Andy Grammar has a new album out called Naive, and on it is a song he wrote for his baby girl. It’s entitled “I Wish You Pain.” I’m sure parents around the nation are bristling at the idea, especially if they’ve only read the verses. I, on the other hand, applaud his sentiment. In a day when many parents seek to make sure their children never have any problems or difficulties, I’m glad to see one that realizes failure breeds success.
My students know that I don’t expect success in everything they do right away. I expect failure sometimes. I expect them to give it their best shot, and if the fail but they liked the activity, I expect them to learn and try again. I expect them to give each other a safe place to try and fail… to be able to say, “Oh well,” and all agree that, while the activity was a flop, the student himself is not a loser.
We began school this week, and we have very good kids from very good parents. That being said, in these first two days, I have seen three instances of parents over-protecting their children from the pain of a bad choice by controlling their actions. I am not in a position to overrule a parent’s poor choice, and ironically, that would be removing the pain of the parent’s choice. Kind of counterproductive! There will be pain, though. Kids have got to be allowed to go through some bad choices (within reason, of course) so that they can learn to make better decisions.
When parents are too controlling, the parents grow from the pain of their choice, but, Unfortunately, the kids do not. The kids will fulfill the pain of their choice. In my experience, both at church and in 34 years of teaching, kids of parents who are too controlling get as far away from their parents as possible once they graduate. Always. No exceptions.
I’m sure you think I should be warning my overbearing parents. This is it. This is my warning. I can no more convince a parent to back off and let his kid fail than I can convince him to buy a car of my choice. It is not my place to keep that parent from ever making a bad decision. I cannot keep my students from making bad decisions either. I can help them make a better plan for next time. If the decision involved bad behavior, I must enforce the consequences, of course. Sometimes parents want me to just look the other way for their child… to not execute the consequences for bad behavior. I will rarely do that. It’s through the consequences we learn that bad decisions sometimes have a cost.
Believe me, I make some really bad decisions sometimes! I surely wish I could get through without the consequences. Many weeks down the road, though, I recognize that I have become stronger because I dealt with the consequences and learned from them.
Parents, your gifted kids are decisive. No surprise there! Sometimes you have got to let them try a choice, even if that choice seems ridiculous to you. If it fails, you’re not going to be the first to condemn them. You’re going to love them just as you always did. Being the parent who allows some freedom and then is there to talk when the choice doesn’t net what they would have liked is being the wise parent. You don’t have to die on every hill.
Lawton Academy doesn’t have uniforms. We think kids should make their mistakes in clothing choices when not as much is at stake and parents and teachers are there to help guide. Lawton Academy sells candy. We want to be there when a kid decides to buy $10 worth of candy. We want to point out the risk factors of eating that much candy. We want a chance to provide that “aha” moment when the child doesn’t pass the physical fitness test. It’s not that we’re standing around waiting to point the finger of blame. We just think it’s better that kids have adults around to help them analyze the outcomes, as opposed to prohibiting an activity or sweet, only to have the kid believe it’s a taboo item and want it all the more.
Lawton Academy is in the business of teaching kids to choose wisely. Before one can choose wisely, though, he just has to be able to choose.