Prepare the Child for the Road, Not the Other Way Around

I’ve still been thinking about the recent news story of the parents who allegedly tried to buy their kids way into elite colleges. If we want our sons to develop into tender lions then we have to be willing to let them experience real “heavy lifting”, whether it’s physical, emotional, mental or relational challenges. And that includes letting them feel the impact when they may make poor decisions.

Jeff and I frequently see well-intentioned parents make nearly every important decision for their sons, effectively robbing them of the important experience of wrestling with tough decision-making.

Dr. Karl Galik, author of The Love Paradox – Leading Others by Loving Your Self writes, “When caregivers start rescuing others from their adversity, instead of ministering to them in their adversity, a subtle shift begins to occur. First of all, as any mother who has tried to teach her toddler knows, it’s easier to pick the toys up than train the child to do it. In fact, it’s exponentially easier.” Galik goes on to say that it’s easier, but only in the short term.

In the long term, if the parenting isn’t done properly, they will still be doing their kid’s laundry when he’s 35 years old. I said it before but it bears repeating…too often parents are stepping in and rescuing their kids from their own emotional, financial or relational wrecks, not realizing that they’re robbing them of the valuable life lessons that build character, resilience, maturity, and self-confidence.

John Busacker, in his leadership book, Fully Engaged, writes that he was once asked by a workshop attendee, “What do you think is the most important characteristic a leader must possess to be successful?” John’s response was surprising. He said, “She or he must have been broken – physically, spiritually, professionally, personally, relationally – and then got up and dusted themselves off, and continued forward with the wisdom from that loss seared in both mind and heart.”

John is obviously a fan of letting people feel the full impact of their mistakes, to the point of being broken, and then watching them mature from the learning that occurs from failure. And recovering from those “broken” situations also gives one perspective and empathy for others who are experiencing difficulties. That’s an important part of being a tender lion.

A boy doesn’t develop into a tender lion by having his parents “rob” him of his tough situations and even failures. The most important lessons in life don’t come from easy victories. They come from learning from the tough losses. Don’t prepare the road for your son, prepare your son for the road.

This is an edited excerpt from Tender Lions – Building the Vital Relationship Between Father and Son.

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