Is it a Life Ring or a Rock?

As parents, we love our children and want to help move them forward whenever we can. Most parents want to provide their children more than they had and give them a better “leg up” on life. But there is a danger in giving too much.

One father we worked with had a son who got into trouble constantly. Thinking he was helping his son, the father bailed him out of trouble time after time. Unfortunately, the father was doing nothing more than robbing his son of the opportunity to learn from his mistakes. After his third arrest the son went to prison for 2 years. When his son got out, the father found his son a job and paid the rent. The son was arrested again for drug sales and dad bailed him out of jail, yet again. Trying to do the right thing, the judge sentenced the son to a one-year rehabilitation program, instead of a five-year prison term. The son completed the rehabilitation program and once again, the father found his son employment. Shortly thereafter, the son was arrested a fourth time for drug sales and sent back to prison.

Self-esteem comes from our personal successes and accomplishments, not from what others give or do for us. In the case of this father and son, dad thought he was doing the right thing. In reality, the father unintentionally taught his son that he was incapable of doing anything for himself. When the time came for the son to make decisions that only he could make, he gave up and gave in. Failure was the only thing the son had ever learned.

When our kids are “drowning” in life we want to help. But are we throwing them a life ring, or a rock? How do we tell the difference? One method is by watching how children treat the gift or helping hand. If our children hold the gift or opportunity tight and value it, as if they had paid for it with their own hard-earned money or accomplished it for themselves, it’s a life ring. If they throw the gift or opportunity away, it may be a rock. Our helping hand may only serve to sink our children more quickly.

Parents sometimes hesitate to hold their children accountable and allow them to experience the consequences of their behavior. We fear our child may become angry or perceive our actions as abandonment. It is our job to educate our children about the process, so they do not misinterpret our position as uncaring. Ultimately, our children must learn to “swim” on their own. We can help our children avoid life’s more severe and even deadly lessons, by teaching them about consequences while they are in the home. We believe allowing a child to face the world with¬out the knowledge of and experience with, both positive and negative consequences is cruel.

"Where parents do too much for their children, the children will not do much for themselves."

-- Elbert Hubbard

The Parent Project

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