The Blessing of Struggle
If I asked a group of moms to name the most important character traits for their children to develop, I would likely hear grit, perseverance, and confidence. We might even encourage athletics or music lessons to foster these traits.
Although children can learn much through these valuable activities, more often than not, perseverance, grit, and even hopefulness come about through struggle.
I vividly remember my first child’s transitioning from sitting to crawling. I had thrown myself into motherhood and was determined to be a great mother. Watching my son grunt and cry each time he struggled to stand or crawl, I quickly responded with assistance. After all, attentive mothers always jump in and help, right?
Before long, my doctor became very concerned that my son wasn’t crawling or walking by the age of 1 and sent us for lots of painful and scary tests. It never dawned on me that I was actually preventing my son from developing the important skill of bilateral coordination. When I heard his “I can’t do it” cry, it evoked in me a protective instinct to rush to his rescue. It took my observant and wise husband only one afternoon of watching my “rescuing” to figure out what the problem was: me.
I had to rewire my brain to believe that I wasn’t cruel, neglectful, or even lazy when I allowed my son to grunt and struggle his way into walking. I did it because it was better for him in the long run.
Today, three kids later, I am an encourager, cheerleader, and equipper instead of a fixer.
Today, three kids later, I am an encourager, cheerleader, and equipper instead of a fixer. I have stopped requesting the “right” teacher, knowing how important it is for my kids to respect and learn from adults, even when their personalities may not seem compatible. My children have had opportunities to practice being obedient and respectful, even when they don’t “feel like it.” It is easy to be respectful when you like someone, harder when you don’t.
I became intentional about equipping my kids to handle friend conflicts the biblical way, instead of first picking up the phone to call another mom. My oldest son has become a master at conflict resolution and has grown to understand that taking offense is a choice, not a right.
When my kids got in trouble at school, I determined to support the school’s discipline and walked my child through the important restoration process. They have learned to own their “junk” when they make a mistake, to quickly ask forgiveness, to take the consequence, and ultimately to better understand the meaning of grace and mercy.
Brené Brown writes in Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead,
It’s not that our children can’t stand the vulnerability of handling their own situations, it’s that we can’t stand the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure, even when we know it’s the right thing to do. …[B]ut something that I learned in the research dramatically changed my perspective and I no longer see rescuing and intervening as unhelpful, I now think about it as dangerous. … Here’s why: Hope is a function of struggle. If we want our children to develop high levels of hopefulness, we have to let them struggle.
When challenging situations come our way, I value the lesson I learned from my firstborn’s early years. I still hate intentionally letting my kids struggle, but I know it actually helps them become hopeful, have perseverance, and understand that our faithful God will carry them and complete what he has begun in us, as long as we’re working in tandem with him, to have “everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).
About the Author
Kimberly Miller is passionate about teaching and delights in training teachers to be even more effective and inspiring in the classroom. She is a devoted mother of three, a lover of God’s creation, and embraces her inner Science diva!