The Gift of Struggle
As parents, it can be a challenge to let our children struggle. We want to keep them safe; we do not like to see them having a hard time. It feels as though it goes completely against our evolutionary instinct.
When I see my son struggle, my heart rate skyrockets.
But, I know while he struggles, he is developing a skill. When this happens, I have learned to observe and stay close but not intervene right away.
Whether it is allowing him to fail so he can learn to try again or try another way, giving him the opportunity to solve a problem, and giving him space to feel and work through frustration when something does not go his way or is simply not easy.
We are the parents who do not let our son always win. Whether that is during board games, card games, or physical activities (To be fair, there are a number of “ties”). Rather, we focus on the effort being put into the game, how to handle it when we lose and how to congratulate someone else when he or she wins.
I have trained myself to resist the urge to jump in and fix a conflict he may be having with a friend or to speak for him when he is interacting with adults (unless he asks for help, which is also a great skill to learn). I have seen in most situations; he can figure it out on his own.
I find it is an important foundation for him to be able to accept when situations may not go his way and to see that failure is an important part of success.
I notice in him the development of confidence, problem-solving skills and the ability to speak to and interact with all kinds of people. I get so proud listening to him communicate his needs and ask thoughtful follow up questions to adults.
I have had the opportunity to watch him comfort others during their own challenging situations and praise them for their efforts.
As challenging as it is to watch him struggle, I never want to take away the feeling he may get from completing a task on his own. The self-assurance he gains from trusting himself to handle age-appropriate challenges and watching him be empathetic towards others cannot be learned with me clearing his path to make things easier for him.
I believe there is no other way, so I give him the gift of struggle.