A couple of weeks ago, my older daughter chose to have a very difficult conversation with her soccer coach. She was struggling on the field, and she felt like if her coach made a few changes in the way he was coaching her that it would make a big difference in how she played. But she had to tell him.
We talked through the situation over and over and over again. She knew that she had some issues she had to own both on the field and in the way she was mentally approaching the game. But she needed help, and she had to ask for it.
Now, my daughter is an introvert and not a fan of conflict of any kind. She did not want to talk to her coach. I offered to do it for her or to help her, but she decided it was something she had to do on her own.
So a few weeks ago, she did. She stayed after practice and talked to him. She got in the car frustrated with herself. She had cried while she was talking to him, mostly because she was so nervous. She wasn’t sure she had made her points well, and she was worried about how her coach would respond.
The good news is her coach is a great guy. He listened to her and made a few small changes. The even better news is that simply having that talk gave her more confidence on the field and off.
She identified a problem, handled the situation with as much grace as a 13-year-old can muster, and learned that she can handle even the most difficult situations on her own.
And I learned something, too. I learned that when we let our kids fight their own battles, we see them grow right before our eyes. My daughter has played better on the soccer field in the past three weeks than she’s played all season. Some of that is attributable to all the hard work she has been putting in. But some of it goes back to the confidence she gained from talking to her coach, from knowing that even when the situation is difficult, she can handle it herself.
And that confidence has translated into other situations off the field she’s had since then. She feels like she has learned how to talk to anyone in any situation. She’s gained confidence that she can tackle a tough problem and solve it.
My first instinct as a mom is to step in and help my kids. Especially if one of my kids is struggling, and I know the answer to the issue, I want to fix it. But when we do that, we rob our kids of the opportunity to gain confidence in solving their problems themselves. We take away a teaching opportunity.
Make no mistake, there are situations where we need to step in as parents, but there are many situations when we step in way too soon. Instead of letting our kids learn to be advocates for themselves and engage in simple problem-solving, we solve the problem for them.
The truth is that it’s our job as parents to equip our kids with the tools they need to deal with difficult problems. If we solve the problems for them, we’re not giving them those tools. We’re simply removing the problem. Our kids need those problems. They need to learn that life is full of problems that have to be solved. They need to learn to look to God for wisdom and answers to their problems. They need to learn how to identify and resolve issues on their own.
And we, as parents, have to step back and let them do that. We can and should offer advice. We can and should show them how problem-solving is done. We can and should offer any type of support they need. But when push comes to shove, there are an awful lot of situations that we need to let them take a stab at solving on their own.
Because learning to solve problems is an essential skill in life. And when our kids solve them on their own, they gain confidence that we can never give them any other way.