Why It’s Okay to Let Your Child Lose

proverbs 20-11

“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:

  1. 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.”
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.


Linking up with these communities: #IntentionalTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #CoffeeForYourHeart

16 thoughts on “Why It’s Okay to Let Your Child Lose

  1. Oh, yes, Abby. You’re seeing it with littles; God has taught me to walk it with my older kids. Stepping back can be so hard but it’s when we learn to PRAY more than we control. Sharing this today, friend!


  2. Abby, boy can I identify with your words – picking up the 4,000 Legos (okay, not really that many, but it feels like it), the longing to teach the lesson, but just wanting to move on at the same time and the realization that failing to teach said lessons now will mean a greater struggle for everyone later. I feel like your words are wrapped in gold. Thank you for this reminder!


  3. Wise mama. You’re such a wise mama, Abby. Remember this when the science fair or literature projects come along as well, okay? You’re little guy is gonna rock this world in a wonderful way. 😉


  4. I love this, Abby! Our son also made his own pinewood derby, which raced against others that parents had made… I’m still learning this lesson. My dyslexic daughter’s taking an on-line composition class, and while I do help her by suggesting revisions, I keep myself from doing re-wording, re-writing MYSELF for her. I’m also fighting the urge to sit with her and tutor her for every little thing for the SAT test, which will be very difficult for her. I want her to take ownership herself of her studies. So hard to just let her work as she can.


    • Betsy, I can only imagine. I fear I might turn into helicopter mom if I ever homeschool, but I know God’s grace is sufficient. 😉 Thank you for sharing your insights, friend.


  5. Amen. God word Abby. That’s what started me making the kids do their own laundry. I got tired of picking the clean clothes I just ironed out of their dirty clothes basket. Guess what? Each helps his wife with the laundry now.


  6. Bravo for you, Abby. I am so proud of you and your hubby for giving gentle guidance but letting your son do things on his own. As a mom and a former teacher, I have learned to let go of my perfectionism and allow children to gain a sense of accomplishment. And really, a child learns and retains so much more through hands-on and discovery. Actually, your son is more of a winner than anyone who won the race because of a parent’s work. And he learned an important lesson of honesty and fairness.


  7. Abby,
    These are all spot-on tips and advice. Oh how I had to pull myself away from many a school project that would have looked so much more “acceptable” if I had added my touch. Letting our kids lose and even letting them fail teaches them that they can lose, or fail, and still pick themselves back up in God’s strength and go on. If life always goes perfectly, they never learn how to weather adversity and know that you can still be standing on the other side.
    Great thoughts!!


  8. Aw yes… such wisdom! My Girlie is all grown up and out of the house now and just today, she asked me to come to her workplace and help her with a project and her co-workers laughed at how she rushed around to tidy up her office before I got there! 😉 One co-worker asked if her room at home was always messy too… I said sometimes, yes. Sometimes she remembers that she likes it picked up better but sometimes she forgets! It’s not easy letting our kids learn and make mistakes… but that is the cycle… we learn, and we make mistakes, and then we learn some more, right? Great post!


Share your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s