getting out of their way. You aren’t viewed as a bad parent because your toddler is falling down. The same goes for your young adult. You are not being a bad parent for letting them struggle with not having electricity for a while. They will get it figured out.

They understand the power of the fail

There is a power and a lesson in failing. Failing is actually a good thing. This is a huge problem in school. We have a D grade and it doesn’t tell you what you did wrong. You can’t grow from that grade. Schools aren’t really designed to have you look forward to failing. In fact, when a child fails we blow up as parents we make it mean so much as a reflection to use as opposed to what it means to the kid.

We don’t let our kids enjoy the power of failure. Seeing them hit a wall and see if there is a hidden door somewhere they aren’t seeing. There is often a way to solve a problem but if we don’t let our kids figure it out they don’t know what joy solving the problem brings. They only see and feel the anxiety of the fact that they aren’t “number 1” and they aren’t the best at something. Instead of seeing ok well that didn’t work how about this. We can teach our kids the phrase, “I don’t know let’s find out”

With this skill set, they can even look forward to having a competitor. They can see the benefit of having someone who is pushing them to be better instead of sitting down saying it’s not fair that they are doing the same thing. When kids learn that they have their own agency and that their power comes from their willingness to try, they are damn near unstoppable.

photo of man touching his head
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They cant comfort themselves

Like many kids in college these days when it comes to something tough many kids cant comfort themselves when they fail. They can’t calm themselves so that they can think clearly and power through the needed work. Instead, they turn to the victim mindset and the college administration just pats them on the head and says it is ok. You can feel like a victim. Instead of treating these young adults as near-grown-ups.

This is because us parents haven’t let these kids struggle. They see the struggle as an endless sea of discomfort and they will be lost in it forever. When in reality that discomfort actually lasts only a little while and it is done. The length of the emotion you feel is actually relatively short, only about 90 seconds. Yet each time you have a thought loop you dig that emotion backup time and time again. They sit in the loop of failure and instead of dusting themselves off they relive that failure over and over. They don’t have the skill set to let that scenario go.

They aren’t getting the satisfaction of the success

This is where we truly rob our kids. We often take the joy and sense of accomplishment away from our kids when we rush in to help them. We don’t let them stew in their problem and work out the solution we just want to rush in and boom! fixed! We are depriving our kids and young adults of a sense of satisfaction and achievement when we rescue them.

Yeah, it can be hard to watch your kiddo struggle and fight with the problem they are having at hand. and the solution may just be right there in front of their eyes but failure is a life lesson and when they fail they get a chance to do it over. That is that very thing you want the teacher to do. Give little jimmy another chance to do it. Well letting them fail is that chance. They will have to run it that problem over and over again till they learn how to scale it. It may seem unfair but that is the only way they will learn. Why do you think kids have to do it the hard way? Because that is the only way they will learn.

How do you truly help your kids

So now that you see, you need to let your kids struggle. Don’t jump to their side the first instance they fail or falter. Now I am not saying don’t support your kids. No, but helping them do the work isn’t supporting them. That is helping your own feeling of discomfort. Set that emotion to the side. As long as they are not in any physical harm. Notice that I didn’t say emotional harm because that is a cop-out every time.

Even if little Billy tries to emotionally manipulate you into helping them. Know that they can do it. It is like a crack addict getting clean. It’s messy and ugly at times. You being the adult have to be OK with that. You are letting your child struggle because you love them. You may have to actually apologize to them that you have been a bad parent before and that you are not helping them so they learn how to walk like an adult. Depending on how emotionally mature your kids are, will depend on how much they will understand.

couple lifting their cute daughter
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Let Them Fail

This is the biggest one, and it sounds horrible I know. Let them fail. Let them fail as often as it takes. If they come to you for help then mentor them. Tell them you cant do the work for them. They have to do it and show their work. It may seem so unfair that the neighbors have a kid that can do it easily. Well, congratulate yourself on having kids that won’t depend on talent. Because talent will only get you so far. Hard work and perseverance will win the race every single time. If they are used to having a Fixed Mindset then the shift will take a bit and old habits will have to change. It could be that you will have to mentor your son to change that mindset. Show him how work helps through example. You are the best teacher for this.

Stop thinking about yourself

Often we think about how we will react to such a problem. and we feel bad for our kids as they are struggling. Yet we step in mostly because we don’t like feeling uncomfortable. So, stop it. You may have to do your own work on this. Be ok with your son or daughter struggling. Your heart can ache but let them figure it out. You will not die if you don’t help them with their finances. Neither will the kids. They may go hungry from time to time as they figure out that they can’t have the top-tier internet speed and expect to eat at the same time.

You can overcome the feeling of discomfort just like your kids. You will have to do just the same amount of challenging thought work to get past this hang-up of your own. but you can do it and it may help if you have a men’s group to turn to.

Let them struggle

When Your kiddo is struggling and is uncomfortable we often become uncomfortable too. We don’t want our kids to struggle. We would like them to have an easy life. Yet an easy life produces weak people. Do you want your son to be weak physically? No. How about being weak Mentally? NO? I didn’t think so well the only way they don’t become weak is to do work. That is mental struggles and physical struggles are needed to build up the needed skills and confidence that they can do it. You tell them that they are special little snowflakes does them no good. They need to butt up against adversity time and time again to be confident in their abilities. Not watch dad do it. Not have dad tell them that it is ok.

This is where the boundaries of a strong masculine man come into play. Often moms will rush to the side of their kids, and that is fine. Moms do a great job of showing their kids empathy. Men you are needed to teach your kids strength. So don’t bend so easily because the wife or ex-wife thinks you are being unreasonable. You have to have a solid form of communication with the mom for them to understand why you are pushing them like you are.

Give them space

Finally, if they don’t do it right, be ok with that. It isn’t your bed to sleep in. If they are going to suffer for taking a shortcut then let them suffer. You have to give your young adults space. Yeah, it may not be how you would do it., but guess what your kid isn’t you. No matter how much they may look like you they will not be you. They have their own experiences and thoughts separate from you. So now they will do it their own way. and it may be OK in their mind. Therefore you have to be OK with it too or you will cause your own suffering

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About Bryan Goodwin

I like being able to help people find their "why" and achieve the personal freedom they desire. Besides writing for Relaxed Male I also am a life coach. By helping men find the leader that is found in each and every one of us. I do this by encouraging men to get outdoors and find the balance they are missing. Realize that they need to be in contact with the outside as often as they can. It is not only good for them but for their families and relationships.

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