“Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” -Unknown
I spent the first five years of my oldest son’s life cleaning up all his toys. He’d dump out the Legos, the trains and tracks, and I’d clean up the mess as son as he moved on to the next thing of interest.
I could blame my OCD nature. He didn’t clean up the “right” way. I could say it was too much of a hassle or that it took too long for him to do it.
But the truth was, I knew better.
One day my husband said matter-of-factly, “You have to let him start doing this,” and my mind flashed forward fifteen years. I could see myself hunched over, still picking those God-forsaken Legos off the floor.
I knew something had to change.
Is Winning Worth the Cost?
“Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.” Proverbs 20:11 NIV
A few days ago, my now seven-year-old entered his second pinewood derby race. With the exception of cutting the car, which he was too young to do, he made the entire vehicle himself.
Now, the rules for this race explicitly state for the kids to do “the majority of the work.” But as my husband and I have discovered, this rule is mostly overlooked. One glance down the row of cars with perfect paint jobs and precisely placed weights is a dead giveaway.
Needless to say, my son hasn’t won a trophy. And I am perfectly okay with that.
Sometimes, my competitive nature tries to get the better of me.
“Other parents are doing it,” I tell myself. “What’s the harm?”
As these questions play inside my head, I remind myself of the values I try to instill into my boys each day. This raising of kids isn’t for the faint of heart, and as much as I like winning, it just isn’t worth it.
When it comes to winning, losing, and all of the ground in-between, here are a few things my husband and I have learned along the way:
- Doing the work for your kid doesn’t teach them anything. Often, I want to swoop in and kick the ball, make the goal, read the book, or tell the other kid he has to befriend my son because of how great he is. But this type of behavior isn’t doing him any favors. Instead, it screams, “You aren’t capable of doing it yourself.”
- When they complete the task themselves, it instills confidence. Our son may not have won the race, but it was his car, his design, and his He designed his vehicle to look like Pap Pap’s truck. And he enjoyed every minute of it.
- When your kid does the work, winning is so much sweeter. I’ve seen my son win awards and accolades for work he’s done on his own. And the pride and confidence beaming from his entire body far exceeds anything I’ve seen when we do the work for him.
- If we break the rules, why should they follow them? Saying, “It’s just one rule,” or “Everyone else is doing it,” sets a precedent. Our kids are watching how we act closely. If we don’t want them to fall into the pattern of thinking the rules don’t apply to them, we have to model this behavior ourselves.
Raising kids is hard, and I’ll be the first to admit I’ve failed more times than I can count. But I pick myself up, vow to learn from my mistakes and try again.
By God’s grace, I’m teaching my kids to do the same. But I can’t teach them to do something when I don’t allow them to try.
After the race, Daddy gave our little engineer some pointers on how to advance his car-building skills next year. And I have a feeling he won’t stay at the bottom for long.