I recently heard this quote on ABC’s Last Man Standing, aired this last November 5th:
The tough balance for any parent is providing a harness to keep our kids safe without taking away the victory of the climb.
~ Tim Allen, #LastManStanding
Anyone who has been a parent any length of time will relate to this statement. Most parents constantly engage in this internal battle between the desires for their child to succeed and to protect them from harm and failure.
One of my nieces is into indoor rock climbing. I’ve been told that entry-level rock climbing makes use of belay ropes for safety and support. Belays allow a person to embrace the thrill of climbing to new heights but with the peace of mind that someone is holding the rope to keep you from falling. As long as you trust the person holding the rope, the risk is relatively small.
As parents this is what we do for our kids. We want our kids to try new things, climb, and succeed while we provide a safety net from failure that could cause them pain. I recently heard my wife say to one of our children:
There are 2 kinds of people in the world: those that fail & try harder and those that fail & quit.
(Of course there is that third kind of person who is too afraid of failure to try at all.)
We cannot protect our kids from failure without shielding them from the invigorating joy of victory and ultimately preventing them from becoming the people they can and should be. Instead, we need to inspire our kids to work hard and not fear failure.
The Emotional Safety Net
How do we provide a safety net for our kids? I imagine that there are various ways this can be done in specific circumstances, but the primary way families should do this is by ensuring a safe emotional place for their kids. This safe place means that we detach a child’s value from his performance. Each child must know, beyond any doubt, that he can try something new, and whether he succeeds or not, his family loves and will encourage him.
We do our children great harm if we allow them to think that we believe they are failures. Even if the world turns on them, children need to know that failing does not make someone a failure, but quitting does. The old adage is true:
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
The Bible has much to say about avoiding idleness in the pursuit of hard work (Proverbs 14:23, 18:9, and 21:25, and more), and we are often encouraged to do so under the leadership and power of the Holy Spirit. We are charged with different priorities than others; we are commanded to “seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33) and to “set our minds on things above.” (Colossians 3:2).
The Grace Safety Net
We have these divine commands because God knows that the pursuit of His Kingdom provides hope, and that hope is the key to providing the right kind of safety net for our kids: grace. Ultimately, this hope is found in the grace of Jesus. In fact, the Bible makes this connection in Romans 5:1-5;
Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us...
Be the Parent
Be the parent who encourages and challenges your child to new heights. Let him climb. Teach him early that his value is not tied to success or to failure. As a parent, guard your own heart from attaching your child’s value (or your own) to his performance. Be the parent that models courage by holding the belay rope while your child is young but allowing him to try new things, all while maintaining an atmosphere of grace and hope in your home.
Preventing your child from experiencing failure will likely lead to fear of trying. Be the parent who inspires hard work, perseverance, and courage instead of laziness, apathy, and fear.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill