I watched from across the field as my 11-year-old tried to wrestle the 50 pound bag of chicken feed out of the wagon and into the chicken house. The mom in me wanted to run over and help him. After all, I hate to see him struggle and it would only take me a minute to lift the bag and dump it into our automatic feeder. But, I knew that it would be best to give him a chance to figure it out–to do the hard thing.
A little while later, he came to me and told me that he had figured out an easier way to fill the chicken feeder. He sat the bag on the ground, opened it, then scooped out bucket loads of feed and dumped them into the feeder until the bag was light enough for him to handle. Then, he simply poured the remaining feed into the feeder. He has successfully repeated this process weekly for the last year.
This experience is one of many that has taught me to allow my kids to struggle. Because, as he told me how he overcame that challenge, I saw a change in his countenance–a growing confidence in his abilities. With each success, he holds his head a little higher and walks a little taller. He trusts his problem solving skills more. He grows in his knowledge of who he is and what he is capable of.
Now, I don’t purposefully assign my kids jobs just for the sake of making them struggle, but, I do give them tasks that are at the top of their abilities. And, I always make sure that they understand how their work benefits our family, our homestead, others, and themselves. Loading the washing machine gives our family clean clothes to wear. Planting trees will give us shade and fruit in a few years. Helping build a fence at church keeps younger kids safely away from the parking lot when they play outside. Feeding and watering our chickens keeps them alive, healthy, and laying eggs (which I allow the kids to sell for spending money). Because, work that has purpose is fulfilling. Busywork is drudgery.
Struggling towards a goal gives us the opportunity to develop intellectually and to build important character traits such as independence, confidence, perseverance, and problem solving skills. So, when we don’t rescue our kids at the slightest hint of difficulty, we give the the gift of character traits that will benefit them throughout their lives. We teach them that failure isn’t final or even a bad thing, but simply an opportunity to try a different approach. We help them see struggle not as weakness, but an opportunity for growth. And, most of all, we help them take another step toward becoming a successful adult.
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