Finding the fine line between these two jobs of parenting.
OK, I’m reading your book and I’m on the section,
“Keeping Your Cool Means Creating Space.” I have to be honest with you,
it is difficult to read. I want to help create what you call
“self-directed adults” by giving my kids space, but I also think it’s
my job to protect them as much as I can. This is such a scary world and
I worry that they will get hurt.
I guess my question is this: How do you
balance protecting your kids from life’s dangers and yet exposing them
to life’s lessons?
This is the central question that governs the balance of space
and place. It is my responsibility to my kids to grant them both. That
means I have to respect the area over their life that is totally
theirs. That means I also have to let them know what area of their life
is not up to them, where their space ends. I call this “place.” This
means discerning when to let them taste the full brunt of their
decisions and when to soften the blow, or when to disallow them the
possibility of making certain, more life-changing, decisions. This is
finding the balance of protection and exposure. The tricky part is that
there is no “correct” answer. The key is to continually ask the
question with each new situation, with each kid, at every age.
As far as exposing them to life’s lessons, I believe mistakes
are the path to wisdom for those willing to be decisive. Being decisive
means taking charge of your own life, and that means making both good
and bad decisions. Both are educational and both get your life moving.
So, I like for my children to make mistakes that teach them without
hurting too much. Like spending too much of their allowance on a
frivolous item. Or leaving their belongings out at night, only to find
them stolen the next day. Or yelling at me or my wife and discovering
that we have feelings that can get hurt and they have consequences to
face. Or learning that correcting their friends in public makes them
very unpopular. These are experiences that penetrate their development
and indelibly shape their future decisions.
Finding the balance between these two forces, and knowing that
you won’t do it perfectly, is the key I think you’re looking for in
raising your children.