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Let Them Fail

Instinct. It’s part of our makeup, our character. It just is. But what are we to do when we need to go against our instincts — to do nothing when every fiber of our being is saying “STOP! Don’t let that happen”?

As a parent, you learn very quickly that one of your most primal instincts is protecting your children. Even as they get older and should be better able to fend for themselves, that parental instinct never really ends.

Who doesn’t want to rescue their child and make them feel better when they don’t make the team, don’t get to play, or are complaining about getting picked on by little Bobby next door? Even harder, how do we stand by and do nothing when our child gets fired from her job for chronic tardiness, or our son gets stopped and jailed for a DUI?

Our instinct as parents is to tell them the coach is wrong, or to talk to Bobby’s parents. But if we always do this, then we’ll also be finding our child’s next job for them every time they get fired, or bailing them out of jail the next time, and the time after that.

The cold hard truth for us parents is that there are times when we just need to “let them fail.” Remember when you taught your son to ride a bike? If you ran beside him every step of the way, if you didn’t let him fall and skin his knee, he may never have learned to ride.

Just the same, if we’re always there to save our kids from every adversity, as our instinct tells us, they may never learn to overcome it on their own. We want our children to become strong, independent and successful adults — but this sometimes comes at a price for us as parents. We might have to watch our children experience some pain in order for them to develop resiliency.

We need to carefully choose when to lend a hand and when to let a life lesson happen.

As logical as this sounds, I know it’s not simple. Going against our instincts takes a lot of emotional fortitude, and I’m still working on this one myself.