3 gifts our kids miss when life’s too easy

teaching kids independenceIt was the thing about their easy life that worried me the most while I was gone.

Somehow, my husband and I had managed to get out of town for a few days recently.

My dad was staying with the kids. And I knew he’d take good care of them.

But, without my presence, I feared that one particular land mine would surely explode.


Mornings are the Means’ family’s Achilles heel.

Getting my kids to school on time consistently seems to be akin to turning water into wine. Not possible without Divine intervention. And even Jesus has His work cut out for Him.

I was just sure that my poor father would call me, frantic and begging for me to return so I could rescue him from the insane morning madness.

But the call never came. Not one bit of morning drama without me. Huh?

In fact, when I returned, both of my children — separately — said almost the exact same thing to me: “Mom, no offense, but mornings were better when you weren’t here.”

Well shut my mouth. 

My kids had actually been completely responsible for themselves in the morning. And they liked it. All my “you need to get moving” and helping them find gym clothes or suddenly lost textbooks?

Turns out, they really don’t like that. I think even they were surprised.

When the safety net was taken away for a few days, they stepped up to the plate. Not everything went smoothly everyday, but they found a way to handle it. And they felt more confidence, more grown up, doing it on their own.

Making things too easy for them — not allowing our kids to struggle — isn’t in their best interest. 

Over the past five years, I ‘ve been determined to shed my people-pleasing, enabling tendencies with my kids. My need for them to be out of pain all the time is actually what really hurts them. That’s a very motivating realization.

When I force myself to allow my kids to struggle — or when they experience difficulties that I am powerless to do one thing about — I notice how God develops their character in amazing ways. These are three gifts I’ve seen difficulty develop in my children:

1. More Confidence. Kathy explained this very well in her post yesterday. Kids don’t gain self-esteem by our words, no matter how great of a cheerleader we are. They gain confidence by doing — even if that means failing a few times before they have some success.

2. Compassion. Both my kids have unique ongoing struggles. For my son, it’s physical. He has battled cystic fibrosis since he was born. My daughter’s struggle isn’t related to her health, but it’s just as real and difficult. Sure, there are times when they both get angry and resentful. But, mostly, I’ve noticed that it’s developed in each of them a tender heart.

When someone is sick or hurting or struggling, they immediately commit to pray for them. And they do it — sometimes everyday for months. They’re also quick to want to do something tangible to help, if it’s within their power. Pain and struggle has developed a tender spot in in each of their hearts where empathy and compassion are taking root.

3. Dependence. That’s right. It makes them more dependent. But not on me. I’ve watched my children’s struggles deepen their walk with Jesus. Their need, their problems — especially the ones I can do nothing about — prompt them to depend on Him for strength and guidance. Doesn’t it do the same in us, as adults?

Our human inclination is to want life to be easy for our kids. But all we have to do is watch an episode of the Kardashians to realize that’s not a good idea.

Struggle, as hard as it is for us as mothers to watch, gives them so much more than comfort does.

Sometimes, we just have to get out of the way so they can open those gifts. 

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  • I totally agree!! Mornings are such a pain in my house. I ended up setting a series of alarms and the kids know which alarm means what they’re supposed to be doing. My hope is that it’s helping them get a better hold on their timing, so I don’t have to keep nagging them. It seems to be getting better very slowly.

  • I am so guilty of this. Recently I was on a course for a week and hubby took over the morning and afternoon routine. I as beside myself wondering what would be forgotten and lost each day. I then came home reach night to hear that things are easier when I am not around.
    I wrote this little phrase to help remind me to step back.
    “My enthusiasm gets in the way of their independence”.
    Now what to do with all my enthusiasm?

  • Mornings are a GIANT struggle around here, and I do imagine it would go better without me. Before the school year ends, my husband did promise our daughter he’d do a morning dropoff and afternoon pickup before preschool graduation!
    Every now and then, she amazes me with how much she can accomplish if I give her a responsibility and I do it in a positive way and not a threatening way!

  • Oh, yes. We used to struggle mightily with mornings. Ugh.
    We discovered the same thing you did: stop giving ultimatums and give them the responsibility, and amazing things happen. 🙂

    I wrote about it some time back: If You Give a Child a Choice. I also did a short video with my now adult daughter as an addition to the post. In it we chatted about that defining moment where we switched to responsibility, and the choices she made. So much fun to see the results of that decision from her adult perspective.

    • {Melinda} I’m going to look up that post, Kim. Would love to watch that video. When you’re still in the active, hands-on mode of everyday conflicts, etc., sometimes it’s hard to see that there WILL be ultimate fruit. Thank you for the encouragement!


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i’m melinda


I’m a woman who was radically changed when the God I thought I knew since childhood opened my eyes to the overwhelming depth of His love for me. I love speaking, writing, and pointing women to the Father so they can experience for themselves the healing power of His incredible, captivating love.

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