Teaching Independence: Preparing Our Kids For the Road

“Many of us prepare the road for our kids; what we should be doing is preparing our kids for the road.”  This quote was courtesy of Ray Johnston, Pastor of Bayside Church in Roseville, CA.

There seems to be quite a tension for us parents when it comes to protecting our kids and letting them experience failure.  The truth is that many of us hurt deeply when our children fall on their face, literally or figuratively.  However, the other side of this coin is the simple fact that life will not be easy for our kids, just as it has not been easy for us.  One day, we will not be there for them and they will need to be ready to succeed, fail and face challenges. 

“Many of us prepare the road for our kids; what we should be doing is preparing our kids for the road.”             ~Ray Johnston

A few summers ago, I experienced the perfect example of this very concept.  My son, Bauer, and I were headed over to a neighborhood park on a beautifully warm evening.  When we arrived, we walked toward the entrance and came upon a barred gate.  The gate was about 3 feet tall and was simply meant to keep cars from entering the park.  The way to get into the park was just to walk around the side of the gate.  As we approached the gate, my son said, “I’m gonna climb over the gate, Dad!”  Immediately I thought, “No way!”  Then I back-tracked in my thinking.  I considered what would be the worst thing that could happen if he did climb the gate- he could fall on his face and kiss the pavement.  This was the most likely outcome.  On the other hand, if I let him climb it (and possibly fall), he could experience the joy of a victory or…fall down and realize there are consequences to risky behavior.  Seeing that this would probably not end in a hospital visit, I told him, “Go for it!”  As my son straddled the top of the gate, I could see that his balance was shifting and he was going to fall.  I fought my natural daddy-instinct to go over and catch him like a superhero and sure enough…he fell.  On his face.  

After the fall, the predictable crying, snotting and tearing ensued (that was just me).  I picked Bauer up, wiped the gravel off his face and tended to his nominal scrapes.  I realized at that time that I had let him fail within the confines of my parenting, thus causing minimal pain and preventing serious pain in the future.  Basically, I would rather have him learn the consequence of falling while I’m standing there watching him climb a 3-foot gate than while he’s being dared by his 15-year old friends to jump off a rooftop.

The very next evening, Bauer and I went to the same park again.  We came up to that gate and he said, “I think I’m going to going around the gate this time, Dad.  Remember what happened yesterday?”  Lesson learned, I thought to myself. 

Unfortunately, the road of life will not change to suit our kids and their safety or emotions.  For that reason, I believe it is wise to listen to Ray’s quote and put it into action.  Equip them, love them and teach them how to handle the rigors of the road.  Even let them fall.  As a result, when they have to face difficult, risky or challenging situations on their own, they will thank us for raising them to be prepared for anything.

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John is the Principal at Bay Christian School in Concord, CA (www.baybulldogs.com). This blog is meant to serve parents and teachers with inspiration and encouragement in the journey to raise Godly and independent kids!

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