Dr. Rich Patterson

Learning to Fly

Birds learn to fly on the ground.  It isn’t as if they jump from the nest one day and make it to the nearest branch.  For the most part, they fall to the ground, where they struggle to get themselves airborne once again.  This analogy applies to our kids as well.  They learn what they need to know by being on the ground, getting dirty, encountering difficult circumstances and making a decision, and doing things that don’t work.  This trial and error are how they get better and better as they work through their life to graduation.

When we don’t allow our kids to find some things out for themselves, unless they are a danger to the child, we deny them a chance to learn how to fly on their own.  I have worked with parents who answer all questions for their kids, not allowing the child to say what they wish in any way.  This defensive mode can apply to failing a class.  If a student is struggling, phone calls to the teacher have taken place, and school administrator; conferences have taken place with the school counselor and school administrator.  Ideas for success shared with the child, but nothing.

There is no movement toward making a change.  A failure is also an option.  If they fail the class and have to retake it, they learn how to fly on the ground.  Sometimes, and at the last resort, this is an option.

When our kids sort through their decisions and offer guidance, that is all fine and good.  But in the end, allow them to decide without your input as a parent.  Let them try some of their ideas, and then talk about them afterward.  Questions like, “What would you do differently?  What questions should you have asked?  What assumptions did you make?  How can you learn from this and apply it in the future?” If birds learn to fly on the ground, then focus on the good energy around that, helping them apply their best thinking.

One day when you’re not there to help them make an important decision, you’ll be glad you gave them room when they were younger to make good decisions, and they will.

Allowing kids to make mistakes, as long as they won’t hurt themselves or others, is not a bad idea.  Read Steps and Missteps here for an extension of this idea, Steps, and Missteps – Dr. Rich Patterson (pattersonphd.com)

Smart Life Bites makes a good point in this article about kids and mistakes here; your kids, it’s OK to make mistakes  – Smart Life bites.


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Yours for Better Parenting,