Don’t Prepare the Road For Your Children, Prepare Your Children For the Road

By Jeremy Brown

As parents, there’s nothing you want more than happiness for your child. You want to watch them succeed, you want to see them in a state of joy and you’ll go extraordinary lengths to ensure they don’t feel pain.

I attended Dr. Deborah Gilboa’s seminar on “The Power of Failure” last month at Indiana Youth Institute’s Because Kids Count Conference and she broke down three fundamental factors that determine human happiness: confidence, competency at something important and having good relationships.

How do we, as influencers of young people, play the proper role in directing our students toward happiness? Gilboa suggests loosening your control and letting them fail. In other words, don’t be a snowplow.

“We spend too much time preparing the road for children rather than preparing children for the road,” said Gilboa.

According to Gilboa, this generation of students is falling victim to snowplow parenting because of the “expectation gap.” Parents are raising their expectations for achievement and not enough on character. Whereas if you focus on building character, the achievements will follow.

Kids are always looking for one thing: more privilege. How do we know when they’re ready for that? We model positive behaviors and decision making, and we instill those values and tools. We make expectations clear, trust our guidance and let our kids experience some privilege.

Adults telling children no is most often about control, love and protection. Overload on protection, however, is an adult making themselves feel better. We are understandably hesitant to let the kids we care about hurt, but they grow from those uncomfortable moments, those experiences that don’t go right.

Our kids are going to make poor decisions. They’re going to feel pain and experience rejection. As much as we’d love to prevent those things from happening, we cannot and to a certain extent we should not. We can’t clear the obstacle-filled road of life for our children, but we can help prepare them for the journey by allowing their exposure to new experiences. Growth happens in the uncomfortable and problem-solving skills stem from both failures and victories.

When we let kids step out on their own they become more confident, they develop competency and they build relationships. Where does your child have more potential to fail than you’re allowing?

Being a child is about trying things and learning. Take one step back and see how it goes.

Jeremy Brown is the TEENPOWER, Communications and Special Events Coordinator at Youth Resources of Southwestern Indiana.