Why did I say such a thing other than the fact that I truly do believe in that sentiment? Because if we don't allow our kids to tumble once in a while, they will never learn to get back up – this is applicable to the playground or in life.
After all, when we feel like failures – like when we really really feel like it, we learn to figure it out. We usually figure out a better way. In the process of wading out of the waters of despair, we experience humility. We grow as individuals; we learn from our mistakes and become more compassionate and accepting.
But remember, without that initial failure, this beautiful expedition does not even begin. By letting our kids experience disappointment, this actually could help our journey as a parent as well as help them to be better adults in the future.
So now, I allow my son to fall down. Within reason, he hurts himself. And on occasion, I even let him feel left out.
During a play date recently, I watched six kids including my son play together. Initially, they were all talking animatedly and building Legos together and after a while I noticed my son talking louder than usual. He then grabbed a toy from the other kids. The other kids ignored him and he walked to me, tears shining in his eyes. He looked at me, pitifully and woefully explained that his friends didn't want to play with him anymore.
If I was the helicopter parent I once was, I would have given him a hug, told him he was correct and that those kids were mean to him. I would later buy him an ice cream and tell him he was a great kid.
What did I actually do for him? I told him to figure it out. Don't look at me with judgment, let me continue my story.
Dejected, he went back his group. He tried to rejoin them in their merry play; he approached the kids through another kid. He said please. He even brought another toy to bribe his way into their friendship but it was too late.
As I watched these events unfold before me, my nurturing mother's instinct kicked in, scolding my previous approach. She demanded I give my son a hug, kiss him and wipe his tears away. But I realized, if I did that, I would be depriving him of one of the most important lessons in life – experiencing the natural consequences of his actions.
My son again walked back to me, tearfully and told me again that his friends didn't want to play with him. This time, I knew exactly what to say.
I told him as gently as I could, "If you are rude to others, they will not want to play with you. Try being more gentle and kind, maybe they will let you play with you again".
It was so easy, and sure enough, the kids were all playing again like it was never stopped and once more, laughter filled the air. Goes to show, the simplest lessons are those you let play out, rather than using discipline.
I remember when I was a kid, I woke up late for my French class on Saturday. I had exams coming up, and I had spoken to my teacher to organize this special class and now, I had woken up late. Immediately, I ran up to my mom and told her she had to take me to my class, I would definitely fail if I did not go on time. Plus, my teacher would give me so much grief. I still remember the look on her face, as she said "Sorry, you will have to find your own way". I screamed and shouted at her, telling her it would be her fault I would fail. She just walked away. Quickly, I grabbed my shoes and found some loose change in my jeans, and flagged down a bus, which I hoped would go past my teacher's house. Quickly, I got in and found a seat and waited to get to my class. Of course, I was late and I did get a long lecture from my teacher about the importance of timing and respecting one's teachers. On a side note, I will never forget the 138 bus route ever again.
As a stubborn teacher, I thought my mother was being very unfair but as a mother now, I realize what my mother tried to do. She did not rescue me from failure. She made me suffer through it. By enduring disappointment, she made me realize failure is not the end. No, it is actually the beginning. Through setbacks, we grow and learn from our mistakes. We start to think of solutions outside the box. We also acquire skills to teach us what's right and respectful and eventually become more compassionate and responsible.
I have learnt now rescuing my son from failure is not my job. Our jobs as parents are to love our kids through life's disappointments, and give them the necessary tools to figure things out for themselves. After all, we will not always be there for them to sooth their bruised knees or egos, or help them if they miss the bus.
By teaching them there are natural consequences for their actions, we are bringing up natural leaders who will become more empathetic people, who can find solutions for any problem because they have been in that situation before.