Freedom to fail


Dan Seaborn 

Let me tell you something that you need to expect from your children: Disobedience! Reading that, you probably had a couple of thoughts. You probably think that I’m making a really obvious point because we all already know that raising kids is difficult since they don’t always do the right thing or make the right choices. But you probably also think that it’s discouraging to hear that from the “Winning At Home guy”! Disobedience drives us all crazy, and I’m sure we all wish there was a way to avoid having to deal with it. The bad news is that there’s not.  

We aren’t raising little robots who can be “programmed” perfectly and then make perfect choices. We’re raising people, who have their own thoughts and goals and dreams. And, to make things even more frustrating, who often have some of the same faults and blind spots that we have! Part of the frustration of watching kids make bad choices is that we made some of the exact same choices and know the consequences.  

Remember, many of the lessons we learned that have stayed with us the longest were the result of making those mistakes. Whether that’s driving recklessly or speaking hurtfully to the people we care about, some of our hard-won lessons have left us with scars, whether they’re physical or emotional. And we want desperately to help prevent our kids from those same mistakes. Our parents most likely felt the exact same way.  

In a weird way, it’s almost comforting to know that this is the normal cycle of youth. And as a parent or grandparent, we should expect that. Of course, we can and should still do our best to teach them quality lessons and share our experiences with them when it’s appropriate. But that doesn’t mean that they will take our advice and behave exactly how we want them to behave.  

I’ve found that, as a parent and grandparent, maturity means that I do my best to give good guidance and direction and share my own experiences and wisdom, but then I also let them learn from their mistakes at times. That doesn’t mean I stand by as they do something that will hurt themselves or others, but it means that I don’t step in at every point along the way to stop them from making poor choices. And it doesn’t mean that I step in to help them avoid the consequences for their poor choices.  

I’ve found that it helps me to grow and mature as a person to give leadership and guidance by sharing my experience but not to take on the full responsibility for the choices that my kids and grandkids make. The responsibility for those choices doesn’t ultimately lie with me. I’ve found a great deal of freedom in that understanding over the years. Especially as my kids got into their late teenage years, it allowed me to offer my input but to feel the freedom to step back and let them make their own decisions.  

Spoiler alert—they didn’t always make good decisions! But they learned some powerful lessons as a result of those choices. And as your kids and grandkids grow, they will, too. It’s hard to give them space to make their own decisions, but it’s part of growing up. We are there to support, love and guide, while also giving our kids and grandkids freedom, and if we do this, we’ll be winning more often at home.