Teach your children to be quitters.
Every time my kids try something new they always say how hard it is. Most of the time, they try it for a few minutes and then give up. This doesn’t really bother me. Especially if the task they’re trying doesn’t fit them. The problem I see with some people is that they try things and stick with them for too long even if it isn’t something that fits them. They don’t want to be “quitters” so they pound their head into the wall and constantly try to fit their square peg into a round hole. The problem with this is, to be completely honest, is that they’re wasting their time. If they would stop and decide early in the learning process if they really want to learn this new task or if it’s right for them, they wouldn’t waste their time and they could move on to something else. Getting back to my kids, the main reason that I don’t worry about them quitting is because I don’t want to instill this bad habit in them. Being a quitter and quitting early is something that we should not frown upon. We should tell them that wasting your time on something that isn’t holding your interest will not make you a better person. To the contrary, it will hold you back from being the person that you could ultimately be.
Some people might read this and think that I’m raising my kids to be slackers. They might think that I’m enabling the new millennial generation (or whatever my kid’s generation is going to be called). What these people don’t understand is that parenting is a multi-faceted structure and that concepts can be taught independently of one another. In other words, learn to ditch something early in the game but keep playing the game.
What we fail to see when we tell our kids to not be a quitter is that we’re telling them to settle and not find their passion. We give them a list of things that we feel are important and have them “choose” the one that they feel will hold their interest the longest. We talk ourselves into thinking that we’re “doing what is best for them”. What we’re really doing boxing them in and stifling their creativity. There’s a big misconception in the parenting paradigm that is making people show their kids what their life should look like instead of focusing on giving them the tools to make it on their own. As a parent, your work becomes diluted when you focus on the details and not the big picture. You can’t expect someone to build a house before you teach them how to use a hammer. Moreover, they’ll need more than a hammer to build a house.
I hate to sound corny but we need to go back to the old way of parenting. Where teaching your kids about hard work and determination was the center of everything. When there wasn’t such a thing as adolescents or teenagers. You were either a child or an adult. And you were a child only for a short period of time. You knew that at some point you were going to have to go out on your own cold-turkey. You weren’t going to leave your parent’s home like an airplane off a long runway. It was more like a bird being thrown off of a cliff. When you know this, finding your path in life suddenly becomes a whole lot easier.
I always tell my kids that when they do something, they have to do it for themselves. Most kids look for their parent’s approval by doing what they think their parents want. They go through life like trick ponies looking for carrots. Some people might think that teaching kids to do things for their own selfish reasons will weaken your relationship with your children, I disagree. I tell my wife all the time that our job is to raise adults, not to be our kid’s best friend. This is also why I don’t encourage my children (nor do I discourage them) to try things that they know I did as a child. I was a soccer player for a long time and they hear stories about when I used to play. To this day I have never expected or encouraged them to play. I don’t want them to do it just because I did. Nor do I want them to play soccer to make me happy. They have to find their own happiness.
I’ve seen too often when children are encouraged (read “told”) to pursue a profession or play a sport because “That’s what I did” or “that’s what I did when I was young”. This limits your child’s ability to develop into who they truly are. What you should be doing as a parent is making sure that they are exposed to as many things as possible. You want to give them every opportunity to find what they’re good at and what they want to become.
I’m not saying you let your kids be lifelong hobbyists that can’t put food on their own table. Part of your job as a parent is to instill in your children that they must become self-sufficient. What I am saying is that you want to encourage your children to find their true calling in life. You want to make sure your kids follow a path that they choose and not the one they think you want then to choose.
As a parent, your two biggest tenets are Instruction and Facilitation. You are to instruct your children how to be adults by building the foundation to adulthood. The basic pillars such as honor, work ethic and compassion are the skeleton on which they will build their life. You then facilitate this by providing clarification on issues they encounter and further instruction on questions they have. The biggest mistake that parents make is they take on the role of Director. They map out every step that their child should take and want to correct every mistake. This teaches them that they never have to make their own decisions and that they aren’t responsible for their mistakes.
Each generation wants to make the life of the next one easier. They always tell stories of how bad they had it and don’t want their children to have it the way they did. Every generation that does this is doing a great disservice to us all. A diamond only becomes a diamond after years of pressure. Then it only becomes shiny with lots of friction. Great people are made the same way.