I recently read an article in the Dallas News. The title immediately peaked my interest. The headline read “Lawnmower Parents are Raising a Generation of Kids Who Struggle with Adversity”. Penned by Ramy Mahmoud, a teacher in Plano, TX, the article talks about how many parents “mow” down obstacles for their children rather than having their kids face them. Perhaps the greatest way to build self-confidence is by overcoming adversity. I remember learning how to ride a bicycle. One day grandpa insisted that we take the training wheels off and that I learn to ride like the “big kids”. I was not at all excited. I was afraid of falling, getting hurt, and looking foolish. Grandpa assured me that he’d hang onto the bicycle seat and run behind me so that I would tip and hit the pavement. I agreed to trying. We made one trip after another up and down the street as I turned my head to make sure grandpa was still there. “Don’t let go!”, I said. Suddenly I looked back and noticed that grandpa was no longer holding onto the seat but instead watching from a distance with a smile. At first, I was mad. Why in the world would he let go? Then, it hit me. I was riding without his help. I didn’t him to hold on any longer. “Look grandpa!” I yelled. “I’m doing it myself! I’m doing it myself!”
As a parent, it’s hard to let go of the seat. In doing so, you know that the child you love dearly may get some bumps and bruises. You desperately wish you could protect them but you know that letting go is inevitable. If we want our kids to grow in self-confidence we have to let them face challenges and overcome them on their own. As parents, your greatest job is to be a coach and a cheerleeder. In these roles, the most powerful thing you can say is “I believe you can do it. I believe in you”. So often, we find that we’ve crept into the role of referree or perhaps you notice your kids sitting on the sidelines while you’re doing the work. Unfortunately, solving problems for your child means that you’re robbing them of the opportunity to build resilience and self-confidence. Instead, be like grandpa. Build them up, encourage them, and when a challenge comes, know when to let go.